We all know the deadlift is the ultimate test in strength… Only the “Bros” will ask what you bench first to see how strong you are. Anyone with any knowledge or true interest in strength training will ask what you’re deadlifting first and go on to judge you from there ;o)
***Boring story alert***
I still remember my first encounter with deadlifting, a good friend of mine and former gym partner arrogantly said he was stronger than me because he could deadlift more. I found that, as an early twenty something, a massive bruise to the ego and I made it a mission to learn the movement, nail it and beat that guy’s PB within 8 weeks (I did it within 4, FYI (show off)).
The deadlift helps with all areas of your gym game; upper and lower body and building overall strength; hamstrings, glutes, quads, back, grip, traps etc… what can’t it do?!?!?
Anyway, here I want to give my two penneth on the lesser known variation of the deadlift, the aptly named Sumo Deadlift. And quite frankly, for various reasons (we will go into below), my favourite…
So, what’s the difference between the standard deadlift and the sumo deadlift? Mainly, the predominant muscles you’ll use in the lift, the look, distance the weight travels and what you biomechanically are better suited to. Research shows that the sumo lift activates:
- More quad use
- More inner hamstring use
- More traps use
Than the standard form of deadlifting…
Like I said, dependencies around your biomechanics will probably determine what you prefer and what you are strongest at. But, really, you should be using both styles. Here though, we wanted to talk through the sumo style as it’s probably the most unknown bigger core lift amongst novice and intermediate trainers/lifters.
Now, I pretty much exclusively do any heavy deadlift via sumo style as (like I said) I find my biomechanics are better suited for this especially when going (what I would call) really heavy. And, I know sumo deads aren’t meant to be as good for your glutes as standard deadlifts, but, due to flexibility issues with my hips and very tight hamstrings, I can actually get better glute activation with the sumo dead, which has also really helped me with avoiding strains and pulls through heavy standard form deadlifting.
How to Sumo Deadlift:
Stand over loaded barbell with feet around double the width of standard deadlift (I also like to have my feet facing at around the 11 o’clock position (left) and 1 o’clock position (right) this seems to help my glutes fire further and take more of the movement as well as helping with my (already poor) hip flexibility. How far you spread your legs though predominantly comes down to comfort, but double the distance of a standard stance is a good indication and starting point. Do try a few positions with a lighter weight until you find the most comfortable one for you.
Squat down and grab the bar with around a shoulder widths grip (which should be inside your knees, ideally) and here you can either grip with one over hand and one underhand grip (staggered) or both overhand (my preference is overhand, not staggered, but, each to their own). Your quads want to be parallel with the floor at the starting point, bending forward from the hips, with your body bent forward slightly over the weight/bar.
The movement allows you to keep you back more upright through the lift compared to standard deadlifts. Push through your heels when you start to get tension for the lift. Extending at the knees first, then the hips, driving the movement up until you are in the standing position. Pushing the weight through your heels will activate the glutes more than usual I found, really squeezing them at the top. Hold the position and then lower the weight gradually back down, concentrating on the movement in reverse order, keeping the bar in constant contact with your legs. So, hip movement first, then knees etc…
Things to remember with this lift:
- Keep bar in constant contact with your legs
- “Push the ground down” through your heels first to engage lift
- Extend at knees and pivot hips correctly
- Hold movement at the top
- Can use chalk or straps (many will argue with this but I like wrist straps as this helps me concentrate on the movement better, I do try to limit the weight I intro them though)
My preference is to do sumo deadlifts on leg day as they are the predominant muscle group in use. A lot of people prefer to incorporate deads on back day, as those are also major muscles used in the movement and can take away from your strength when you squat. How you manage this is truly what you are more comfortable with. I prefer leg day as I have two per week (one quad concentrated, and one hamstrings/glutes – which, is where I would fit this puppy in!). If you do want to put sumo deads in leg day though and you only do one a week, try alternating the order you do the main exercises. One week squat first, one week dead etc.
Now, be sure to use both forms of the deadlift. I know I’m guilty of concentrating more on the sumo style as I’m stronger through the movement and can lift heavier weight so it becomes more addictive. But, give this one a go, you won’t regret it.