What is a Sumo Deadlift?

Renee Booker

The deadlift is one of three key powerlifting exercises, with the other two being the squat and the bench press. There are two common ways of performing the exercise: standard deadlift and sumo deadlift. The main difference between the two styles relates to which muscle groups are used during the lift. The placement of the feet and hands are slightly different in a sumo deadlift than in a regular deadlift, which provides for the opportunity to use alternate muscle groups. As with any weightlifting exercise, which of the two styles is best for an individual depends on his or her level of training and body structure.

The quadriceps and hamstrings are the primary leg muscles used during a deadlift.
The quadriceps and hamstrings are the primary leg muscles used during a deadlift.

The goal of a deadlift is to lift a weight off of the floor using the legs and back and to successfully lock-out, or complete, the repetition. The primary muscles used in the performance of the deadlift are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutei maximi of the legs, as well as the trapezii, latisimus dorsii, and erector spinae of the back. These muscles all work in conjunction along with many other stabilizer muscles to lift the weight off of the floor and into the lock-out position. Performance of the standard deadlift alone can lead to a strength plateau, as the same muscles are emphasized during every lift.

The sumo deadlift is only a slight departure from the standard deadlift and can be very useful in breaking through a plateau. In performing a sumo deadlift, the feet are placed farther apart with the toes pointing away from the body at approximately a 45° angle. The hands grip the bar just inside of the legs, near the calves. The back is kept arched by pushing the abdomen forward and the tops of the thighs should be parallel to the floor at the start of the lift. Anyone utilizing the sumo deadlift should look up throughout the lift to ensure that a proper spinal arch is maintained.

The deadlift is arguably the single most effective way to build overall strength and muscle mass. The sumo deadlift, in particular, places a special emphasis on the legs and gluteus maximus. Proper performance of the sumo deadlift can greatly aid any weightlifting regimen and may help break through any plateaus reached by performing the standard deadlift alone. A deadlift, regardless of the type, should always be performed with a spotter and proper form adhered to in order to help avoid injury.

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