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Sumo Deadlift [Exercise Guide]

sumo deadlift

A sumo deadlift is a type of deadlift that is done with a wider stance and the hands inside the legs in which feet are placed in a broad stance with toes pointing out, and grip is placed inside the legs. It’s a move that is often used by weight lifters to increase their strength and performance.

Generally speaking, a sumo deadlift puts less stress on your lower back, lets you lift more weight, and is a good way to strengthen your whole body. Sumo deadlifts target glutes, hamstrings, and upper back/traps. However, it is also more focused on strengthening and stretching the hip and adductor muscles because of the wide posture.

What Is A Sumo Deadlift?

Sumo deadlifts are among the most difficult and effective lifts you can do for developing muscle strength throughout your body. They activate muscles across and test the strength of the entire body like very few exercises can.

It is a hard exercise because you lift a large weight from a dead stop in a weak position. On the other hand, with a sumo deadlift, you end up in a more comfortable position with your arms at a more natural angle. It also allows you to take a wider than shoulder-width stance, which is more optimal for many individuals.

Sumo deadlifts are a great alternative to the conventional deadlift. One of the main advantages of the sumo is it can be easier on the knees, as there is less load on the front of the knee. A sumo stance can also be a good choice for someone with an injury that makes it hard for them to bend forward. This exercise can also help you develop strength in your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.

How To Perform A Sumo Deadlift

  • Step 1. Get into a sumo stance with your toes pointed out at a 45° angle and your feet wider than sholder-width apart.
  • Step 2. Grab the bar with a double overhand or a mixed grip, at about shoulder-width apart.
  • Step 3. Brace your core, back, legs, and glutes to create tension throughout your body.
  • Step 4. Start pulling the bar from the floor, without allowing your torso to move forward too much. Keep the bar close to your body while pulling it from the ground. Drive the force through your legs.
  • Step 5. Once you’ve reached the top position, keep your torso straight and contract your glutes to prevent the bar from pulling forward.
  • Step 6. Return the weight to the bottom in a controlled manner by hinging in the hips.

Keep in mind that this is an advanced strength and muscle-building exercise. If you’re just a beginner you shouldn’t be using very heavy weight for this. Instead, use the lighter weights and work on developing your technique and understanding of the exercise before you load the bar.

What Muscles Does A Sumo Deadlift Work?


Glutes are one of the primary drivers of this exercise they help you bring the bar to the top, keep in there and lower it down in a controlled manner. Because your legs are externally rotated during the exercise it also activates your glutes more strongly.


Quads are another primary driver of the exercise alongside glutes as they’re being very heavily used to bring the weight up and extend your knees.

Erector Spinae (Lower Back)

Throughout the whole exercise, erector spinae muscles maintain your spine in the correct position and also give stability to your entire upper body. Additionally, strengthening your lower back muscles is essential to being able to lift heavy weights as lower back weakness is one of the main limiting factors while doing deadlifts and some other exercises.


Even though the sumo deadlift variation doesn’t work your hamstrings like some other alternatives (Romanian or stiff leg deadlifts), they’re still one of the primary muscle groups involved in the exercise.

5 Sumo deadlift alternatives

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is a great alternative to the sumo deadlift. It allows you to use a wider stance, which is more comfortable and safe for your back because it reduces the shear force that is placed on the lumbar region of your lower back.

The trap bar deadlift also allows the lifter to use a very natural and functional range of motion that more closely resembles the motion of picking up a heavy object from the ground.

Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift is another great alternative to the sumo deadlift. It is a bit more challenging than the trap bar deadlift, but it is still a good alternative to the sumo deadlift if you have access to a trap bar.

The conventional deadlift is another great option because it works well with the natural motion of picking up a heavy object off the ground.

Dumbbell Deadlift

The dumbbell deadlift is a good alternative if you have access to a pair of dumbbells or a barbell with dumbbell handles. The dumbbell deadlift is great because it is relatively easy to learn and has a more natural range of motion than other options.

Cable Pull Through

The cable pull-through is another good alternative to the sumo deadlift if you have access to the cable machine. This exercise won’t place as much load on the quads as the sumo deadlift would, but it would target your glutes and hamstrings a lot more.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift is another deadlift variation that can be used as an alternative to a sumo deadlift. It’s similar to the cable pull-throughs in that it will target your posterior chain muscles like glutes and hamstrings a lot more than a sumo deadlift would. You can use it as an additional deadlift variation to help work on those muscle groups that the sumo deadlift doesn’t primarily target to help you avoid the disbalances.

Sumo Deadlift Variations

There are some sumo variations that lifters can use to increase the performance that their game offers, boost their power, strength, and endurance, and improve the quality of their movements when they deadlift.

Deficit Sumo Deadlift

The Sumo deficit deadlift is a hybrid of the deficit deadlift and the sumo deadlift. It is a version of the sumo deadlift. It is an exercise used to strengthen the complete posterior chain, including the hamstrings, lower back, calves, glutes, and trapezius muscle groups.

When performing Sumo deficit deadlifts, the deficit used increases the range of motion during the exercise, increasing the amount of time under strain imposed on the muscle areas that are being worked. This can be beneficial for lifters who want to improve their deadlift strength but are having difficulty with the bottom portion of the exercise. 

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

This variation can be a good alternative for those who don’t have access to a heavy barbell but do have access to a kettlebell. While it’s going to be hard to find a kettlebell that would be able to generate a similar amount of resistance, this variation can still be used when you find yourself in a pinch.

Sumo Deadlift with Adaptable Resistance

The use of chains or resistance bands to alter the difficulty of a task in the middle, at the bottom, at the highest point, or at the top, is called resistance training. Some lifters can find this variation more challenging if they’re not used to doing it. Putting chains on an exercise barbell and lifting it will result in a significant weight being lifted off the ground. If you’re using resistance bands, it’s going to be more challenging at the very top than if you were just doing regular sumo, because the bands will be stretched and thus produce the most amount of resistance in that position.

Tempo Sumo Deadlifts

When performing the sumo deadlift, you can make the exercise harder by slowing down and changing your tempo in various stages of the exercise. This will force your muscles to work harder as it doing an exercise in a slower and controlled motion is almost always harder. Besides that, you will increase the time under tension which will result in better muscle gains.

Sumo Deadlift High Pull

Sumo deadlift high pull is another sumo deadlift variation that is a bit more explosive than a regular variation. With this exercise, you perform a regular sumo deadlift, but as you start approaching the top of the exercise, you will need to generate additional force through your body and pull the bar higher to your upper chest and neck level.

Because this exercise is more explosive, you will likely need to use a lower weight than you would’ve used if you were just doing the regular sumo deadlift.

Conventional vs. Sumo Deadlift

There are a few differences between the conventional and a sumo deadlift. First of all, the stance. With the sumo deadlift, you assume a much wider stance with your feet. Your arms will be placed in between your legs as opposed to the conventional deadlift, where your arms will remain outside your legs.

Another difference is the primary muscle focus. Sumo deadlifts will target your quads and inner-leg muscles a bit more than conventional deadlifts, while conventional deadlifts will put more strain on your hamstrings and lower back muscles.

There is also the mobility aspect. Sumo deadlifts require you to have more mobility in your hips to be able to assume and maintain a wide stance with your feet.

And lastly, sumo deadlifts place lower pressure on your low back muscles which makes it easier for some people to do the sumo deadlift.


1. What can I use instead of sumo deadlifts?

The simplest way to replace sumo deadlifts is to use trap bar deadlifts. The trap bar allows the lifter to keep a very wide stance, it is highly adjustable, and it allows the lifter to focus on getting the most out of the hamstrings and glutes rather than worrying about the form. If you do not have the access to a trap bar, there are a few other ways to replicate the movement. You can do a conventional deadlift or Romanian deadlifts.

2. What muscles does the sumo deadlift work?

The sumo deadlift primarily works the gluteus maximus and the quadriceps. It also works the latissimus dorsi, the erector spinae, hamstrings, trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, and the gluteus medius.

3. Is sumo deadlift easier than conventional deadlift?

Technically a sumo deadlift is “easier” because the range of motion is shorter, and also because it puts less pressure on your lower back. However, if you don’t have flexible enough hips, it will make the exercise more challenging for you.


The sumo deadlift is overall a great exercise to develop your full body strength, but it can be challenging for those who have mobility limitations in their hips. If you don’t have those limitations you can add this exercise to your training routine and see for yourself how beneficial it can be for your body.