The Ultimate Guide to the Sumo Deadlift

Everyone wants to deadlift. It’s the single greatest train that demonstrates pure brute energy in the fitness center. Plus, deadlifts are about so simple as you may get; there’s one thing heavy on the floor and also you want to decide it up. You cannot get extra purposeful than that! What may very well be higher?!  What if we instructed you there’s really multiple method to deadlift and that each technique has sure benefits and advantages? Not worse. Not higher. Just completely different and superior in their very own method.  In this text, we wish to go over the typically downplayed (for some motive) however completely bad-ass “sumo deadlift”.

In actuality, this deadlift variation is kind of completely different from the typical deadlift. Being so, a bunch of particular nuances want to be addressed as to why it’s your decision to (or not need to) begin together with the sumo deadlift in your coaching program. In this text, you will be taught:

What is the sumo deadlift?

How to carry out the sumo deadlift

Common sumo deadlift errors

Sumo deadlift muscular tissues labored

Sumo deadlift vs typical deadlift

Sumo deadlift alternate options

Sumo deadlift variations

Lets Sumo!

What Is The Sumo Deadlift?

Until just some a long time in the past, the overwhelming majority of lifters merely used the typical deadlift. This technique of deadlift makes use of the kind we’re all used to with a slender stance and arms positioned exterior of the legs. It wasn’t till round the 1970’s when a brand new type of selecting heavy ass weight off the floor was seen; the sumo deadlift. While there have been many different massive hip-hinge actions, akin to the silver-dollar deadlift, this new kind regarded distinctly completely different. 

This new deadlift kind had lifters utilizing an excessively vast stance with legs externally rotated with the lifter holding the bar in between their legs. Further, the torso is exceptionally upright with better flexion in the knees. In reality, the stance very a lot resembles that of a sumo wrestler therefore the identify “sumo deadlift”. 

While a tad gradual to be accepted, the sumo deadlift is now certainly one of two accepted deadlift kinds in powerlifting organizations and is a serious part of energy and conditioning on all ranges. This brings us to a typical query which is;

Is the sumo deadlift dishonest?

No, the sumo deadlift isn’t dishonest. Considering that it is a broadly accepted type of the deadlift in powerlifting organizations, this query appears fairly foolish. Some lifters could give it a tough time as a result of, technically, the vary of movement is considerably smaller (extra on this beneath). However, it is a authorized technique so till that adjustments, it is authorized. Further, if the sumo deadlift was simpler, then why not simply pull sumo? Fact is, it is not. It’s simply that completely different kinds are higher fitted to completely different anatomies; nevertheless, we will nonetheless take into account that the heaviest uncooked deadlift (no fits or straps) ever pulled was completed with a standard deadlift (Benedikt Magnusson, 1,015lbs), not sumo (Chris Duffin 1,001lbs w/straps). 

And to be clear, this text is not saying one deadlift variation is healthier than the different both; we’re simply saying that the reality the sumo is authorized makes claims of “cheating” relatively foolish. 

Sumo Deadlift Proper Form: How To Optimize Your The Life

As talked about above, the deadlift kind appears to be like drastically completely different from another type of deadlift, even variations akin to the lure bar deadlift. In actuality, the sumo deadlift sits alone with its kind. Because it’s so completely different, many individuals have a minimal concept of performing it aside from to imitate what they see on Youtube movies. Being so, we’ll break down the sumo deadlift so that you’ve excellent kind each time.

sumo deadlift

1) Proper Setup For Sumo Deadlift

First, you have to to arrange the barbell in the identical precise trend as you’d with a deadlift; principally, load plates and relaxation the barbell on the floor. You’ll then need to stroll up shut to the barbell in order that it hovers over your foot halfway. Next, you’ll take an exaggerated vast stance. The width will fluctuate for individuals based mostly on anthropometrics. Still, your legs will seemingly strategy the outer rings on the exterior knurling. Finally, level your toes out barely. Again, this varies for individuals however take into account that due to the reality your knees are bending, your toes ought to align along with your knees. 

Next, bend down and seize the barbell. There are a couple of strategies of doing this, however the grip width will probably be the identical, whichever one you select. When grabbing the bar, your arms ought to principally be straight down. This is as a result of this can successfully reduce the vary of movement whereas additionally preserving your shoulders in a protected place. If you need to handle this as you develop into extra accustomed to the elevate, you’ll be able to change what you’re feeling is strongest for you. However, keep this grip if you start the sumo.

That being mentioned, listed below are the 4 decisions of grip for the sumo deadlift:

Double Overhand: Double overhand grips merely have you ever use a susceptible grip (arms palms going through down) for each arms. This technique requires the highest grip energy and is taken into account the hardest.

Alternate Grip: An alternate grip has you utilize an overhand grip with one hand and an underhand grip with the different hand. Generally, the lifter’s dominant hand will use the overhand grip with the non-dominant hand utilizing the underhand grip. This grip is considerably stronger than the double overhand grip as a result of the underhand grip “locks” the bar in and prevents it from rolling out. However, due to the positioning of the arm on the underhand grip, there’s a greater likelihood for pulling a bicep. Now, you want to be pulling fairly heavy for this to happen however it may well occur. Therefore, if you’d like to use this grip, be further cautious not to flex the elbow.

Hook Grip: The hook grip is a technique of utilizing the double overhand grip whereas locking the bar concurrently. This technique requires you to grip the bar by wrapping your thumb round first. Next, you’ll wrap your fingers round the bar and ON TOP of the thumb. Therefore, your fingers squeeze the thumb as you pull up, thus locking in the grip. And sure, it’s painful. That’s why the hook grip is primarily seen in powerlifting and Olympic lifting when straps aren’t allowed.

Straps w/ Double Overhand: The strongest technique is just utilizing a double overhand grip with straps. This permits a snug grip with maximal energy. However, it needs to be famous that you shouldn’t depend on straps as it’s best to purpose to elevate at the least 1.5xbw strapless. Still, additionally know that in case you ever plan on competing in powerlifting, you will not be allowed to use straps so it’s best to go for one or the different coaching strategies. 

Now that you just’re all gripped up, you want to get your physique in place. This may be the most difficult half for many lifters because it requires better mobility, particularly in the hips and groin. You need to bend at the knees whereas pushing them out as you come down. What you might be really doing is externally rotating your hips in order that your knees and hips can adequately observe. 

Then, pull your hips down and ahead whereas permitting your shoulders to come again. Pretend as in case you’re pulling your crotch into the bar as shut as doable. You’ll discover that your posterior muscular tissues are going to really feel tight, actual tight. Again, it takes some mobility work and time to get in the correct place to go mild if you begin lifting.

You’ll discover that your knees have significantly extra flexion if you get into place, and your hips will come down a lot farther. The distance will fluctuate from individual to individual, however most individuals are between a ½ squat and ¾ squat. Like the typical deadlift, the precise distance would not actually matter, although, assuming the different components of the physique are in the appropriate place, which we’ll go over now.

You need your shins to stay as vertical as doable as you come down. A slight ahead lean may very well be acceptable, however the straighter, the higher. Still, the knees will usually come ahead a bit greater than typical. Next, your shoulders needs to be barely in entrance of the bar in order that your arms can come straight down. However, as the torso is extra upright than throughout the typical deadlift, the parts will probably be extra parallel along with your physique, so the shoulders’ forwardness will probably be much less. 

At this level, you will be prepared to pull quickly. However, you want to be careful for a pair sumo deadlift cues:

Retract your scapula. This is normal for nearly each single motion. Still, it is a bit extra vital in deadlifts as this single cue will make a drastic distinction in your kind. Your physique will comply with what occurs at your higher physique like a sequence. Therefore, if the high of your physique begins to get pulled ahead, subsequent factor you understand you are sporting a cat-back and busting up your backbone (examine this text out in case your again does occur to damage! It occurs…). Therefore, make sure to pull your shoulders again and retract your scapula as a lot as doable.

The most vital phrase is “straight”. All of your segments needs to be straight, have sharpish angles, and be in unison. This signifies that your arms ought to run parallel along with your shins and your again straight. 

2) How To Ascend On Sumo Deadlift

Now that you just’re proper, you’ll begin your ascent. This will probably be completed just by standing up and dragging the bar up your shins. This does not imply you want to actually scrape your legs (however that’s the reason they promote deadlift socks) however the bar ought to stay as shut as doable, ideally grazing your legs.  

As the bar goes from the flooring to the knees, the major movers will probably be from the legs. However, as soon as the bar hits knee stage, the decrease again and glutes will kick in more durable to end the lockout and totally prolong the hips. The most vital variable is to have the bar journey as vertically as doable throughout this time. As your joints prolong and propel you upwards, you need the bar to experience up the shins. Then, as your thighs come ahead, the bar ought to meet them whereas persevering with a straight path upwards. In actuality, your shoulders shouldn’t come ahead nor transfer again. The solely motion they are going to have (ideally) is vertical, which is propelled by the extension of your knees and hips.

The sumo deadlift ends when the lifter is totally erect with the bar of their arms. 

3) How To Descend On Sumo Deadlift

What goes up, should come down. The descent of any deadlift is all the time the most tough as it is a bit awkward. While it appears easy to say, “just do the opposite”, studying to management the descent takes a while. However, “doing the opposite of going up” is kind of a very good description of what to do. 

After you lockout the bar with a minimal pause, you are going to begin pushing your hips again and flexing your knees to decrease the bar. When lifters come down, they’re extra seemingly to roll their shoulders as they’re coming down. Therefore, make sure to hold your scapula pulled again and keep a straight again when you let your hips and legs do the reducing. Lower all the method till the bar is on the floor. 

Many individuals ask about dropping the bar as that is generally completed. First, you want to be working at a fairly heavy sufficient load earlier than dropping it’s justified. Second, you additionally want to be utilizing acceptable weights and lifting on appropriate flooring. Assuming you meet all of the necessities, you continue to should not simply utterly drop the bar. One technique of dropping the bar is a managed fall. Basically, you let the bar fall when you maintain it and supply minimal resistance. You can do that all the method down to the floor or you’ll be able to utterly drop it a couple of inches off the floor after which use your arms to cease the bounce. 

sumo deadlift target muscles

Sumo Deadlift Common Mistakes And How To Fix Them

Now let’s handle some widespread errors seen in the sumo deadlift. 

1. Bar to Far From Legs:

The first setup error happens when lifters begin with the bar too distant from their legs. You need the bar to be on the shins if you start the elevate as that is the closest location to the course of drive. Every millimeter the bar strikes away from the legs will lower your capability to apply drive whereas including pressure to your decrease again.

2. Hips Rising First

The second widespread sumo deadlift error is lifters permitting their hips to rise first throughout the ascent. This happens as a result of the lifter is simply too far ahead at the begin of the elevate. To repair this, make sure to have your physique positioned firmly with weight distributed evenly throughout the foot, if not barely heel heavy. Also, make sure your shoulders aren’t too far ahead. 

The second motive the hips could shoot up is due to improper bracing of the core. Therefore, when the hips drive up, the core is simply too weak, leading to the shoulders dropping. If that is the problem, a incredible cue is to take into consideration driving your shoulders up. Doing so will trigger you to shift your focus and “purpose,” leading to you pushing your shoulders up WITH hip drive relatively than simply driving your hips up. 

3. Not Getting the “Slack” Out

One nice sumo deadlift cue is to “get the slack out!” This signifies that earlier than you begin to ascend, first pull on the bar till it is tight. What occurs is that usually, the weight plates don’t match comfortable on the collars. Therefore, if you pull on the bar, you’re going to get a little bit of motion till the plates start to elevate. Still, the extra vital problem is anxious with the bar’s bend. After you place in a while with correct energy coaching, you’ll begin putting a decently heavy load on the barbell. When this occurs, the heavy load on the finish of the bar will trigger the bar to bend if you start the elevate. If you discover this taking place, you will need to pull on the bar to get the “easy bend” out.  What this implies is you need to pull tight up on the bar till any kind of give is has been eradicated.  Therefore, if you lastly pull, your drive will go straight into driving the bar up. 

Getting the slack out of the bar additionally has one other main profit – you’ll reduce being thrown off stability. If you have been to pull with max effort proper off the bat, you’d speed up extraordinarily quick for a couple of milliseconds as the weight can be minimal. However, as soon as the load catches, you will abruptly cease. Not solely is that this the equal to hitting a velocity bump and throwing you off stability, however you may additionally probably tweak your again.

This brings us to one other nice tip. You need to pull ” slow ” even when the slack is pulled out, you need to pull “slow”. This merely refers to steadily (albeit fairly shortly) growing the drive on the bar relatively than pulling at 100% straight away. Again, this can totally enable the transition the bar wants. 

The Best Benefits Of The Sumo Deadlift

Before we focus on the advantages of the sumo, needless to say once more, we aren’t favoring it over the conventional. We simply acknowledge that it has some advantages particular to it, making it a more sensible choice for some lifters. Here are the high sumo deadlift advantages. 

1. Does Not Require As Much T-Spine Mobility

The typical deadlift can be a rare motion, but it surely requires sure ranges of mobility in the thoracic backbone. This primarily comes from bending over and sustaining a sure rigidness in the again whereas nonetheless preserving tightness in the complete physique. However, sustaining this way is significant to performing the motion effectively and safely.

Unfortunately, not everybody has the mobility required to carry out conventional deadlifts. This makes the sumo deadlift an amazing different. The again of a lifter is rather more upright and would not demand the next diploma of flexibility in the higher again. 

2. Does Not Require As Much Ankle Mobility

The ankle’s mobility is minimal as a result of the legs are externally rotated with such a large stance.

3. Provides Less Force On The Lower Back

Spoken above briefly, sumo deadlifts produce considerably much less drive on the decrease again and backbone usually. Again, that is due to the sumo deadlift requiring a extra upright torso which leads to the course of the backbone being extra according to the load drive vector (straight down)  

Sumo Deadlift vs Traditional Deadlift

We mentioned a few of the variations in the biomechanics between the sumo deadlift and conventional deadlift above. Therefore, here is a pleasant little graph you should use for fast reference to determine the variations. 


Sumo Deadlift

Conventional Deadlift

Hand Position

Between Legs

Outside Legs

Leg Stance

1.5 Hip Width

Hip Width

Torso Angle


Bent Over

Knee Flexion

Aprrox ¾ down

Approx ½ down

Primary Muscles

Quad Dominant

Posterior Chain

Sumo Deadlift Muscles Worked

Now let’s discover what muscular tissues are utilized in the sumo deadlift. At the finish of the day, the sumo deadlift is an precise full-body train because it requires each fiber in your physique to hearth. However, the major muscular tissues used throughout the sumo deadlift will probably be comparable to the typical deadlift. The major distinction is the magnitude of their firing.  


Flexion in the knees is certainly one of the two most important variations between the sumo deadlift and traditional. As seen in the graph above, the distinction is substantial as the sumo deadlift could have individuals squat ¾ down. This means you’ll have considerably extra activation in the quadriceps due to a better vary of movement in the knees. Specifically, the sumo deadlift will goal your interior thigh and interior quadriceps, the vastus medialis. Again, that is due to your hips’ exaggerated vast stance and exterior rotation. 

The complete quadricep remains to be going to get a incredible coaching session, although. 

Gluteal Muscles:

The glutes will obtain excessive exercise ranges throughout the sumo deadlift. Studies have proven that workouts with externally rotated hips and better levels of hip abduction generate greater EMG readings in the glutes. Since the sumo has each, count on to really feel it sturdy in the butt.


If you are attempting to get a killer hamstring session in, then the sumo deadlift simply is not best for you. As said above, due to the greater knee flexion, the sumo deadlift is extra quad-dominant. Further, there’s much less hip flexion which eliminates the two actions the hamstrings are answerable for. You’ll nonetheless use them to a lesser diploma in comparison to different deadlift variations. 

Erector Spinae:

The erector spinae is a set of muscular tissues that principally run all the method up your again alongside the backbone. These muscular tissues are important for shielding the backbone and general core stability. They will certainly get a exercise throughout the sumo deadlift. However, as the torso is extra upright, these muscular tissues will contract to hold stability relatively than actively pulling for hip extensions.

Upper Back

During deadlifts, the higher again musculature (notably the traps and rhomboids) maintains correct kind and protects the backbone. During the sumo deadlift, your arms hold extra vertically with the physique, that means that the load is flattening relatively than pulling ahead (bent over barbell row). Therefore, when you will not be required to pull as a lot to keep a retracted scapula, you are still going to have to battle your ass off to hold correct kind. 

sumo deadlift muscles worked

What Body Type Is Good For Sumo Deadlifts?

Well, you have most likely heard that some lifters are higher fitted to the sumo deadlift, so who’re these lifters? First, anybody can carry out the sumo deadlift and carry out the typical deadlift. This part merely provides generalities and is on no account what it’s best to do.

The first group of lifters who ought to take a look at the sumo deadlift is these with lengthy torsos. In this case, the typical deadlift would demand a really excessive vary of movement on the hips and knees to bend over ahead. With sumo, you’ll be able to simply drop your physique down to the weight. 

The second group which will need to look into sumo deadlifts are quick legs and lengthy arms. Like above, you’ll be able to simply drop to the load along with your lengthy arms. 

Some counsel that heavier lifters are higher at typical deadlift whereas lighter lifters ought to keep on with sumo. However, in case you have an enormous intestine, moving into place for the conventional could be extra advanced than sumo. 

Sumo Deadlift Variations

The sumo deadlift is all the time carried out with a barbell except in any other case famous. That being mentioned, listed below are two wonderful sumo deadlift alternate options that use an analogous kind. 

1. Kettlebell/Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift

how to do sumo deadlifts

This variation may be carried out with both a kettlebell or single dumbbell, however the setup is strictly the identical. If utilizing a dumbbell, place it on one finish to get up. You’d then seize the finish with each arms. If utilizing a kettlebell, simply seize the deal with with each arms. 

After, you’ll then carry out a sumo deadlift with legs unfold vast and toes identified barely. 

2. Landmine Deadlift

landmine sumo deadlift

Landmines are incredible and so is their deadlift variation. Set up a landmine and relaxation the plate finish on the floor. Next, come up the bar along with your legs in the identical place as the sumo and seize the finish of the barbell.

Related: Deadlifts Guide & Variations

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

Below is a listing of workouts that are not the identical as sumo deadlift biomechanically however provide comparable advantages. 

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

sumo deadlift alternatives

While nonetheless a deadlift and a hip hinge, the lure bar deadlift may be very completely different from the sumo, apart from one essential facet. The lure bar deadlift can be carried out with a excessive, upright torso, thus making it much less demanding on the again. The lure bar deadlift is an outstanding train to add to your program if you’d like to use a hip hinge to elevate heavy weight, all whereas taking it straightforward on the again.

2. Belt Squat

alternative for sumo deadlift

The belt squat may be carried out with a belt squat machine OR you should use a dip belt and stand on two containers. Either method, the belt squat permits you to use vital weight on the decrease physique in an analogous movement to squatting. However, as the load is transferred to your waist, you save your again equally to the sumo deadlift.

3. Safety Squat Bar

sumo deadlift vs squat

The security squat bar is a badass decrease physique motion that permits you to use a heavy load whereas preserving your again protected. Due to the design of the security squat bar, your arms can management the weight out entrance whereas sustaining a extra vertical torso. It’s not known as a security squat bar for nothing.

Alternatives to the sumo deadlift that work comparable muscular tissues as the sumo deadlift:

The Sumo Deadlift

Above is all you want to learn about the sumo deadlift.  It’s certainly one of the greatest hip hinge actions that you are able to do and can seemingly profit everybody. While the sumo deadlift doesn’t have to be your major deadlift variation, together with it should solely make you stronger in additional positions making you a greater athlete.  Or who is aware of, the sumo deadlift may be your new deadlift!

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