What Are Sumo Deadlifts and How To Do Them

heavily muscled man doing a sumo deadlift in a gym

Sumo deadlifts are deadlifts that require a wider stance than more conventional deadlifts. These workouts help the lifter target multiple muscle groups and tend to allow them to lift a heavier weight than a standard deadlift would. 

What Are Sumo Deadlifts?

Sumo deadlifts are a fun take on the standard barbell deadlift exercise that most people are familiar with. This deadlift variation allows people to add some spice to their regular workout routine.

Unlike the bench press, deadlifts target more than one muscle group. The deadlift can help increase your hip strength, hamstring strength, and even your shoulder blades’ overall strength when they’re performed correctly. As long as you maintain the right starting position and follow the motions correctly, you can use a heavy weight to strengthen your whole body. 

The sumo deadlift can increase so many muscle groups, including the spinal erectors, quadriceps, and grip strength. Thanks to the wide stance of a sumo deadlift, you can target these different muscle groups more efficiently, allowing you to increase your overall strength faster.

Many people love this type of deadlift variation because it allows them to lift heavier weights during their workout. Even though the weights are heavier, this doesn’t help anyone unless they’re absolutely sure they’re doing the exercise with the correct form. 

When doing this workout correctly, there are tons of muscles the person performing sumo deadlifts can target. However, if they don’t do it correctly, they can seriously injure themselves and their back. Because people often use extra weights performing this workout, there is an even higher risk for injury when performing these workouts. 

Anyone can incorporate this workout into their leg day routine to provide them with an added exercise that can shake up their workouts. 

The sumo deadlift is also a sensational deadlift alternative because you can use multiple types of weights to perform it. This means people looking to add more workouts to their at-home regiment can even perform sumo deadlifts if they have a dumbbell set or some kettlebells. 

Overall this weightlifting movement is excellent for all types of people. It helps increase fitness in a large variety of ways and hits so many different muscles when performed correctly. 

overhead view of a young Asian man doing a sumo deadlift in a gym

Muscles Worked

Sumo deadlifts are incredibly beneficial and can provide anyone with a full-body workout when they’re done correctly. When doing a sumo deadlift with proper form, you can improve your back and core muscles. You have to make sure you don’t bend your back and that you keep your core engaged and tightened to benefit these muscles best. 

Of course, deadlifts are great for the legs and arms, and your glutes, quads, and hamstrings can really benefit from sumo squats. 

This type of deadlift offers other important benefits, like improving overall mobility and balance. Because you have to ensure your weights are equal on each side, you can make sure to better your balance. Overall, these deadlifts help you stay fit for longer since they aid so many fitness factors. 

Sumo deadlifts better a person’s grip strength which has been linked to many different health factors. Grip strength has been linked to being a consistent explanator of overall strength, upper limb function, and bone mineral density. Some less know links grip strength has, are that it is also a consistent indicator of fractures, cognitive impairment, depression, sleep problems, diabetes, quality of life, malnutrition, falls, or multimorbidity. Having your grip strength can enhance all of these qualities, and sumo deadlifts are a great way to do this. Essentially, bettering your grip strength is like investing in your future health. The better your grip strength generally means, the better your health will be later in life. It can fight the effects of aging, helping people maintain more independence for a longer time.

Sumo deadlifts are great at making everyday tasks easier since it helps so many health factors. This workout also boosts metabolism and helps with fat loss. If you want to lose fat but don’t want to maintain the same weight, sumo deadlifts may not be the right workout choice for you. Because of how fast this workout helps people gain muscle, most people lose fat but maintain their weight because the process of building muscle helps burn fat naturally. 

drawing of the muscles activated by a sumo deadlift

Stretches to Complete Before Your Sumo Deadlifts

Ahead of doing any workout, you should warm up in some way to help make your muscles more ready to work. Deadlift workouts are a full-body number, and they need something to help set up your legs and back for the best workout possible. In order to make sure you’re ready to participate in the sumo deadlift in a healthy manner, make sure you’ve eaten properly ahead of time and that you have plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Most fitness enthusiasts recommend a few stretches to do before starting their sumo deadlifts. One of the most beneficial stretches to complete ahead of these workouts is the Supine Quadratus Lumborum Stretch. This stretch is a great way to really limber up hamstrings and backs before performing deadlift exercises. The form is super important when doing these workouts, and these exercises can help warm up the muscles you really want to keep safe while doing your sumo deadlifts.

This stretch mostly targets the legs, back, and core, and since the sumo deadlift is a full-body workout, it’s a great way to prep for your sets. To do the Quadratus Lumborum Stretch, you’ll want to lay on the floor with your back on the ground. Then you can bring your right knee up so you can grab it with your left hand and place your leg on the floor to your left. After this step, you’ll want to extend your right arm outwards and turn your head to face your right arm. 

It’s a good idea to hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and really try to breathe into the muscles you’re stretching out. Repeat this movement on the opposite side, and try to do the stretch three times on each side. After stretching, give yourself a solid two or three minutes to sit before beginning your workout. 

3D render of a male figure in a supine deep external rotator stretch position

Sumo Deadlift vs. Traditional Deadlift

A conventional deadlift has a lot of the same benefits as sumo deadlifts. For example, they help build overall strength and size, strengthen the hips, and help the lower back. 

If you are regularly struggling with back pain already, you might want to try sumo deadlifts since they’re typically easier on the back. These can help people develop a greater degree of mobility. 

The sumo deadlift can help people avoid back pain and gradually strengthen their back muscles, making them healthier overall. These deadlifts make it easier for people to complete everyday tasks. Doing the technique right can hit all the same muscle groups as a conventional deadlift, but it can also provide extra stimulus to the quads and hamstrings. 

Since regular deadlifts are often done with a barbell, they aren’t offered as many workout options since most at-home gyms don’t have full barbell racks readily available. However, sumo deadlifts can be done with barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells, making them easier to do in most locations. This versatility makes these deadlifts friendlier to most workout enthusiasts since many people don’t have the time or money to go to a gym to work out regularly.

Sumo deadlifts offer tons of different benefits, but they’re especially good at helping target the back, hamstrings, glutes, and traps in a special way. Also, because of the angle, the feet are turned, this workout can target the glutes in a different area than more traditional deadlifts might. Neither deadlift is necessarily better than the other, but many hardcore strength trainers enjoy sumo deadlifts since they can often lift heavier weights doing this workout. Sumo deadlifts have tons of benefits, and if you have back issues or are looking for a workout where you can lift heavier weights, this workout might be the best option for you. 

What Weights to Use

You can use a variety of weights to perform sumo deadlifts. In order to ensure beginners get their form right, it’s best to practice with no weight at first. It’s best to practice with a way to see your form. If you work out in a gym, make sure to look at your form in the mirrors to ensure your back is in a neutral position. If you aren’t able to see your form in a mirror, try to set up your phone to take videos of yourself so you can see what you look like. 

After you feel you have a solid form down, try practicing sumo deadlifts with smaller weights so you can get a feel for what the movement is like while holding your weights. If you’re not sure if you want to use barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells, you can experiment between the three so you can get a feel for the type of weights you work best with. As you perform sumo deadlifts more often, you can start really packing on the heavier weights so you can get the most from these workouts. 

woman doing a sumo deadlift with a kettlebell

Sumo Deadlifts

Doing sumo deadlifts isn’t too hard once you have the form down right. To do the form correctly, you’ll want to start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Soften your knees so they aren’t locked straight, and keep in mind that you want your hands to be as close to your shins as possible on the way down for your workout. 

With your feet shoulder-width apart, turn your feet away from the midline, so they’re turned out 30 to 45 degrees. At this angle, you can target a different part of your glutes than conventional deadlifts allow. 

Bend at the hips, and be sure to keep your chest up. To do the sumo deadlifts in good form, try to think of driving your hips backward while you bend at the hips. While you reach down, try to keep your hands near your legs and grab your weight with an overhand grip.

If you wanted to, you could hold the weights at your side if you choose to do the sumo deadlift with dumbbells. If you hole these weights on the side, you work different muscles than you normally would with a standard sumo deadlift stance.

You want to maintain a slight bend in your knees, and make sure to focus on bending at your hips to ensure you’re not bending your back. You should lower your torso until it’s at a 45-degree incline to the floor. 

The slower and more controlled you make this move, the harder the workout will be. Try to squeeze your glutes while you do this to encourage better form and work out your body more. Push through the ball and heel of your feet as you stand back up in a slow manner. After you’ve completed this movement, you’ve done one full repetition.

You can incorporate this deadlift into your leg day routine. You want to make sure to take a deep breath and engage your core. You’ll get the most out of this workout if you make sure your chest and head stay lifted. Only lower down until the barbell or dumbbell just passes your knees. Keep your weight in your heels by letting your knees sit with a soft bend in them. After getting to the lowest point in the squat, extend your legs and stand up straight with soft knees. You should repeat this workout for multiple reps, but don’t overdo it if you’re new to this workout. 

vector drawing of a woman doing a sumo deadlift

Sumo Deadlift Variations

If you’re looking for some variety while performing these sumo deadlifts, there are two other versions similar to the sumo deadlift that can offer some spice to your leg day routine.

Deficit Deadlifts

Deficit deadlifts are performed with the exact same stance as the sumo deadlift, but these are done on an elevated platform to increase the distance you have to lower to the ground. You’ll need a small box or plate to step on, and it makes you work harder as you lower to the ground to reach for your dumbbells. 

This workout variation can increase the distance the dumbbell travels as you lower yourself down to the ground, and it can help increase your range of motion and overall strength.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL) 

This deadlift form is done on one single leg. A single-leg Romanian deadlift is done similarly to the sumo deadlift, except as you lower yourself to the dumbbell, you lift one leg behind you. You want to extend your leg as you lower and move very slowly, so you’re careful to keep your balance and move safely. This workout is great for people trying to work on bettering their balance

fit woman in a workout studio doing a single leg Romanian deadlift

How To Incorporate Sumo Deadlifts Into Your Workout Routine

There are tons of ways to incorporate this workout into your regular workout routine. Anyone looking to aid their mobility or flexibility will find that these workouts are great ways to better themselves. 

If you want to build your back up better, you can use a sumo pull to better your erector spinae and lumbar spine muscles. Some people need to work on things like their grips, and sumo deadlifts even help people develop a stronger hook grip, which is a special type of grip often used during deadlifts. Even if you’re looking for something to help your hip extension, this workout can assist you there too, but not as efficiently as it does some other muscle groups. The point is that the sumo deadlift offers so much versatility that there is almost always a good reason to practice it. 

Sumo deadlifts allow you to work out without putting as much stress on your lower back or spine. While you do them, you can add extra variety to your regular workout sessions, making these a great stand-in or alternate option for when you’re getting tired of your normal workout routine. 


The sumo deadlift affects different muscle groups than conventional deadlifting. Your sumo deadlift form can help you better your regular deadlift and build your strength. In order to do this right, keep a neutral spine to avoid pain. Keeping your hands in an overhand grip and your knees in a soft bend should make it easier to keep the right form. The many deadlift variations can be a great way to better your regular workout routine. These variations work on your hip hinge and can improve hip mobility.

To get the most out of sumo deadlifting, use heavier weights as you work more to gain the most muscle mass. Even though a heavyweight can help increase muscle mass, it won’t be helpful if you haven’t perfected your form. 

If you need to spice up your workout routine, you should switch up the style of deadlift you perform. Aim to complete 5-8 repetitions for these deadlifts and rest for 90 seconds, and then start with two sets to work your way up to four overtime.

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