How to Sumo Deadlift – Technique, Variations, Benefits and Muscles Worked

This extensive guide to the Sumo Deadlift will teach you how and why to include this hugely effective barbell exercise into your training.

What is the Sumo Deadlift?

The Sumo Deadlift is a wide stance barbell Deadlift variation where the hands lift from inside the legs and the toes are pointed outwards.

In general, it places less stress on the lower back, allows you to lift more weight and is a great way to build full body strength, muscle and mental toughness.

Benefits of the Sumo Deadlift

The exercise has many benefits.

Enhance Strength and Add Muscle Mass

The Sumo Deadlift allows you to push your body beyond its limits with exceptionally heavy weights. Depending on your goals and programming it is a very useful tool for both strength and muscle mass.

Build Incredible Glute and Quad Strength

The lift places great emphasis on the glutes and quads during the lift because of the foot and hip placement.

These movement mechanics, coupled with the fact that you can (in most cases) lift more weight means that the S Deadlift can provide a unique stimulus and challenge for these parts of your body.

Shorter Range of Motion

The technique calls for a wide stance and narrow arm position and this creates a shorter range of motion.

A smaller range of motion means that you can lift more weight so you can hit new PRs and really push your capabilities beyond their limits.

Many Athletes find the Lift more Comfortable

Although the lift is used much less that its conventional cousin, the Sumo Deadlift is beginner friendly.

You can load up the bar and lift higher weights with less stress to your lower spine and back.

Less Stress on the Lower Back

The movement mechanics of the exercise place more stress on the glutes and quads than the lower back.

This is because of the more upright torso position. This vertical posture reduces the lower back stress that you will face from a Romanian or conventional Deadlift.

This is great knowledge to have when you want to limit the load to the spinal erectors, de-load or reduce training emphasis to that part of the body.

Enhance Pulling Strength

The Sumo Deadlift significantly improves pulling strength, especially at the top of the movement at the lockout portion of the lift.

This will help you to improve this part of your fitness in a way that will transfer over to other exercises such as the conventional and Trap Bar Deadlift as well.

Muscles Worked by the Sumo Deadlift

The Sumo Deadlift primarily targets and improves the:

  • Quads
  • Glutes

Many other muscles are also worked, including the:

Man holding rope
Strong grip for life ©Jesper Agaagaard


The angles of the legs and feet that a lifter must adopt forces the quads to work hard to help lift the load.

Due to this, S Deadlifts will have many ancillary benefits for your Squatting strength and abilities as well.


This lift will torch your glutes. If you specifically want to create a stronger, better bum then the Sumo Deadlift should be a big part of your training program.

The hips are in a position of external rotation throughout the range of motion. This targets the glutes in a unique and exceptional way.


With this exercise you will have lesser activation of the hamstrings than you would for a conventional, stiff leg or Romanian Deadlift.

However, the hamstrings are still important muscles when it comes to moving the load. This recruitment will strengthen and boost your hamstrings.

Upper Back Muscles and Traps

This is an excellent exercise for the traps and upper back. The upper back needs to stay tight and strong and the traps work hard to stabilise the barbell and the torso.

All this stress will force them to adapt, grow stronger and activate properly.

Lower Back

When you perform the Sumo Deadlift your lower back must work hard to help maintain a straight back.

You will not face as much pressure as you would for other Deadlift variations, however the lower back will be improved as strengthened in a different way with the Sumo Deadlift.


As you will lift heavy weights, your grip will also get stronger.

Avoid using straps if you are keen to enhance this aspect of your physical strength.

How to Sumo Deadlift with Proper Technique

The following steps will teach you how to Sumo Deadlift with good form.

Remember that if an athlete cannot lift the weight without rounding their back, then they must lower the weight on the barbell.

  • Start by loading the barbell
  • Start with your feet wide apart and your toes pointing out at 45 degrees
  • Reach down with your hands between your legs and grip the bar (overhand pronated grip or mixed grip)
  • Inhale and brace your core, glutes, legs and grip
  • Bend the knees, stay tense and maintain a straight back
  • Lift the barbell upwards by driving your feet against the floor. Think about trying to push the ground away from you
  • Keep your chest up and your lats flexed. Fully extend and lock out at the top of the movement
  • Lower the barbell slowly back to the starting position and exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

These tips will help you further improve your skills.


Weightlifting shoes are not essential for the Sumo Deadlift.

However, you need something with a sturdy base. Don’t use running shoes or anything with a fat spongy sole. A pair of Converse can be perfect. As will going barefoot.

Remember the words of Louie Simmonds and make sure you “don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent Squat”.

Experiment with the Stance

The stance needs to be wide enough to allow your arms to hang down between the knees.

It is worth trying different widths for your feet to see what feels best for you and your body.

Lowering the Barbell

If you are training for hypertrophy, don’t forget the descent. This is a great portion of the lift to use to maximise time under tension for your muscles and body.

Make sure you lower the bar slowly with control and purpose. Feel how your muscles work through this downward motion.

What is the Difference Between Sumo Deadlift and Conventional Deadlift?

Aside from the aesthetic differences, there are two main variances between the two forms of the Deadlift.

Sumo Deadlifts are Harder for the Quads

The quads are worked to a much greater degree during the Sumo Deadlift. This is due to the angles of the knees, hips, toes and vertical torso position.

Sumo Deadlifts are Harder for the Spinal Erectors from the First Pull Off the Floor

Conventional Deadlifts are more difficult on your lower back when first lifting the barbell and load up from the floor.

The torso is further forward and over the bar. This forces a stronger contraction from the spinal erectors to keep the back straight as the barbell breaks from the floor.

Man Deadlifting
Find the best variation for you ©Grzegorz Rakowski

Conventional or Sumo Deadlift, Which One is Best for Me?

The best way to find whether the Sumo or Conventional Deadlift is better for you is to train with both.

Block out 6 – 8 weeks where you only use one variation in your training.

Record how you feel, your numbers and the effects it has on your body. During each period taper the lifts then work out a 1 rep max.

After you have all the data you can decide which one works best for you based on a multitude of factors. Plus, the 1 rep max attempts will show you objectively where you are stronger.

One of the best outcomes of this method is that you will also learn first hand how you like to use each respective lift.

Most people tend to prefer one Deadlift variation over the other when it comes to maxing out, but that does not mean you can’t include both in your training.

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

These alternatives will provide you with different ways to apply similar training stimulus to your body.

Rack Pull

The Rack Pull will help you hone in and optimise your lock out strength and skill.

It will allow you to train specific parts of your lift and uncover (and help you destroy) any weaknesses you may have.

Romanian Deadlift

This is a perfect exercise to target the hamstrings and glutes and work on general Deadlift form.

You can switch things up by trading the barbell for other loads, such as kettlebells and dumbbells as well.

Barbell Hip Thrusts

This exercise also works the glutes and hamstrings.

It is a slightly different way to work the posterior chain and can be a great complimentary exercise to follow Sumo Deadlifts in a training session.

Make sure to lower the barbell slowly as well to maximise time under tension.

Sumo Deadlift Variations

The following three S Deadlift Variations are all exceptionally useful tools to use in your programming.

Pause S Deadlift

  • Good for volume
  • Good for improving positioning
  • Makes your fight from the floor

3 Count Pause S Deadlift

This involves pauses throughout the lift to force the lifter to stay in each position.

  • Great way to build strength from the floor
  • Superb way to identify strength weaknesses
  • Go heavy. It is good for single count work (1 rep sets) as well

Halting S Deadlift

This means that you have to pick up the bar twice. You raise the bar from the floor, return it then pick it up again and complete a full rep. That counts as a single rep.

You start each rep twice as many times as you complete the rep.

  • Perfect when athletes struggle to keep the barbell close to their body
  • Effective way to build mental toughness


More of your questions answered.

Why is Sumo Deadlift Cheating?

The Sumo Deadlift is not cheating. This is a common misconception.

The criticism is raised because the barbell has a smaller range of motion than a conventional Deadlift.

The Sumo Deadlift is still a Deadlift, with all the benefits.

Why is Sumo Deadlift so much Easier?

The exercise places less stress on the lower back because of the vertical upright torso position. In turn load is transferred over to the quads, hamstrings and glutes.

Most athletes will find that they can Deadlift more with a Sumo stance, this makes people consider it to be easier.

Is Deadlifting Sumo Better?

It depends on your goal and physiology. Both the Sumo and conventional Deadlift are hugely effective and important exercises with many shared and individual benefits.

Both variations are safe provided you use proper form.

Can you Deadlift More with Sumo?

In the majority of cases yes, many athletes can Deadlift more with Sumo because of the shorter bar path.

However, the Sumo variation is used much less than conventional. So many athletes do not spend time developing their technique, skills and strength when it comes to Sumo.

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