The sumo deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do to develop strong hips.
In this post, you will learn:
- How to do sumo deadlifts properly,
- When you should do conventional vs. sumo deadlifts,
- The muscles worked during this movement.
Let’s get started.
SUMO DEADLIFT VS CONVENTIONAL
A sumo deadlift uses a much wider stance and a more upright posture than the traditional deadlift. As a result, the distance the bar has to travel is decreased, and less strain is placed on your lower back.
The wide stance also places more emphasis on the hips, hamstrings, and quadriceps muscles.
Some people find that they are anatomically better suited for the sumo position, while others find it awkward. Either way, both sumo, and conventional deadlifts train a key functional movement pattern: hip extension.
SUMO DEADLIFT FORM VIDEO
Perfecting your sumo deadlift technique is critical to getting the most out of this exercise.
BENEFITS OF THE SUMO DEADLIFT
- Ingrains appropriate technique for picking up a heavy item off the floor
- The sumo stance places less stress on the lumbar spine, allowing you to train the deadlift in the presence of minor low back strain
- Decreases the range of motion the barbell has to move, making it a very efficient movement pattern
- Strengthens your grip strength, forearms, lat muscles, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core muscles
SUMO DEADLIFT MUSCLES WORKED
- Adductors & Hips
- Spinal Erectors (Lower back muscles)
- Upper Back
PERFORMING THE SUMO DEADLIFT WITH PROPER FORM
- Walk up to a barbell that is set on the floor with the desired weight, the bar should be at a height that is near the mid-shin level
- Assume a stance that is significantly wider than shoulder-width, with your feet pointed out approximately 45 degrees and your shins almost touching the bar
- Bend down and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip (your arms should be completely straight) with your thumbs wrapped around the bar
- (If you are performing the exercise with the empty barbell, position the bar at the mid-shin level to begin the movement)
- When looking from the front, your shins should be as vertical as possible, and your knees should be pointing in the same direction as your toes
- Maintain your knees pointing out throughout the entire movement
- Get into the starting position by straightening your back, lifting your chest, and keeping your shins in contact with the bar
- Lock your lats into place by squeezing your armpits shut (as if you are trying to prevent someone from tickling your underarms
- Your starting back position will be more upright than a conventional deadlift
- Maintain a flat neutral spine throughout the entire movement, do not hyperextend nor allow any rounding of your back.
- When looking from the side, we should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your mid-shoulder down to the bar with your back flat and your shins vertically aligned
- If you are in the correct position, you should feel a stretch in your adductor muscles, as well as tension across your back and hamstring muscles
- Also, keep your head in a neutral position, don’t look up or down – look straight ahead
- Take a deep breath, and hold it in. Begin the pull by extending your knees and hips while keeping your back flat.
- Continue extending your legs and hips while keeping the bar in close contact with your legs throughout the lift
- Squeeze your glutes once the bar passes your knees until you are standing upright.
- Reverse the movement the exact same way you came up, by breaking at the hips first and then the knees
COMMON SUMO DEADLIFT MISTAKES
Setting A Stance That Is Too Wide
The most common mistake is trying to go too wide. When setting your stance for the sumo deadlift, you should only go as wide as your anatomy, and hip flexibility allow you to go. When looking from the front, you are too wide if your shins are no longer in a straight vertical orientation.
Hyperextending The Back At the Lockout
Hyperextending your back is how you injure your lower back. Finish the movement by extending at the hips, not at the spine. To ensure you do not hyperextend, squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the movement. Do not change your back angle once your glutes have locked out.
Allowing Rounding (Flexion) of The Spine
Similarly, allowing your spine to flex or round during this exercise increases your risk of disk herniation. If your back is rounding, decrease the weight and concentrate on keeping your spine neutral. Record your sets and do not allow any rounding.
By The Way… The Deadlift is just one of several compound exercises you should be doing
To see a list of all the best exercises, be sure to check out our E-book that goes over all of the best compound movements for the entire body!
We also go over them all in The Best Compound Exercises of All Time.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are sumo deadlifts good for?
Sumo deadlifts are good for building your posterior chain and hip extension strength. They are also good for improving back and grip strength.
I use the sumo deadlift much more than conventional.
It feels much more natural to me, and I suffered a low back injury a few years back. The sumo deadlift has allowed me to still train hip extension with a barbell even in the presence of my low back strain.
Go with what feels natural.
Can sumo deadlifts replace squats?
Sumo deadlifts cannot replace the squat as these two exercises primarily train two different movement patterns. Deadlifts primarily train hip extension, while squats primarily train knee flexion.
Squats are the best exercise for developing the quads.
Is sumo deadlift cheating?
The sumo deadlift is not cheating. Both deadlifts are great for producing strength in the posterior chain and pulling heavy weight off the ground.
Although the range of motion is decreased in the sumo pull compared to the conventional, the sumo deadlift is challenging in its own way and emphasizes different muscle groups.
Is Sumo Deadlift Easier Than Conventional Deadlift?
Technically speaking, sumo deadlifts may be easier for people with long limbs and short torsos.
But that’s not to say the movement is easy.
Some individuals are better suited to pull conventional, and some are better suited to pull sumo. It all depends on your unique body type, leverages, and mobility.
It’s also worth noting that the heaviest deadlifts on the planet are performed with a conventional stance.
Does sumo carry over to conventional?
Some people find that the sumo improves their conventional pull, while others do not. There is no way to know for sure until you use both in your training and determine if your unique leverages carry over in both movements.
What body type is best for sumo deadlift?
The best body type for sumo deadlift is those with long arms, short legs, and a short torso.
However, anyone can benefit from this exercise if it is done properly. If both variations feel equally natural, use them both in your training.
Where should I grip my sumo deadlift?
Grip the bar at a distance equal to the width of your shoulders. I.e., just let your arms dangle straight down. Another helpful tip is to set your index fingers just outside of the smooth part of the bar.
Another common question is if you can mix your grip.
Yes, you can mix your grip when doing the sumo deadlift, and you should only use a mixed grip once the weight starts to get heavy enough that your grip becomes the limiting factor.
Otherwise, use a double overhand-grip for the majority of your training.
How upright should you be on a sumo deadlift?
How upright your torso is during a sumo deadlift depends on your body shape. Your spine will naturally assume its position when your shoulders are directly over the bar and your shins are in a vertical orientation while making contact with the barbell.
Which is Better-Sumo Deadlift VS Trap Bar Deadlift?
The sumo deadlift and the trap bar deadlift are totally different exercises. The trap bar resembles a conventional deadlift more than the sumo. The starting position in a trap bar requires you to set a narrow stance and maintain a less upright position. However, you can bend your knees more on the trap bar, which can resemble a squat.
Either way, the trap bar deadlift is another suitable variation that you can use in your training.
Can I Do The Sumo Deadlift With A Dumbbell Or Kettlebell?
Yes, the sumo deadlift can be done with a kettlebell and with dumbbells. Dumbbell deadlifts are best for individuals with very little training experience and who simply want to perform the exercise in a low-impact manner.
Either way, find a deadlift variation that you feels right for you.
What Is A Good Sumo Deadlift Routine?
As with all exercises, it is best to train hip extension exercises at least two times a week. You can choose to do:
- Two sumo deadlift sessions a week (one moderately heavy load (2×6, 3×5 etc), and one lighter session for higher reps (3×10)
- One sumo deadlift day and another day where you focus on a different hip extension exercise such as Romanian Deadlifts.
If you would like to see how to implement this exercise into a workout routine, check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals
What Are The Best Sumo Deadlift Shoes?
Flat sole shoes are also ideal for regular deadlifts as well.
Why Do I Experience Hip Pain While Doing The Sumo Deadlift?
If you try and go too wide too early, you can strain your hip flexor and adductor muscles. The first thing that you need to do when you experience pain is to stop performing the exercise/activity that is causing pain (temporarily).
HOW CAN I INTEGRATE THE SUMO DL INTO MY TRAINING PROGRAM?
Check out The WCT Best Workout Template For Busy Professionals to find a simple way to add the sumo deadlift and other great exercises into your strength training routine.
SUMO DEADLIFT ALTERNATIVES/ SIMILAR EXERCISES
If the sumo isn’t for you, check out the articles below to find a deadlift style that caters to you!
Which deadlift variation is your favorite? Comment below and let me know.
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.