Sumo Deadlift Exercise Guide

The Sumo Deadlift is a compound exercise that primarily focuses on the legs and core, with an emphasis on the inner thighs, glutes, and hamstrings. Distinct from the conventional deadlift due to its wider stance and more upright posture, the Sumo Deadlift requires the lifter to position their feet beyond shoulder-width apart, with toes pointed slightly outward. This stance allows for a shorter range of motion, while the wider leg placement places more emphasis on the adductors and hamstrings. The exercise aids in developing lower body strength, power, and stability. Variations can include the use of resistance bands or performing the movement with a hex bar.

Target Muscle Group
Exercise Type
Strength, Balance and Stability, High-Intensity
Equipment Required
Force Type
Hinge, Pull
Experience Level
Beginner, Intermediate
Secondary Muscles
Glutes, Quads, Core, Inner Thighs, Calves, Adductors

Step by Step Guide

Set Your Stance & Grip the Barbell

Begin by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, turning your toes slightly outward. The exact width can vary based on your body type and flexibility, but it should be wide enough to feel tension on the inner thighs. Approach the barbell so that it is over the middle of your feet. Bend at the hips and knees, lowering your body down to grip the bar with both hands inside your legs, using an overhand grip or a mixed grip.

Engage Core & Initiate the Lift

Before lifting, ensure your spine is neutral, chest is up, and shoulders are positioned over or slightly in front of the barbell. Take a deep breath in, engage your core, and initiate the lift by pushing through your heels and extending your hips and knees simultaneously. As you do this, maintain a straight back and keep the barbell close to your body. Your torso and hips should rise at the same rate – avoid letting the hips shoot up faster than the chest.

Complete the Lift & Return

Once you've fully extended your hips and knees, stand tall and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. To lower the bar, push your hips back first while maintaining a neutral spine, and then bend your knees once the barbell passes them. Continue lowering the bar in a controlled manner until it returns to the starting position on the ground. Reset your form before attempting another repetition. For beginners, start with lighter weights to perfect the form before progressing to heavier loads.

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Maintain a Neutral Spine: One of the most critical aspects of the sumo deadlift is to ensure your spine remains neutral throughout the entire movement. Rounding the back can increase the risk of injury, especially when lifting heavy weights. Engage your core, keep your chest up, and visualize a straight line running from the base of your neck to your tailbone.
  • Drive Through Your Heels: The power of the deadlift comes from the legs and hips. Ensure that you're driving through your heels, not your toes. This not only provides a stable foundation but also helps to engage the glutes and hamstrings, which are primary movers in this exercise.
  • Keep the Bar Close: Throughout the movement, the barbell should remain close to your body, almost as if you're dragging it up your shins and thighs. Allowing the bar to drift away can place undue stress on the lower back and diminish your lifting power. Wearing long socks or pants can help prevent any scraping or bruising from the bar.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Lower Body Strength: The Sumo Deadlift is a compound exercise that predominantly targets the hamstrings, glutes, and adductors (inner thigh muscles). Regular performance of this movement can significantly improve the strength of these muscles.
  • Increased Hip Mobility: Given the wide stance and outward foot position in the Sumo Deadlift, it can be effective in improving hip mobility, which is beneficial not just for athletes but also for individuals in day-to-day activities.
  • Reduced Strain on the Lower Back: The sumo stance allows for a more upright torso compared to the conventional deadlift. This means there's typically less forward lean, which can decrease the strain placed on the lower back. This makes it a suitable variation for individuals with certain back issues.
  • Improved Posture: Like other deadlift variations, the sumo deadlift promotes a strong and stable posterior chain, which includes muscles running along the backside of your body. A strong posterior chain is vital for maintaining an upright posture, especially when standing or walking.
  • Functional Strength Development: The Sumo Deadlift, as with other deadlift variations, is a functional exercise. This means it helps to train muscles in a way that is transferable to common everyday activities, like lifting heavy objects from the ground.
  • Core Stabilization: Although primarily a lower body movement, the Sumo Deadlift also heavily engages the core muscles, which play a critical role in stabilizing the spine during the lift. This can lead to improved core strength and stability.