The 5 Benefits Of Sumo Deadlifts
A sumo deadlift is a great alternative to a standard deadlift that works just as many muscles without the added strain to your lower back. This variation of the standard deadlift requires a wider stance (like a sumo wrestler) and places hands on the inside of the knees rather than the outside.
While many lifters may tell you that the sumo variation is cheating (based upon the shallow range of motion), that just isn’t the case!
It activates just as many muscle groups as a standard deadlift, and the angle of your body reduces potential strain on your lower back.
Below, I wanted to dive into the top 5 reasons to add a sumo deadlift into your next powerlifting or weight training routine.
1. More engagement in glutes and hamstrings.
Nothing quite lights up the muscles in your glutes, hamstrings, and posterior chain than a sumo deadlift. This specific stance leaves very little room for cheating (i.e., dumping the weight on your lower back.)
By leaving your stance wide, the primary muscles moving the bar are your glutes and your hamstrings, with very little impact on your lower back.
2. Lift more weight.
Why do people think that sumo deadlifts are cheating? It’s because those engaging in this deadlift variation can often pull heavier weight than those that use the standard form. Another reason that some find it’s cheating (again, it’s not cheating!) is that the range of motion is much more shallow.
Try switching up your form if you are pushing for a PR on deadlifts and have stalled out on progress. More often than not, your stalled progress on deads may not be a matter of strength but in form.
Nailing the form on deads is tricky and can place a lot of strain on your lower back. And don’t worry, sumo deads are perfectly legal in a powerlifting meet!
3. Reduce stress on your lower back.
Deadlifts may appear to be an easy lift (you’re just picking something heavy off of the floor, right?), but proper form is incredibly tricky. Small changes in the bar path can immediately dump all of that weight right on your lower back.
What makes the sumo variation great is that the angle of your legs positions your torso at an angle that requires very little lower back engagement and automatically keeps your butt down by design.
4. Perfect for beginners.
This lift variation is perfect for beginners because the range of motion is much more shallow. The primary muscles used in this style of lift activate larger muscles in your glutes and hamstrings and don’t engage the muscles in your lower back in the same way.
Overall, the sumo deadlift is easy to learn and leaves little room to tweak your back with improper form.
5. Build Better Grip strength.
Nothing is more frustrating than failing out on a deadlift because of your grip. Been there, done that. I chalk up, I go in with fresh muscles, but my hands don’t have the power to grip the bar. Sure, there are exercises that you can do (like farmers carry) to improve grip, but many powerlifters don’t take to time to engage in these styles of exercises.
A shorter range of motion means pulling heavier weight with less time under stress. Training with heavier weights helps to improve your overall grip strength, which will make your straight deadlifts a little bit easier on your paws.
Conventional Vs. Sumo
So, which is better: Sumo or conventional deadlifts?
Comparing different styles of deadlifts is like comparing different styles of bench presses. While narrow grip bench presses activate more muscles in your triceps, they aren’t considered better or worse than straight bench presses. They’re just different.
The same can be said sumo vs. conventional. Sumo deadlifts activate more muscles in your glutes and hamstring while taking it easier on your lower back, while straight deadlifts light up the muscles evenly throughout your entire posterior chain.
Benefits of the Sumo Deadlift High Pull
If you feel that the basic sumo deadlift is just a little too shallow and want something that provides more of an upper and lower body workout, let me introduce you to the sumo deadlift high pull!
This lift requires lifters to squat down into the sumo form with their legs wide and pull the bar up to the base of their collar bone. This killer compound movement engages all muscle groups as a sumo deadlift with more activation in the upper back and lats.
This movement is tricky, and improper form is a recipe for tweaked muscles. When first starting, I suggest stripping the bar of all of the plates so you can hammer down the form. Once it feels natural, slowly incorporate more weight. This is used primarily as a supplementary exercise at higher reps, which will be significantly less than your PR.
Overall, the sumo deadlift high pull is the perfect entry-level movement for powerlifters that want to increase their snatches, which can be a pretty scary movement if you don’t quite have the power.
How should I incorporate sumo deadlifts into my workout routine?
Whether powerlifting or weight training, sumo deadlifts have a spot in almost every workout. Even if you want to stick with your standard deadlift form, switching up your stance to sumo deadlifts will strengthen muscles in your glutes and hamstrings that don’t quite activate in the same way with straight deadlifts.
It’s also great to alternate between sumo and straight deadlifts to keep those muscles engaged in new ways, as well as improve your overall grip. I like to switch up my deadlift stance from week to week. One week I utilize straight deadlift form, and the next week I switch to sumo deadlifts.
If you find that your lower back is screaming at the end of deadlift day, it may be time to try and make the switch to sumo deadlifts. Finding the right form with straight deadlifts is tricky, and improper form is the best way to tweak your lower back.
To improve strength, save your lower back, and pull heavier weight than you ever thought possible, sumo deadlifts are the way to go!