Sumo Deadlift Explained

Sumo Deadlift Explained

You regularly do a traditional deadlift at the gym, but what about the Sumo deadlift? 

Forget everything you think you know about it – such as that it’s not as powerful as the conventional deadlift – because it’s a must to include in your strength-training workout. 

Since it’s a great exercise for your glutes, lower back, hamstrings and abs, it’s time to introduce you to the real Sumo deadlift.

What makes the Sumo deadlift so important, though? 

Basically, it gives the conventional deadlift a performance boost. It increases one’s overall muscle mass and pulling strength. 

Whether you’re a CrossFit athlete, weightlifter, or someone who works out regularly, the Sumo deadlift can benefit you.

As you know, there are many different variations when it comes to the deadlift, but the Sumo deadlift is one that refreshes your powerlifting workout. 

It helps you to lift more weight while working different parts of your body that don’t get much attention in the conventional deadlift, while also being a bit safer to do.

Sumo Deadlift VS. Other Common Deadlifts

Woman Deadlifting

Wondering what the difference is between the Sumo deadlift and other common deadlifts, like the classic or Romanian deadlift? 

While deadlifts generally have the same muscle-boosting benefits, whether or not they’re right for you comes down to some important factors. 

Check out the below table to see what sets them apart. It’s really about finding the right one for your specific needs. In that way, deadlifts are pretty personal! 


Sumo Deadlift

Classic Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift



Your feet are positioned wider than your hands, causing you to hold the bar closer together. This deadlift is gentler on your back, which feels safer

Your feet are closer together, which causes you to bend more. This move is a bit easier on your quads, while being tougher on your back

Your legs remain almost completely straight, and you lower the bar until your back starts to round, putting less pressure on your upper back


Best For

People with shorter limbs and longer torsos

People with longer legs and shorter torsos

People with shorter legs and narrow hips

Primary Muscles Targeted

Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps. It works the glutes a bit more than a conventional deadlift because more muscle activation is required

Glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps 

Hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae (lower back)

How To Do The Sumo Deadlift

To understand what all the fuss is about the Sumo deadlift, here is a guide to help you master it. 

Some people don’t realize just how beneficial the Sumo deadlift is because they’re doing it wrong. 

Here is how to do it correctly.

  • To do the Sumo deadlift, get into the right position. This is what makes all the difference! You want to stand with your feet so that they are almost twice as wide as they would be in a conventional deadlift position. That’s one of the biggest differences you’ll find with the Sumo deadlift, and what makes it refreshing.
  • Make sure your toes are pointing out to the sides and your hands are placed closer together on the bar, in an overhand position and with a hook grip. The hook grip means that you hold the barbell by gripping your thumb between your fingers and the barbell.
  • You should also stand with your back almost completely vertical, which causes your back not to have to push so hard to keep yourself upright as you lift the bar. See, this is why the Sumo deadlift is better for your back.
  • Drop your rear so that your knees are bent slightly but still in line with your feet.
  • When pulling up the bar, there are different strategies you can use. For example, you can sit in position, hold the bar and pull, or you can grip the bar and then drop your rear, pushing your knees out to the side and flattening your back as you pull the bar. It’s really up to you but the former start is easier for beginners.
  • Move back into the starting position by lowering the bar to your knees. Avoid dropping the weight to the floor as this will defeat the purpose of the exercise, while increasing your risk of injury. You want to do the deadlift slowly and in a controlled fashion from start to finish.

How To Pick The Right Weight For The Sumo Deadlift

Putting Weights On Bar

If you’re a beginner interested in trying the Sumo deadlift, you’d do well to start with a dumbbell. 

It’s easier to perform the Sumo deadlift with this than with a barbell. Once you’re comfortable, you can move on to the barbell.

Once you progress to the barbell stage, what weight should you use? 

Consider this calculation for deadlifting: an average 198-pound man can lift 155 pounds, even without training. 

That’s just an average, but it can help you settle on the right weight.

And remember, if you don’t feel strong enough to deadlift in a conventional way, the Sumo deadlift can help you because your torso is in a more vertical position which means you need less energy and strength through your spinal erectors. 

Based on this, you might be able to slightly increase the amount of weight in a Sumo deadlift than what you’d use in a conventional deadlift. 

Choosing Weights According To Your Sumo Deadlift Goals

Sumo Deadlift

There’s another way to figure out what weight you should be using, and it comes down to why you want to try the Sumo deadlift in the first place. 

If you’re interested in doing strength exercises, of which the Sumo deadlift is an example, you want to use a heavier weight than someone who wants to bulk up their muscles, as Body Building reports.

For increased strength benefits when powerlifting, do 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions with heavy loading. 

Rest periods are also crucial, with rest periods of between three and five minutes being highly recommended.

You can also incorporate these strength benefits in an exercise routine that uses the Sumo deadlift for other benefits too. 

This is a great way to give yourself a more rounded powerlifting exercise plan. 

Let’s take a look at a good workout plan that makes use of this powerlifting move for different goals.

Sumo Deadlift Workout Plan

There are three crucial categories you want to target with the Sumo Deadlift. 

These are doing the deadlifts for strength (as outlined in the above section), endurance, and muscle hypertrophy.


Muscle Hypertrophy (increase in muscle cells; a term often mentioned in weightlifting circles)

Complete 2-4 sets of 12-20 reps

Complete 3-5 sets of 6-10 reps

Use light to average weight

Use moderate to heavy loads

Rest for 30 seconds between reps. You can also add pauses to your workout to be aware of your movements and contract your muscles

Rest for 45 seconds between reps, and you can use “touch-and-go” Sumo deadlifts to boost your muscle growth

What Are Touch-And-Go Sumo Deadlifts?

Touch-and-go Sumo deadlifts are basically when you let the bar touch the floor without landing properly before picking it up again. 

Comparatively, the traditional deadlift involves the bar being placed completely on the floor before it is used for the next rep. 

While setting the bar on the floor properly does make your moves more controlled and keeps you focused on doing them, changing things up a bit with a touch-and-go deadlift helps you get a stronger grip and build explosive power.

Pro tip: mix up how often you do both moves! It can only benefit your muscles to try both controlled and more explosive moves on a regular basis.

Sumo Deadlift Variations

Whether you’re doing the Sumo deadlift for strength, endurance, or muscle growth (or perhaps all three), you should also include different variations of it to keep your workout fresh and interesting while enabling you to target different muscle groups.

There’s nothing worse than getting bored with an exercise, and it’s easy for that to happen with deadlifting. 

It’s just you and the bar and a whole lot of concentration, but it doesn’t have to be that way! 

Here are some Sumo deadlift variations to try.

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift Jumps

Yes, these jumps sound intense, but they’re totally worth it. 

By combining a deadlift move with some jumping, you engage more muscle groups. It’s a full-body workout, targeting your hips and legs.

Here’s how you should do these kettlebell jumps: 

  • Place a kettlebell in front of you. Bend your knees slightly as you reach down to grab the kettlebell.
  • As you lift it, jump up and then lower yourself back down to the ground, placing the kettlebell in the starting position again.
  • While it should be a fast exercise, you want to focus on maintaining the proper form. Keep your back slightly bent as you do the jumps, instead of making it too straight. You want to imagine you’re protecting the kettlebell in front of you and ensure your jumps are controlled.

Deficit Sumo Deadlift

What’s a deficit deadlift? 

It’s when you powerlift on a weight plate or platform. This can help you out if you’re battling with mastering the deadlift. 

However, doing a deficit Sumo deadlift is also a variation on the exercise that strengthens your legs and back, thanks to how it increases your range of motion. 

That’s one of the most important reasons to try this deficit move.

  • Hold the bar with an overhand grip. To make your hips get a workout too, make sure your shins touch the bar when you lift it and rotate your hips during the exercise. The aim of this exercise is to “wedge” your hips into the bar as you lift.
  • This exercise mainly targets the hamstrings, although your abs, calves, and forearms also get a good workout.

Sumo Deadlift With Resistance

Adding more resistance to your Sumo deadlift can increase its intensity and provide you with more of a challenge. 

Since the band makes the barbell feel heavier on top, it will require you to use more energy to pull the bar.

Ready? Here’s how you do it:

  • Load plates on the bar, then loop a resistance band on one side of the bar, making sure to stretch it to the other end.
  • You want to stand on the band, which should be below the bar at this point, keeping the bar over the top of your shoes.
  • Fine-tune your position before you lift. Stand with your legs wide apart and your feet firmly on the band.
  • You want to hold the bar with a double-overhand grip. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart on the bar.
  • As you pull up the bar, let your hips drop in a slight seesaw fashion.
  • Extend your knees and hips as you raise the bar, making sure the bar moves in a straight line. Focus!
  • Now, reverse your movement by first pushing back your hips and bending forward a little.
  • Lower the bar to the floor. As it touches the floor, repeat the movement.

Phew! You did it!

Are You Guilty Of This Common Sumo Deadlift Mistake?

To make the most of the Sumo deadlift, you need to position your body in the right way. 

A common mistake people make is pushing their hips back too much and putting their knees over the bar, which puts a lot of stress on their back muscles and makes the Sumo deadlift more difficult than it has to be.

When Should You Choose The Sumo Deadlift Over The Conventional Deadlift?

It’s really up to you as both are good strength exercises. 

Trying different deadlifts can only benefit you by keeping your workouts challenging and preventing injuries from performing the exact same movement too many times. 

When it comes to deadlifts, the more you do, the stronger you’ll be.

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