5-Minute Beginner Leg Workout At Home

Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlift

What are the differences and which is best for you? Read on to find out!

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  • 5-Minute Beginner Leg Workout At Home
  • A Guide to Romanian Deadlifts: Techniques, Benefits & Variations

Huge thanks go to Jesse (@jesse_k_fitness)  for demonstrating the sumo!


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Are you looking for some exercises to increase movement and flexibility in your upper back, hamstrings, glutes, and trap development? Sumo and conventional deadlift are the two common exercises that allow a versatile range of movements to ensure general fitness. Even though they can be done with different tools, the most common method used is the barbell deadlift. Over the past few years, the sumo stance has become more popular amongst athletes and fitness trainers. 

Technique: Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlift

1. Posture

When doing a sumo deadlift, your posture is of utmost importance to ensure that you do not hurt your lower back. Start by taking a wide stance with your toes pointing out. Ensure that the distance between your feet is wide enough so that your arms can be extended downwards, with the elbows tucked neatly inside the knees. To put it simply, your shins should be perpendicular to the floor, with your back flat and shoulders directly above the bar. Remember not to slouch!

When you pull your hips down to the bar, keep your core stiff and braced. If your position is right, you’ll find that your torso stays more vertical as compared to a conventional deadlift. Hence, we can assume that conventional deadlifts call for greater mechanical work. 

Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlifts

Sumo Deadlift - front view

2. No Slouching

Once you perfect your position, start to tighten your core and build pressure in the rest of your body. This will help reduce any signs of slouching in the arms, legs, and back. Remember to keep your core tight throughout.

Without moving the bar, pull the bar up slightly while pressing your legs on the floor. This tension position will allow your muscles to be engaged.

However, you will have to lean forward when doing a conventional deadlift and ensure that your shoulders lie slightly in front of the bar. This creates tension in the lower back. In the sumo deadlift, your shoulders are in line with the bar.

3. Pull Up

Finally, once you have achieved the position and all your muscles feel like they are on fire, dive right in. Pick up the barbell using all your energy while simultaneously ensuring that your feet are planting on the floor, and there is no slouch in your body.

Keep the barbell close to your body to ensure that your chest or hips do not move each time you pull it closer to your chest. 

Benefits of Sumo Deadlift

Integrating sumo deadlifts in your everyday training session has a range of benefits. These include:

1. Strength

Did you know that the sumo deadlift helps increase pulling strength, and hence, muscle mass? You can use bands, tempos, and many other ways to do sumo deadlifts if you do not want to use a barbell. Since you can load the sumo deadlift with any weight of your choice, including heavyweights, you can aim to increase upper body strength and allow muscle development.

2. Lower Back Stress

The sumo deadlift, unlike the conventional deadlift, allows rather vertical positioning of the torso due to the positioning of the foot. This ensures that the torso is kept more upright and hence, puts reduced pressure on the back compared to a Romanian or conventional deadlift. For those who want to limit exposure to their lower back or focus on different muscles, the sumo deadlift is perfect.

3. Leg and Glute Toning

The sumo deadlifts allow a precise foot placement that puts pressure on the glutes from the external hip rotation, as well as the inner quads that the conventional deadlift misses out on. This is great for athletes looking to build muscle strength or strengthen their leg area.

Sumo Deadlift - side view

Sumo Deadlift - side view

Muscles Worked in a Sumo Deadlift vs. in a Conventional Deadlift

Both forms of exercise focus on the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. However, while one exercise puts more pressure on these muscles, the other one is gentler.

1. Glutes

As mentioned before, sumo deadlifts target the glutes more thoroughly than conventional deadlifts. This is mainly because of the hip and foot position. The intense external hip rotation activates the hip and glute muscles.

2. Hamstrings

Sumo deadlifts use the hamstrings more than conventional deadlifts. Anyone looking to target their hamstrings specifically should incorporate the exercise into their workout routine.

Conventional Deadlift - front view

Conventional Deadlift - front view

3. Quadriceps

Since sumo deadlifts call for a wider hip and foot placement, athletes have to bend their knees more to get into the perfect position. The knee bend allows a greater activation of the quads as compared to the conventional deadlifts. Did you know that the quads are the primary muscle in knee extension?

When doing a sumo deadlift, you have to pull the weight closer to your chest while using the quads to extend the knees and stabilize the body. Even though conventional deadlifts use the quads, they are greatly activated in sumo deadlifts. 

4. Lower Back

In conventional deadlifts, not rounding the back is a struggle. This is because of the position one has to adopt to do a conventional deadlift. Sumo dead lifters put less stress on the lower back by keeping their torso vertical. This helps avoid injuries and spasms.

Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlifts

Conventional Deadlift - side view

Which stance is right for you?

Wondering which deadlift stance is best for you? There are lots of factors to consider. One of these includes the individual measurement of the body. Any time you choose an exercise, it is best to keep your body and its needs in mind. Different people require different strength development exercises.

If you are someone who has a large torso and short arms, the sumo deadlift is a great option. This is because the sumo deadlift form lowers the hip height, allowing pullers to get a hold of the bar while keeping their backs in a neutral position.

Those with longer arms and shorter torsos find that conventional deadlifts are better suited to their body types. This is because there is a larger distance between the bar and the shoulder joint, allowing vertical torso angling. Since these people have the correct body type for conventional deadlifts, they will not face any back pain or extreme pressure on the lumbar spine.

Hence, those with shorter arms should opt for the sumo deadlift form so that they do not have to bring their chest lower to reach the bar and put additional stress on their lower back.

Which deadlift stance do you think is right for you? Choose wisely!



Related post: A Guide to Romanian Deadlifts: Techniques, Benefits & Variations

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift