Sumo deadlift vs conventional deadlift

Doing a deadlift also increases your endurance which result helps to gain more muscle mass.

One of the best exercises that you can do to work your entire body is deadlift variations. In addition to working different muscle groups, they improve your posture and help with your strength.

woman standing at top of sumo deadlift

There are different types of deadlifts that work to target many of your muscle groups. Mastering deadlifts can help with everyday life activities and your workout sessions more productive.

The deadlift is a full-body movement, but if you are performing it correctly, you should feel it mostly in the target group of muscles called the posterior chain.  This consists of your hamstrings, glutes, the spinal erectors along your spine and your back muscles.

Sumo deadlift vs conventional deadlift

The main difference between sumo deadlifts and conventional deadlifting is the grip placement and stance width. This leads to a handful of other differences including torso angle and hip position, but wide stance and hand placement are the main difference.

A conventional deadlift typically uses a hip-width stance or narrower stance, while sumo squats use a wider stance with the feet well outside the hips. There are other subtle differences and lifters will have small deviations in setup and technique.

Sumo deadlift is named after sumo wrestlers, mimicking their wide legged, low stance.

Sumo deadlift

woman in sumo sdeadlift
  • Place a barbell in front of your on the floor
  • Position your feet wider than your shoulders in the conventional deadlift with your toes pointing outwards, allowing a narrow grip so that both hands will be placed on the inside of your legs and feet on the bar.
  • Perform the movement by hinging at the hips, keeping your weight on your heels.
  • Guide the bar down your legs to the floor, while keeping your head in a neutral position. 
  • Press back up, pushing through your heels and squeeze your glutes.

Viewed from the side, the sumo brings your hips closer to the barbell at the starting position. This shifts much of the work of the sumo deadlift away from the hamstrings and places it on the quadriceps, hip adductors and glutes.

Sumo deadlift is named after sumo wrestlers, mimicking their wide legged, low stance.

Traditional deadlift

woman doing conventional deadlift exercise
  • Place a barbell in front of you on the floor
  • Step close to the barbell and stand in front of it with your feet hip-width apart
  • With your hands about shoulder width apart, just outside your feet, hinge your hips, bend your knees and grab the barbell with both bands in an overhand grip
  • Keeping your back straight and your core tight, lift the bar off the ground and pull it up
  • Once the bar reaches knee height, thrust your hips forward to a standing position
  • Reverse the movement and return to the starting position
  • Keep your neck in a neutral position throughout the lift.

You have two choices for grip: a double overhand grip or a mixed grip. A mixed grip is when one hand grips the bar overhand and the other underhand. The mixed grip will allow you to lift heavy weight.

Muscles worked: Sumo vs conventional

sumo deadlift muscles

Primary muscles worked:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Low back

Secondary muscles:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip adductors
  • Traps

Primary muscles worked:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Low back
  • Hamstrings

Secondary muscles:

  • Hip adductors
  • Traps
  • Forearms

Due to the foot placement and hip/knee angles in the setup, the sumo deadlift targets mostly the glutes (due to hip external rotation) and vastus medialis (inner quads) to a greater extent than a conventional deadlift.

Why include both deadlifts?

Both sumo and conventional deadlifts are compound exercises that will make you stronger and fitter. It is a good idea to include more than one deadlift style.

The sumo will look a lot more like a squat than a deadlift demanding more of the quadriceps than the conventional deadlift. This makes them perfect for building mass through the lower body while still getting some of the benefits of a deadlift.

The conventional deadlift, also known as the Romanian deadlift, you will find your quads won’t do so much of the work because of the higher hip and thigh position. But both will be a great workout for the muscles of the posterior chain: the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and erector spinae.

When should you add deadlifts?

Some people like to include traditional deadlifts on back day. A sumo deadlift could be added on your leg day when focused on quads and glutes.

Sumo vs conventional deadlift FAQs

Which is safer?

Both are safe when using proper form. The sumo deadlift might feel better in the lower back because of the upright torso starting position which makes correct spinal alignment a lot easier.

Which deadlift should new lifters use?

Beginner lifters should start with the traditional deadlift. The traditional deadlift works the entire body and is better at developing overall strength and power.

Which deadlift can you lift the heaviest weight?

Lifters typically report being able to lift more using a sumo stance because they are not having to move the bar as far as a conventional deadlift requires.

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