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How to do the Sumo Deadlift: Benefits, Videos and Variations

The Sumo Deadlift is a great variation of the regular conventional deadlift, which is one of the most effective compound exercises that helps to develop various muscles in your body.

This specific exercise targets all experience in fitness from professional weightlifters to beginners. OriGym have created an in-depth guide on how to Sumo Deadlift.

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How to Sumo Deadlift 

The Sumo Deadlift is used by many powerlifters as an alternative to the regular deadlift. The sumo deadlift set up is different because of the persons hand and feet. 

The movement of the sumo deadlift ensures that your upper back, glutes, traps and hamstrings are targeted in this exercise.

 

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Here’s how to Sumo Deadlift:

Starting position:

  • For the sumo deadlift setup, load the bar with an appropriate weight to start with.
  • Once attached, stand in a wide stance with your feet pointing at 45 degrees. The stance should be wide enough to allow your arms to be extended In between your knees.
  • Once you have your stance ready, bend at the hip, keep and ensure there’s constant tension through your arms legs and back.
  • It’s important to get the sumo deadlift form correct so note to keep your back flat when performing the exercise in order to protect the spine.
  • Brace your core and take a deep breath right before you attempt the lift as it will help you keep the spine neutral.
  • When you perform the lift drive through with your feet and ensure you keep the chest up. Keep your latissimus dorsi (lats) flexed. This will help you keep the bar close to you when you do the lift.
  • Once completed lower it down slowly ensuring tension is throughout.

If you’re wondering the sumo deadlift muscles worked, the Sumo Deadlift is fantastic for working various muscles in the body. Here are the muscles that this fantastic compound exercise works.

Hamstrings

The Romanian deadlift and conventional deadlifts do target this muscle more however, the hamstrings are still the primary movers when performing this exercise.

This should mean you will see some benefit from doing the sumo deadlift.

Back Muscles and Trapezius

The trapezius muscles and upper back muscles are used whilst performing the manoeuvre. When you do perform the exercise, these muscles  maintain correct torso position and helps you pull the barbell upwards.

The sumo deadlift uses a more vertical pulling movement in comparison to the regular deadlift. This will ensure you upper back muscles and traps will develop very well.

Quadriceps

The foot placement in the sumo deadlift means that whenever you do this exercise, the person must set themselves up and to achieve better angles in comparison to the regular deadlifts. 

Probably the most important out of the sumo deadlift muscles worked as it targets much more effectively than the regular deadlift or Romanian deadlift. 

Glute Muscles

One of the key sumo deadlift muscles, this is due to the foot and hip placement of the sumo deadlift, this compound exercise targets the glutes brilliantly.

As the hips are in an external rotation, this means that glutes are targeted more through this exercise.

Lower Back (Erector Spinae) 

The lower back muscles are worked more in the sumo deadlift than the regular deadlift and Romanian deadlift. This is because your torso is more vertically angled when you are about to pull the barbell. 

This is one of the sumo deadlift muscles worked, as you are developing the lower back muscles each time you lift the barbell. This will improve each time you do the sumo deadlift correct and safely.

As said by Wenning who explains the sumo deadlift muscles:   

Completing sumo deadlifts correctly can aid in developing strong hips, as well as improving mobility. From experience, sumo deadlifts can actually help one learn to pull conventional deadlifts correctly, by first addressing hip mobility and learning how to maximally activate the glutes. This allows the lifter to take some pressure off the lower back and place it on the glutes.

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

It may happen sometimes where you want to switch up your sumo deadlift with another similar exercise which works the same way. We’ve come up with a number of exercises for you to try out.

1.Rack Pull

The rack pull is a great alternative to the barbell sumo deadlift, it is very similar to the conventional deadlift however there is less range of motion to complete the exercise.

The rack pull enables you to put heavier weights on the barbell which will help you improve your form when it comes to performing the sumo deadlift and helps develop your lower back muscles. 

Here’s how to do the rack pull:

  • Find a rack where you can adjust the safety bar to just over knee height.
  • Grip the barbell overhand and ensure your feet are shoulder width apart.
  • Keep your core strong and engage your hamstring as you push your hips back.
  • Ensure that your back is straight when performing the exercise to prevent injury and look forwards when you perform the movement.
  • Lift the weight whilst driving your hips forwards and straightening your knees.
  • Pull the shoulders back at the top of the movement and with constant tension lower the bar back in to the rack position. 

2.Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

This type of deadlift is a great alternative to do from the barbell sumo deadlift. There’s a lot of variations within this specific exercise like if you’re going to workout at home, instead of the barbell, you are able to use dumbbells for this exercise as well.

This specific exercise is great for those who want to target their hamstrings without going too heavy. It’s a great effective exercise without applying any additional pressure on your lower back.

Here’s how to do the Romanian Deadlift:

  • Grip the barbell and stand with the bar instead of the bar being on the floor. The barbell should be in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip.
  • Ensure that your stance will be shoulder width apart when you perform the exercise.
  • Keep the chest up, your core tight and have a natural arch in the lower back.
  • Lean forwards from the hips and pushing them back until your torso should roughly be parallel to the floor.
  • As you lean forward, ensure that you keep your arms straight and slight the barbell down your thighs until it reaches the shins. Make sure that you keep constant tension and not use momentum to complete the movement.
  • Once you are at the bottom, keep the back flat, your head should be neutral with the bar and always make sure that the bar is very close to the legs.
  • Squeeze those hamstrings and glutes, lift the torso whilst pushing the hips forward until you are back to standing. 

3.Barbell Hip Thrusts

Like the sumo deadlift, the barbell hip thrusts targets the glutes and hamstrings. This is a great addition to any leg day and would be a great alternative to the sumo deadlift as it works the posterior chain and will help with your sumo deadlift form. 

As always we suggest to purchase a barbell pad in order to do the exercise as some people sometimes find the exercise does hurt on the hip bones.

Here’s how to do the Barbell Hip Thrusts:

  • Attach the weights accordingly, have the barbell set up parallel to the bench.
  • Place yourself on the floor with the shoulders and your shoulder blades against the bench.
  • Roll the barbell towards yourself, over the legs until it’s directly over your hips.
  • Put your elbows on the bench and ensure that the hands are on the barbell. It is important to note that the body needs to be aligned and the spine is neutral when you perform this exercise.
  • Take a deep breath in and breath out through your mouth to engage your core.
  • Drive through the heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up.
  • With constant tension, bring the barbell back down with your core still engaged.

 4.Kettlebell swing

This exercise is a great target to improve your posterior chain and is a great alternative to the Sumo Deadlift. 

The benefits are great as it will keep you shoulders in a healthier position. With doing the kettlebell swing regularly, you’ll be able to gain muscle endurance, strong glutes and more flexible hips which is helps with your sumo deadlift form.

Here’s how to do a Kettlebell Swing:

  • Begin with the kettlebell slightly in front of you and have the kettlebell between your feet.
  • Maintain a shoulder width apart stance. Bend your knees slightly and ensure that you hinge at your hips.
  • Grasp the kettlebell and pull it back between the legs in order to create a momentum.
  • Drive the hips forward and straighten the back to send the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
  • Normally we ask to keep constant tension however as this is the kettlebell swing, you want it to return back between the legs and repeat the move.
  • As this is a muscular endurance exercise we suggest to do the swing to start with 60 seconds on a lighter weight so you can get the technique right.

Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift

This is one of the most frequently discussed questions when it comes to doing the compound exercise. There are a number of factors that people will need to consider.

Of course, it depends on the person to which style feels more comfortable throughout the exercise and also differs to body type and a host of other things like muscular strength and limitations.

As said by Parker

The sumo style deadlift has gained a reputation as decreasing the stress placed on the lower lumbar by as much as 10% when compared to the conventional deadlift. 

Similarities between the Sumo Deadlift and Conventional

There are some similarities between these two compound exercises which are listed below:

Timing of the Lockout

From the hips and knees to the finish of the movement, the lock out of the movement will be roughly at the same time.

This will mean that once the bar is at the top whether you try the conventional or adapt to the sumo deadlift the finishing position should have the bar roughly below the hip area.  Therefore the sumo deadlift vs conventional is in fact very similar.

Building tension within the muscles 

Like the conventional deadlift, the sumo deadlift will need to have muscular tension in the starting position. You would not be able to build the tension up in the same way as other lifts before you start the movement.

In order to gain tension before you perform the deadlift, you will need to ensure you grab the bar in a strong grip, squeeze your lats and get your back ready to lift.

You will also need to engage your hamstrings and glutes and as always, maintain a neutral head position and drive your feet in to the floor to perform the lift. The sumo vs conventional deadlift are actually very similar.

It’s important to note that if you do not have any muscular tension before you lift the bar, your sumo or conventional deadlift will not be efficient and could cause injury.

Differences between the Conventional and Sumo Deadlift

As listed below, here are some key differences where these compound exercises differ:

The muscles used in the lift

The change in angles between the sumo vs conventional deadlift means that there are different areas which are stressed when performing the exercise.

This is especially apparent in the knee and hip extensors when you perform the lift, this means that the demands for the different muscles will change accordingly.  

When you perform a conventional deadlift, your spinal erectors are used more where as the sumo deadlift is very quadricep based in comparison. This is very evident when you do a lift above knee height.

Depending on where your hips are in relation to the barbell, you are more likely to have a greater glute activation when you perform a conventional deadlift.

The important debate of the sumo deadlift vs conventional is that even with significant research, it’s still undecided whether either compound exercise works the glutes more than the other.  

Range of motion

Many people ask the question is sumo deadlift easier? This is because when you perform a sumo deadlift there is a shorter range of motion when you perform the lift. This comes in at around 20-25% in comparison to the regular deadlift.

This means that in a conventional deadlift, there’s more mechanical work needed to be done. This does not mean however the sumo deadlift will be easier to do, for example if you have shorter arms and a shorter torso a conventional deadlift may not be suitable for you.

Starting position of each deadlift

The angles of the body are going to be different when you perform the sumo deadlift vs conventional.

When you perform the conventional deadlift, you will need to forward lean approximately 5-10% more. When you perform the regular deadlift, you will need to have your shoulders slightly in front of the bar.

Do not attempt to do this technique with the sumo deadlift as it would not be efficient for your lifting process.

Where as the Sumo Deadlift when you perform the exercise, your shoulders should be directly with the bar.

What is better the Sumo Deadlift or Conventional? 

We suggest to try out both out for yourself. We can obviously highlight to pros and cons of each of the deadlifts. However, it’s down to you to know what feels right when you perform each lift.

We suggest to train both variations of the deadlifts. Once you’ve got the feel that one is stronger than the other where you can have a submaximal at around 70-80% of your 1 rep max.

You will start to notice differences in the amount that you pull for either the sumo deadlift or the Conventional.

If you start to feel more of a weakness in your sumo deadlift that it’s more likely that you will need to strengthen your quadriceps more in order to improve the lift.

Likewise, with the conventional pull, if you are weaker with this exercise, you will want to work on strengthening your back muscles in order to perform the lift better.

Of course it’s important to note that neither variation is easier than the other however in the long run, you will start to notice that there will be a significant difference in each pulling exercise 

Sumo Deadlift Benefits

The Sumo Deadlift has a number of benefits which is why you should include this in your regular leg day routine. Here’s the reasons why :

Glute and Quad strength:

One of the sumo deadlift benefits is that it targets earlier targets the glutes and quads. This is due to the foot placement of the exercise.

The glutes are targeted as the hip are rotated externally which ensures that whenever you pull the barbell, you’ll know that it’s working with every repetition you do.

The way that the stance is done in a sumo deadlift, the glutes and quadriceps can help a conventional lifter to have the following:

  • Help strengthen the glutes and quadriceps with positioning to take a wider stance approach when it comes to performing a low back squat.
  • It will enable the lifter to have a strong and stable muscles above the knee which is key for any lockout.
  • You will be able to add additional lower body volume as you continuously perform Sumo Deadlifts, with the conventional deadlift being quite focused on your lower back, you’ll still be able to get all of the benefits without injuring the lower back.

You can customise the deadlift. 

Many people who do the deadlift often go to the conventional deadlift as people would feel that you will have better muscular activation from conventional rather than sumo. 

Whether or not is sumo deadlift easier than conventional, in fact, the sumo stance offers individuals a much more varied and perhaps a better pulling approach when it comes to this deadlift.

The individual may have some trouble doing the conventional deadlift due to their comfort, hip structure or mobility levels. The sumo deadlift aids this by enabling a wider stance means that you will be able to adapt the lift to the way that you want to.

Lumbar Spine stress is reduced 

If you’re looking for one of the best sumo deadlift benefits is the lumber spine stress is reduced.

By positioning yourself to a wider stance, you will be able to open the hips, flex the knees and keeping the hips closer to the barbell this should angel your torso slightly higher.

When you do perform the conventional deadlift, when excessive amount of weight is put on to the barbell, a huge amount of stress can be placed on the lower back. This could mean that if you do not perform the exercise correctly, it could lead to injury.

If you do feel worried about any lumbar spine pain always consult a medical professional if the pain is constant. However, you should consider the sumo deadlift as your primary deadlift as it relieves some of the pressure for your lumbar spine.

As said by Cholewicki et al

The sumo deadlift style resulted in a 10% reduction in the joint moment and 8% reduction in the load shear force at the L4/L5 level when compared with the conventional lifting style. 

Increased pulling strength and every day activities 

 

The sumo deadlift exercise can help to increase your overall pulling weight and help increase muscle mass to you. There are many variations of the sumo squats which we’ll discuss later in the blog.

You will be able to load very heavy weight but of course approach with caution as with any strength exercise, get the technique right to prevent injury. 

Sumo Deadlifts, Sets, Reps and Weights Recommended 

Below are listed the following reps, sets and weights recommended by OriGym, of course when you do perform the exercise start off at a lower weight before moving up. These list will be a guide for any person interested in a deadlift.

However, please not this is a loose recommendation to programme your deadlift day.

Strength

The sumo deadlift is great especially for powerlifting athletes  and strongman athletes. The sumo deadlift is a great way to improve general pulling strength.

We suggest to do 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions with heavy loading on to the barbell. Rest is vital when you perform a strength set so we suggest to rest 2-3 minutes per set.

Muscle Hypertrophy 

The sumo deadlift exercise can help muscle hypertrophy with moderate to heavy weights on the barbell. This means that this can be done at a higher volume to increase strength as well.

We suggest between 3-5 set of 6-10 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads or you could potentially do 2-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions with a moderate load to near failure.

We suggest to keep the resting periods between each set to 45-90 seconds. You can even help muscle growth by doing time under tension and eccentric lowering of the barbell.

Muscle Endurance

For individuals who want to improve on their posterior chain muscle endurance and glutes, the sumo deadlift can be used to train in a higher repetition range to improve muscular endurance and fatigue resistance.

We suggest also to do between 2-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions loaded with either light to moderate weight on the barbell.

We also suggest to keep the resting periods 30-45 seconds per set for this sumo deadlift exercise.

Before you go! 

We hope that you found the how to do the sumo deadlift informative and if you feel like you want to start a career in fitness. Why not download our prospectus or enquire below and one of the enrolment team will get back to you.

 

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Why not check out our other exercise guides:

References:

D Parker - jerseytouchcouk.ipage.com

MR Wenning - nsca.com

J Cholewicki, SM McGill, RW Norman - Medicine and science in …, 1991 - europepmc.org

Written by Zac Yeo

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Zac on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

With a BA (Hons) Politics and International Relations from Kingston University and previous experience working in the finance sector, Zac’s passion for fitness brought him to OriGym, and ultimately led him to become a qualified Personal Trainer. With a keen interest in developing consumer trends, Zac enjoys the creation of deep, insightful content catering to new trends and has contributed to various publications including the Daily Star. Outside of work, Zac can be found watching football, either in-person supporting Charlton Athletic or virtually on Fifa.