What Muscles Does a Sumo Deadlift Work? (Sumo Deadlift vs. Conventional)

If you plan on adding the sumo deadlift into your workouts, it’s going to be best if you know the muscles you are going to work as compared to a conventional deadlift.

A sumo deadlift is going to work the same muscles as a conventional deadlift, only certain muscles will be more heavily used and targeted.

The muscles a sumo deadlift will work include the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, forearms, rhomboids adductors, abductors, erector spinae, and trapezius.

As compared to the conventional deadlift, a sumo deadlift will more heavily target the adductor longis, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, adductor minimus, pectineus, and gracilis.

This is mainly because during a sumo deadlift, your legs are spread as far apart as they are able, targeting the inner thighs.

Sumo Deadlift Benefits

The sumo deadlift has several benefits for the body.

  1. There is minimal strain placed on the lower back due to a more upright form.
  2. A sumo deadlift puts more emphasis on the glutes, quads, and inner thighs as compared to a conventional deadlift.
  3. You can lift heavier during the sumo deadlift than a conventional deadlift.
  4. There is a significant reduction in lumbar spine stress. According to one study, the sumo deadlift style resulted in a 10% reduction in the joint moment and 8% reduction in the load shear force at the L4/L5 level when compared with the conventional lifting style.
  5. Sumo deadlifts improve posture

Sumo Deadlift muscles worked

The sumo deadlift will work the:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector Spinae
  • Forearms
  • Rhomboids
  • Abductors
  • Adductor longis
  • Adductor brevis
  • Adductor magnus
  • Adductor minimus
  • Pectineus
  • Gracilis

How to Sumo Deadlift (Sumo Deadlift Form & Setup)

If you want to perform a proper sumo deadlift, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your shins close to the bar and with your heals wider than shoulder width.
  2. Angle your feet outwards. The more you rotate, the more emphasis will be placed on the quads, glutes and adductors, and the less on your back.
  3. Align the rest of your body in a neutral spine position.
  4. Maintaining that upright torso and neutral spine position, squat down to grab the bar.
  5. Use a double overhand or alternate grip.
  6. If you use the alternate grip, switch sides every set to balance the body.
  7. Drop your bottom deep into the squat. Rotate your knees outward squeezing your glutes as much as possible. This will reduce the strain placed on medial region of you knee.
  8. Focusing on your glutes and inner thighs, drive your body upwards keeping the neutral spine.  
  9. Squeeze the glutes at the top.
  10. Push your hips back, let the bar down to the floor, and maintain neutral spine.

Sumo Deadlift Cues

If you’re a trainer or need to make sure you are doing your sumo deadlifts properly, add these cues to your lifts to ensure you’re doing the sumo deadlift properly:

Sumo Deadlift Cue #1: Pack the lats

Sumo Deadlift Cue #2: Sit back only as far as you need

Sumo Deadlift Cue #3: Pull out the slack

Sumo Deadlift Cue #4: Spread the floor

Sumo Deadlift Cue #5: Thrust the hips through

Sumo Deadlift Kettlebell or Dumbbell

If you don’t have access to a barbell or are working out from home, a sumo deadlift with kettlebells or dumbbells is also an excellent exercise to consider. In using these pieces of exercise equipment, you will unlikely challenge your muscles to the full extent that a barbell would give.

It is best to do the kettlebell or dumbbell sumo deadlifts as maintenance exercises or as a way to practice proper form. You can also use these exercises to begin building up your legs and back muscles for the barbell deadlift.

Sumo Deadlift Grip

With regards to the deadlift grip, one of the biggest debates out there is whether you should use the overhand or alternate/mixed grip.  Either one is generally acceptable and is usually dependent upon personal preference.

Heavy loads tend to be more challenging for the overhand grip. Using the grip builds up forearm strength but is typically a limiting factor with regards to maximum deadlift weight. The overhand grip does allow you to carry the weight closer to your body.

If you do the one palm up and one palm down grip, aka alternate grip, you are more likely to lift a heavier maximum weight. Your grip won’t be the limiting factor on how much you can lift. Unfortunately, this grip could lead to muscle imbalances if not switched often. This grip can also lead to injuries such as a biceps tear. Last, the grip can make the bar more likely to drift away from you or spin during the lift, causing the bar to contact the shins.

Sumo Deadlift Accessories

Wrist Wraps

If you need a little extra assistance with your forearm grip, grab the Harbinger Padded Cotton Lifting Straps. I use these straps all the time. These simple and inexpensive wrist straps are easy to put on and adjust on the fly, making it easy to get a quick grip on the bar. These sumo deadlift accessories are padded around the wrists and are over 21″ long.

Lifting Chalk

Another way to improve your grip is by using lifting chalk. Grab the 321 STRONG Refillable Chalk Ball. This will make it easier to grip the bar without slipping. Includes non toxic , pigment free , fine powdered white gym chalk and a premium grade cotton sock.

Sumo Deadlift High pull

One variation to the sumo deadlift is the sumo deadlift high pull. This lift is often found in many CrossFit gyms and is one that adds a challenge to the lift itself. The sumo deadlift replicates the movement of a snatch or clean and is often used to bridge the gap between the two exercises. Instead of stopping the lift when the weight reaches the waist, the lifter proceeds to lift the weight to face level, kicking the elbows high and out to get the weight up as high as possible.

Sumo or conventional deadlift for tall lifters

If you are a lifter who is over 6 feet tall, the sumo squat will do wonders for the safety of your back and knees. This will also benefit anyone who is particularly inflexible throughout most of their body.  I’m 6’3” and the sumo deadlift is much easier on my joints and back. I would recommend using this lift to start and as you get more flexible, start mixing in the conventional deadlift to your workout as well.

Sumo Deadlift Safety

Lifting Belt

In order to make this lift as safe as possible, it is recommended that you wear a lifting belt. This will keep your lower back strong in the lift, keeping it from buckling. Use the Dark Iron Fitness Genuine Leather Pro Weight. This belt is built to last, won’t break, tear or wear. The belt does not dig into your sides like many other belts do. This belt may also you allow you to lift 10% more weight.

Summary: What Muscles Does a Sumo Deadlift Work? (Sumo Deadlift vs. Conventional)

A sumo deadlift is a great exercise to add to your weekly workout. Challenging several different muscle groups, the sumo deadlifts does wonders for increasing strength and stability in your legs, back and inner thighs. The sumo deadlift is a safer version of the conventional deadlift and can be used as a bridge for other lifts.

Recent Posts