How to do a Sumo Deadlift

The Sumo Dead Lift is a variation of the conventional deadlift. The difference between the two is in the setup of the lifter’s feet and hands. When the bar is gripped with the lifter’s hands inside their legs, the form is considered “Sumo”  It works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, erector spinae, traps and other back muscles.

The benefits of a sumo deadlift versus a conventional deadlift:

  1. Unlike the conventional deadlift, the sumo deadlift assumes a more vertical torso positioning due to the foot placement. Because the torso is more upright, the lower back is not stressed as much as in a Romanian or conventional deadlift. This can be beneficial for lifters who want to limit lower back stress.
  2. Due to the foot placement and the external rotation of the hip/knee angles in the set up, the sumo deadlift targets the glutes and vastus medialis /to a greater extent than a conventional deadlift. This can be helpful to lifters who either (1) want to develop these muscles for aesthetic or muscle development reasons, or (2) for lifters looking to target these muscle groups due to weaknesses in the pull.

How to Sumo Deadlift:

  1. Begin with a bar loaded on the ground. Approach the bar so that the bar intersects the middle of the feet.  Assume a wide stance with the toes pointed out. The stance itself should be wide enough to allow the arms to be extended downwards, inside the knees.  
  2. Bend at the hips to grip the bar. Think about pulling the hips down to the bar, keeping to core tight and braced. Relax the shoulders, look forward and keep the chest up. The knees need to be pushed out wide to allow the torso to stay slightly more vertical than a conventional deadlift. The arms should be directly below the shoulders, inside the legs.  You can use a pronated grip, a mixed grip, or hook grip.
  3. Start to build pressure throughout the body to minimize slack in the arms, legs, and back. You can do this by slightly pulling up on the bar and pressing through your legs into the floor. Drive through the floor, spreading your feet apart, with your weight on the back half of your feet. Extend through the hips and knees.  
  4. Execute the move by simultaneously driving through the feet and pulling up on the bar. The key here is to not allow the chest to fall forward or the hips to rise in the pull. Instead the barbell will stay close to the body as you stand up.
  5. As the bar passes over the knees, lean back and drive the hips into the bar, pulling your shoulder blades together and squeezing your glutes (but do not over arch your back)
  6. Return the weight to the ground by bending at the hips and controlling the weight on the way down close to the body.

Happy Deadlifting!