• Sumo Deadlift: A Complete Guide on Workout

    03 Jun 2021

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    To be honest, we didn’t really know much about the sumo deadlift until just about a year ago. At that time, we’ve found out that one of our friends engaged and started to be quite successful in powerlifting. She wasn’t a close friend or anything, but we knew that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a relatively young age. MS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, so as you may assume, it causes mobility issues. So we really wanted to find out what drove her to this activity.

    Hence, we decided to meet up and hear about her experiences. “How come you chose powerlifting? What inspired you?” As it turned out, her doctor encouraged her to try it as a way to improve the strength of her muscles and connective tissue. “At first, it was an attempt to slow down the progression of MS” she said, “But then it grew into a passion.” She then explained that powerlifting has much more to offer than we thought and that it is not at all about looking like a giant!

    Impressed by things we heard and her achievements, we decided to look more into the concept of powerlifting. It turned that we were indeed wrong all those years. Although it is heavy resistance training focused on building muscles, its overall benefits went far beyond that. We were excited to learn that it strengthens the entire skeleton, which plays a crucial role in preventing injuries in other sports or daily activities. And above all, that it can significantly improve the situation of women who experience osteoporosis.

    Apart from all, we learned that exercises are way more complex than we thought and that there are plenty of remarkable workouts that we can do. Out of many, we, particularly, got drawn to one – sumo deadlift. It is a phenomenal workout, which comes with a plethora of benefits. Yet, many people don’t know much about it. That is why we decided to compile all the information we found and offer you this text as a gift that will introduce you to the magical world of powerlifting.

    What is Sumo Deadlift?

    What is Sumo Deadlift

    Like many other people, we also thought that sumo deadlift has something to do with sumo wrestling. And, we have to say it was pretty confusing because the image of a large sumo wrestler isn’t exactly what we have in mind when we think about physical fitness and health. In reality, sumo deadlift technique doesn’t have much to do with Japanese wrestling. But it has to do with lower body training. The deadlift got the name sumo because the position imitates the position, sumo wrestler takes before about. Once you start powerlifting, you hear plenty of these names, such as Romanian deadlift, block deadlift, sumo deadlift, etc., and all of them refer to the position of the lifter. Okay, but what is the sumo-style deadlift?

    The difference between sumo deadlift vs conventional is in the position of feet and hands. When you are doing the standard exercise your feet are about hip-width apart. In sumo, variation feet are more apart than your hands. It depends on your height how far apart you will manage to place them. However, as a general rule, they will be much more apart than shoulder width. Now, considering that you are standing with feet so far apart, naturally, you will want to grab the bar much closer together than in a standard deadlift. Most people place hands at maximum shoulder-width apart. What kind of grip should it be? It is totally up to you! You can use a staggered or overhand grip, whichever you find more convenient.

    There is a continual discussion about which of these exercises is more demanding. There isn’t a concrete answer to this question because there aren’t any specific factors to help us determine the difficulty level. It is more the question of individual strengths and weaknesses. Nonetheless, an increasing number of lifters prefer sumo deadlift form for another reason. Namely, researchers studying muscle activity through electromyography (EMG) say that the measurements clearly show that sumo deadlifts demand from quads more than a conventional option. They say that it is because the wider positioning of the feet enables you to get much closer to the floor. Readings also show us that the trapezius muscle is much more engaged.

    When Should You Sumo Deadlift?

    When Should You Sumo Deadlift

    Plenty of people wonder about this. And we have to say, there isn’t a straightforward answer here. We can say that generally, it is easier to learn how to sumo deadlift. They are also easier to do because of the shorter range of motions. Comparing sumo deadlift vs regular deadlift, you will see that they are also easier on the lower back. Hence they may be a better choice for people who have some injury or lower back pain. That is because the torso is not as bent as in a regular deadlift. That reduces the stress on the spine and puts more on quadriceps glutes, and hamstrings. Thus, sumo is an excellent choice for those who want to focus on maximizing the hypertrophy of the glutes.

    If you are still wondering why sumo deadlift and not the conventional one, we will list few more reasons. So, some people found that this exercise is effective in strengthening their back and relieving the pain. However, it is not the case for everyone. So you should do a sumo deadlift if you can achieve correct positioning of the spine and hips and don’t feel any pain. Also, if you feel more comfortable in this position, it is for you. However, if you are under the impression that the position for proper sumo deadlift feels awkward, you should look for another variation. Also, if you experience any pain or discomfort, then a standard deadlift might be a better choice for you.

    Muscles Worked By the Sumo Deadlift

    sumo deadlifts muscles worked

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    Okay so, now it is clear what it is. So let’s see what does sumo deadlift works on:

    • Glutes: Sumo deadlift affects the gluteal muscles. That is because of the position that requires that your feet are wider apart. When performing, the hips are rotated externally, which means that glutes are more engaged.
    • Hamstrings: For many people, it is surprising to learn that deadlifts, other than standard, target hamstrings. However, they get targeted to a significant degree with this variation. However, if your primary goal is to build these muscles, it is better to focus on the Romanian deadlift.
    • Quadriceps: This variation targets quads more than conventional or Romanian variation. The specific foot positioning requires the knees to bend more when you are doing the lift, and this is when quads get super engaged.
    • Trapezius and Back Muscle: Being a more vertical pull movement, it is great for strengthening traps and upper back muscles.

    Sumo Deadlift vs Deadlift: What Are the Key Differences

    Though they might appear similar, both the sumo deadlift vs regular deadlift have major differences. These are:

    Wider Stance

    Foot placement is the biggest difference when you look at these two lifts. In sumo lift, your feet should be twice the shoulder-width apart. Apart from that, the toes should be directed outwards because of the knee ankle.

    Shorter Range of Motion

    We mention shorter motion range earlier to explain why many people claim that sumo deadlift high pull is easier. It is again linked to the position of the feet. The thing is, the lifter is closer to the ground when feet are so much apart. Consequently, the barbell is moving less distance which means the movement is shorter. How does that reflect on hip extension? A study conducted by R. F. Escamilla and other researchers shows there is no difference between the two moves in this respect.

    Requires Less Energy

    Since the range of motions is shorter, you move the barbell at a shorter distance. It practically means that when you are doing sumo lifts, you work a bit less. According to a previously mentioned study, lifters who opt for conventional deadlift work 25 – 40 % more.

    Conventional Deadlifts Focus More on the Back

    Sumo deadlift puts less strain on the back. That is why they are a better option for people with back pain or issues. However, if your goal is to strengthen the back muscles, then standard deadlifts are a better choice. Research from J. Cholewicki et al. showed that erector spinae works around 10% harder during the traditional deadlift.

    Sumo Deadlifts Focus More on Quads

    As we mentioned earlier, people who want to strengthen their quadriceps should do sumo deadlifts. According to EMG analysis performed by R. F. Escamilla et al., vastus medialis and vastus lateralis get engaged much more during sumo variation of the deadlift.

    Sumo Deadlifts Benefits

    Sumo Deadlifts Benefits
    • It is easier to maintain the correct form when you are doing sumo lifts.
    • Because the range of motion is shorter, people can lift a heavier load.
    • The sumo deadlift is excellent for strengthening the posterior chain, particularly quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
    • This lift comes with less stress on the spine.
    • It is easier to do it, and thus it is a better option for beginners.

    How to Do The Sumo Deadlift

    The Set-Up

    how to do sumo deadlift step 1

    Stand with your feet wide apart. We will remind you here that your feet should be twice shoulder-width apart. However, this will also depend on your height. In any case, your shins must be at 90 degrees angle about the floor. Keep in mind that the toes should be pointed outwards. The stance you assume should allow you to extend your arms towards the ground. Your shoulders should be just above the bar.

    Form Tip

    Keep the core braced and pull the hips to the bar. The torso needs to be a bit more vertical, so try to push the knees wideout.

    Slightly Pull the Bar

    how to do sumo deadlift step 2

    When you are sure that your position is correct, create full-body tension by tightening the core, back, legs and butt. Pull the bar slightly and press your feet against the floor. Make sure that the bar stays in place. When you reached maximum tension and found the best position take a deep breath and proceed to the next step.

    Form Tip

    Try to imagine pressure going up in your body while every muscle gets activated.

    Drive the Barbell Through the Feet

    how to do sumo deadlift step 3

    So now you are ready to pull the barbell by driving through the feet and pulling up on the bar at the same time. The main point in this step is that the barbell stays close to you. But you have to make sure that your torso doesn’t fall or that the hips don’t go up.

    Form Tip

    Make sure that your torso is straight up. The bar needs to be against your shins. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do a proper lift. Apart from that, if the form isn’t good, there is a risk of injury.

    Lock the Weight Out

    When you reach this step, the weight in your legs should increase. You may be under the impression that the bar is pulling you down or that it stopped moving. Try to prevent your torso from leaning or upper back from rounding. Push through your heels and then squeeze the glutes.

    Form Tip

    If you have the feeling that it is difficult to finish the move, squeeze the glutes more. It will push the hips forward and reduce the distance between the weight and peak of the lift.

    Sumo Deadlift Variations

    Deficit Sumo Deadlift

    It is a popular sumo deadlift variation. It is often used in the powerlifting communities when people want to diversify their pulling performance and increase the strength. It involves moving a loaded barbell through a fuller range of motions. Deficit sumo deadlift targets the same muscles as sumo deadlift. However, because of the deficit, it comes with added motion range. That increases the demand for the back and legs. It is a pretty straightforward process during which you are standing on an elevated platform.

    Sumo Deadlift with Resistance Bands

    This is another variation that you may appreciate. This exercise is designed to strengthen the entire posterior chain, including hamstrings, calves, back, etc. Lifters use bands in this exercise to achieve accommodating resistance. It means that the aim is to get as close as possible to a full contraction. That puts more tension on targeted muscles.

    Tempo Sumo Deadlift

    Tempro sumo deadlift means simply that you are adjusting the tempo of the deadlift. So, basically, you set the specific time for different parts of the exercise and try to do them accordingly. The tempo sumo deadlift is good for beginners. However, professional lifters use it, as well, because it allows them to increase or reduce the time muscles spend under tension.

    Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

    Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift is more alternative than a variation. You can also do a dumbbell sumo deadlift. As kettlebells and dumbbells are much lighter than a barbell, this is a good option for people starting to do strength training. However, don’t be fooled by lighter weight. This exercise is still demanding and requires you to maintain proper form at all times. It is fantastic for increasing your overall strength. Like barbell sumo deadlift, it also targets the back, hamstring, quads, glutes, etc.

    Clean Deadlift

    The clean deadlift is a sumo lift alternative commonly used in Olympic weightlifting training. It requires that the lifter’s hips are a bit lower than in the conventional deadlift. That way, these movements increase the strength of the posterior chain.

    Sumo Deadlifts Tips and Recommendations

    Now when we know more about sumo deadlift in general and sumo deadlift muscles worked, the only thing left is to check some tips that will allow us to do it safely. The most critical thing in this exercise is to take the correct position and keep the proper form. Make sure that you don’t overextend the back. It is advised to try different grips and check which one is most suitable for you.


    And that’s all on the sumo deadlift! As you could see, the main difference between this and the conventional lift is in the position of the feet. It may seem like a small thing, but in reality, it makes a big difference, especially for people who have back pain or issues. In that case, sumo deadlift is a much better choice. Apart from that, it is totally up to you which one you prefer. You can even alternate between them. As we know, adding variation to exercises is always beneficial. Have you ever tried deadlifting? What are your experiences?

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