Sumo Deadlift: Muscles Worked & Technique

Sumo deadlift technique

Muscles Worked in Sumo Deadlifts

Muscles worked in sumo deadlifts

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Do Sumo Deadlifts

  • Step up close to the bar with wide foot placement. A good starting point is to have the bar over the middle of your foot and stand so wide that your shins are vertical, as seen from the front.
  • Inhale, bend down and grip the bar.
  • Hold your breath, brace your core slightly, and lift the bar.
  • Pull the bar close to your body, with a straight back, until you are standing straight.
  • Lower the bar back to the ground with control.
  • Take another breath, and repeat for reps.

Commentary

The deadlift is a classic exercise that trains almost your entire body and a competitive event in the sport of powerlifting. This exercise requires great core stability and control, and you should strive to keep your spine straight (neutral) during the entire lift. It is a good idea to experiment with different foot placements to determine which lifting technique suits your body best.

The sumo deadlift is a variant of the deadlift, but the most common deadlift variation is standing with much narrower foot placement and gripping the bar with your arms outside of your knees.

Muscles Worked in Sumo Deadlifts vs. Conventional Deadlifts

While much of the same muscles are worked in the sumo deadlift and the conventional deadlifts, there are some small differences.

  • Sumo deadlifts are about 10% easier on your lower back than conventional deadlifts, likely because of the difference in back angle.1
  • Instead, your quads have to work harder in the sumo deadlift to pick up the slack left from your lower back.2
Sumo deadlift vs conventional
The starting position of the conventional (left) and sumo (right) deadlift. Compared to the conventional deadlift, the sumo deadlift works your quadriceps muscles slightly more and your lower back slightly less.

Should You Use the Sumo Deadlift Technique or the Conventional?

Which style you should use depends largely on what your training goal is.

  • If your goal is to build your back muscles, then the conventional deadlift technique is generally the better choice.
  • If your goal is to lift as much weight as possible, then you should try out both styles for a while and see which one feels better and which you can lift the most weight in.

One study found that people with long torsos relative to their height tended to be slightly stronger in the sumo deadlift than in the conventional, but the correlation was weak (r=0.3), so you should make sure to give both techniques a fair try.3

Further reading:

>> Return to exercise directory.


Text and graphics from the StrengthLog app.

References

  1. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Oct;23(10):1179-86. Lumbar spine loads during the lifting of extremely heavy weights.
  2. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Apr;34(4):682-8. An electromyographic analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts.
  3. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Aug 1;18(3):448-453. eCollection 2019 Sep. Anthropometrical Determinants of Deadlift Variant Performance.