T Nation

Conventional DL to Build Sumo?


Chris - a story you might find interesting…

Tyler this past April pulled 777 sumo and missed 804 USPF in WV. He hasn’t pulled conventional in over 7 years. The first month after a meet we usually try some different movements we aren’t used to doing just to break it up before we start the bulk of our training.

Tyler decides to pull conventional and pulls 725 raw single very easy. Next week 750 and then a fast 765, I told him I think you might have opened up a can of worms. Just last week he pulled 805 with straps and a deadlift suit with the bulk of his training being in briefs or raw pulling 5s and 3s in the 7+ range.

The conclusion I came to wasn’t so much that the sumo helped the conventional as it was giving his back a 7 year break from conventional. He squats a grand so he already has a strong back. Now pulling conventional you’re able to get your back into it which leads to pulling more weight if you can get yourself in position to pull it.

I guess what I’m saying is maybe its take a break from one or the other might be as much a benefit rather than one helping the other. I believe after this Dec meet I might start pulling sumo just to give my low back a rest and get the legs/hips stronger before going back to it.


What I was thinking is something like 80% for 12 singles…[/quote]

Part 1

Sets of Singles

This is an effective method, especially when performed in “Cluster Sets”. The foundation of Westside’s “Speed” Training (actually is Power Training) Days with the use of “Cluster Sets”.

Cluster Sets - Current Methods for Introducing Variations to Training Sets

Dr Greg Haff’s presentation at the National Strength and Conditioning Clinic provide some interesting research on the use of “Cluster Set” as a means of increasing Limit Strength, Power and Hypertrophy, dependent on how the program is written.

“Cluster Set” Benefit

The pause between each repetition or between clusters two to six repetition allows for greater force production. The Fast Type IIa and “Super” Fast Type IIb/x Muscle Fiber recovery when rest periods of between approximately 15 to 40 seconds are taken between clusters.

This ensure the Fast and “Super” Fast Muscle Fiber are worked and trained.

Hypertrophy Training

Performing set of 8 repetitions is an effective method for Hypertrophy Training. Hypertrophy Training is counter productive for Strength and Power Training.

A more effective Hypertrophy Method that enables you to maintain or increase Limit Strength and Power is…

“Cluster Set” Hypertrophy Training

Dr Jon Oliver’s research (Cliff Note’s presentation above) demonstrated that “Cluster Sets” with around 6 repetition per cluster, enabled athlete to increase muscle mass while maintaining and/or increasing Power.

With that said, Oliver stated that while the “Custer Set” Hypertrophy Training increase muscle mass, the Traditional Hypertrophy Method was a bit more effective.

Kenny Croxdale


Part 2

Descending Strength Cure Rows

Rows fall into the category of the Descending Strength Curve; the movement is easy at the beginning and hard at the end.

Thus, the end of the Row (almost all Compound Pulling Exercises) never is completely works.

In a strict Row, you pull a heavy weight only about one third of the way up and are unable to complete the full range of the movement.

“Cheating Kroc Row” provide a somewhat “Accommodation Resistance Training Method” allowing you to overload the movement through a greater range of the movement.

It is a very effective method.

Muscle Fatigue

Once muscle fatigue set in technique fall apart; the exercise at that point need to be stopped.

Deadlift Repetitions

I am a proponent of keeping repetition low for the Deadlift, 1-2, never more than 3.

Conventional Deadlift “Stretch Reflex” Training

Bouncing the weight off the platform elicits a “Stretch Reflex” action for the Conventional Deadlift.

Secondly, since the sticking point of the Conventional Deadlift is in the knee are. Bouncing the weight enable to use more weight and overload you knee area sticking point as well as increase power in that part of the pull.

The Sumo Deadlift

Bouncing the weight off the floor elicit some of the "Stretch Reflex for the Sumo, too.

However, since the sticking point is in breaking the weight off the floor, increasing Limit Strength off the floor in the Sumo should be the emphasis.

With that said, one effective for developing the “Stretch Reflex” for Sumo Deadlifter would be Deficit Sumo Deadlifts.

Other “Stretch Reflex” Sumo Deadlift Methods

  1. Grip and Rip: Performing singles with the Deadlift in which your drop down to the bar quickly, grab the bar and pull.

  2. Bouncing Up and Down before you begin your pulls.

Kenny Croxdale


I watched both your clip and Dave Ricks and this is my takeaway.

I assume you want brutal honesty and not smoke blown up your ass. What is on the clip is not sumo, but a wide stance conventional. Your issue is not weak hams and glutes its tight and/or weak adductors. Your hips are not opened. If you watch the David Ricks clip his hips are more open and thus his butt is closer to the bar. He starts fairly deep because of the short arms, but that’s life.

I can’t tell if your hips are weak or tight or both from the clip. You will need to figure that out. Start practicing pliets, side lunges, and straddle stretches. Also I used the inner thigh machine for very high reps with an extreme stretch for a long time. Don’t listen to the professors about a particular machine being useless. Be creative.

Once you get the hips to open, then deficit sumos are the ticket. There are a few other tricks but get the hips right first.

With proper sumo technique you’re capable of 600 but it will probbaly take a year to get the hips where they should be. Go slow and dont fuck up an adductor - they take a looooong time to heal.


I was told the same thing before.

It seems to me like the difference between my technique and his is pretty minor, especially the starting position, but I do see that his knees are a bit more out to the side than mine.

Not sure if they are weak, but a bit tight for sure. I should probably stretch them more often. I wonder if maybe I’m not using my adductors like I should when I deadlift, they get way more sore from squatting and especially pause squats.


For Sumo, you want to be pretty close to upright when the knees lock out. So the weight is on your hips and backside and legs, not lower back. Then, at the top, hips in and shoulders back to finish the lift happens almost automatically.

If you’re too far forward as the legs are locking out, the back gets extended, all the weight gets shifted forward, the glutes are “taken out” and your legs shake.

So you have to work on getting the weight onto your Lower body, and off your back.

You could try putting the bar in the power rack, 4-6 inches below your knees. Get into your Sumo position, then break the bar off the pins. Hold it just below your knees, at the hardest part, or the position with worst leverage. It shouldn’t take very long for your body to figure out how to push the knees out, get the shins vertical, get your sack over the bar, and get your hips into a position where the weight is off your Lower back.

Like the dead bench helped your bench, Sumo Isos might help your Deadlift positioning.

This video is kinda bad, but you can see dude pull the bar up, pause, and then get his weight on his heels and stick his chest up, improving his position during the hold.


A tight muscle is tight because it is weak. The body (through the golgi tendon organ) inhibits overstretching a weak muscle to avoid tearing it. Strengthen the muscle and you will push back the inhibition threshold.

This happened to me with my hamstrings. I had a bad case of butt wink. Tried stretching the hams - no change. Worked the hell out of them and voila, no more butt wink and my conventional deadlift starting moving again due to better positioning.

BTW the opening of the hip is the difference between the sumo movement pattern and the conventional movement pattern. Its what allows the hips to be closer to the bar and a more upright torso which are the principal differences between the two styles.

Watch the following clip of Scialpi in 1993. He’s the one who taught me the sumo. The first lift in the clip is clean, the second one he got a gift from the judges. But observe his hip and leg positioning.

Among today’s lifters watch Belkin, Belyaev


I have done lots of paused deadlifts, mostly pausing just off the floor but also below the knees. I used them in my peaking cycle for the meet in the video. You noticed that my legs shook a bit at knee level, I only have that issue when I don’t do GMs or RDLs for a while, they seem to be the cure. Recently I tried isometric deadlifts, as in maximal isometrics and not simply a pause. At the moment, it seems like I’m slow off the floor but once the bar is 4-5 inches off the ground it moves a lot faster, so I tried what Josh Bryant said he did with Ogden Myklebust which is loading the bar with well over your max (I was using something like 685) and pulling as hard as possible for 5 seconds, then resting a couple minutes and doing a speed rep with a lighter weight. It’s hard to say if they have paid off, but they are fatiguing as hell. I was planning to go 4 weeks between deloads but I had to deload early because I was dying, and the iso DLs seem to have been the main cause. I will see how things look next week.


That video was from over a year ago, I have made some adjustments to my technique but nothing drastic, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted that video. I record my sets kind of diagonally from behind so they won’t show much regarding hips being open or not, my main concern has been hips rising/starting with hips too high. I will record something from the front next week.

I tried using a wider stance in the past, it seemed like everything moved fast and easy until I got to the upper 400s and then I couldn’t get the bar off the floor. I see the argument for using a wider stance because of the biomechanical advantage, but it also makes breaking the floor harder and that’s already a weak point for me. Do you think that simply turning my feet and hips out with the same stance would be better?

What do you recommend for stretching and strengthening my adductors? I train at home so I have no machines.


The max iso/speed rep contrast is more of a speed thing. Its like potentiation or something. It’s straight from Russian Speed Strength, or whatever those dudes were into.

With maximum iso pulling and maximum speed pulling, you are going to do the move like you do it. You will use the technique you have ingrained, just harder and faster. You’re trying to achieve maximum recruitment, then maximum bar speed. Get through the sticking point as fast as possible.

With lighter weights and a hold at the crucial spot, you’re “practicing” the position. Instead of training to get through the weak spot in a hurry, you’re training your body to use the best alignment in that position. You don’t even need to finish the rep. You can just hold, feel your weight settle back and your feet push apart, and your hips get closer to the bar. Then set it down and repeat.

You don’t need to go super heavy, or very long. 205, or maybe 50% of your DL might be enough. Break the weight off the pins, hold for a 3 count, then do that for 3 reps. Try different foot positions, or levels of toes turned out. The weight is light, you’re hanging out in position, so find the best spot for everything. It shouldn’t take long for your knees to open and your hips and glutes to start taking the load.

If you feel tight crotched and knock-kneed, it’s bad. If you feel Glute driven with Sumo wrestler bow legs, it’s good.


Lay against a wall with your legs up on it and slowly open up your legs until you fee a stretch. Sit there for 2-5 minutes, get on your phone, and just relax in that position. Try and extend the time you sit or how far apart your legs are.
Old school butterfly stretches and try to touch your knees to the ground
Sit in a body weight squat with your knees open as far as possible. You can try and lay your forearms flat on the ground without your hips going above your knees.

But as you know, I don’t powerlift, so I know nothing so take all of it with a grain of ammonia.


Partly, but (according to Josh Bryant) the benefit of the max isometric is that it allows you to produce more force and recruit more muscle fibres than in a regular lift while targeting a specific point in the lift, which basically teaches you how to push harder at your sticking point.

I don’t get why you say I should do paused deadlifts off of pins, why not off the floor? I have done the exact same exercise that is shown in the video you posted and the end result was the deadlift you saw. I appreciate the advice, but I don’t think that will improve my situation at this point because I have already done that. I think that I need to work on my starting position, which probably includes improving adductor flexibility.


Not being a dick or anything, just curious really. What is your deadlift and your weight at right now? More so curious about your 3 and 5 rep max if you know it

Also, what assistance work are you doing to help off the floor or in general?


I was doing this for a while, at first I tried it sitting on the floor with my feet against the wall but my back was cramping up. It did improve my adductor flexibility, but I somehow reached the conclusion that my starting position was as good as it was going to get and I just need to get stronger, I will have to post a more recent video.

I just drank the whole bottle


I weigh just over 230. I pulled 540 in training leading up to my last meet but only got 530 there, it turned out that I had caught some sort of stomach virus and it started bothering me just before deadlifts, I failed 530 on my second attempt because I thought I was going to puke but then took it again on my 3rd and got it. I was planning to go for 560-570. I have been pulling mostly singles and haven’t gone for a rep max lately, if I remember correctly my 5 rep PR was 475 and 505x3.

I switch up assistance movements every 1-3 months usually, in the last month I was doing SSB good mornings, max isometric DLs (as described above), conventional rack pulls (which seemed to do nothing for me) and heavy barbell rows. Before that I was doing snatch grip RDLs and double paused deadlifts, pausing just off the floor and below my kneecap. I use low rack pulls and deficit pulls sometimes too.


Have your tried pulling conventional for your main and using sumo stiff legs for your assistance? My sumo and conventional are pretty close and I attribute a lot of it to doing stiff leg sumo in a 3-6 week cycle every 6-12 weeks. I weigh 200-210 and have pulled 545 in the gym without a peak for reference. I follow a Hepburn style progression on a chaps and pain style setup. I train whatever I feel like, (some weeks I overhead press or incline bench 4 times, some weeks once, same for squats) but always pull on Sundays and only deadlift once a week.


In the sumo, the hips must turn out regardless of the stance width. For example, look at Coan or Mike Bridges with a medium (squat) stance. Then look at Hideaki Inaba for a very narrow stance sumo. In all three examples, regardless of the stance width, their hips are wide open.

Now to strengthen the adductors:

  1. Side lunges - Place your feet wider than your sumo stance width, turn the hips out and squat down on each side. You could alternate or do a number of reps to each side. Check youtube-plenty of videos out there.

  2. Do sideways slides - Stand on a slippery floor (wood, tile) with socks on and slide /lunge to each side. Don’t go too wide at first. Search Athlean-x for adductors.

  3. Ballet style pliets with the heels down. Face a wall, put your feet heels together with your hip as open a possible and squat down. You wont go too low at first, keep working it.


  1. Spreadeagle stretch - sit in front of a door opening and put a foot on the wall on each side of the door. Widen as much as possible. Martial artists do this to facilitate the side kick.

  2. Get on all fours and spread the knees apart, letting your bodyweight push down on the hips.


Basically, if Deadlifting was going to improve your start position, it would have improved your start position by now. If you don’t know how to do it properly, you can’t just Will yourself to get into a better position. You need to learn to use the muscles properly, then that will allow you to get lined up better.

Going from the pins Dumbs Down the lift. You start the lift, but at a height that easier to start from. There is less to worry about, so you can focus on spreading the floor and getting your nut sack(Dave Tate cue) to the bar.

Watch Dan Green, Sumo from blocks, getting into great starting position. Even better than his start from the floor. Starting higher allows you to exagerate the hip involvement. Look at Chris Duffin, Sumo with straps and tons of bar bend, the bar is around his knees for awhile, he works into a stronger alignment, and his hips get closer every rep. Reed once mentioned falling forward in the Sumo dead and working from blocks to address it.

Desperate men do Desperate things, so I tried it last fall, when my deadlift was zero and I could barely lean over to tie my shoes. By the 2nd workout, I could feel myself dropping behind the bar and using my glutes. The key is rocking back and getting the weight off your lower back and groin and into your posterior.


For me to pull conventional off the floor it’s almost an SLDL unless I round my back, and I already learned the hard way that it doesn’t work for me. I was considering using that as an assistance lift, neutral spine of course, starting with low rack pulls working my way down to the floor but I didn’t see at benefit from two months of rack pulls and that’s pretty much why I started this thread. KennyCrox basically confirmed what I had concluded long ago, that there is no additional benefit from pulling conventional for someone who pulls sumo as long as there is other hip hinge-focused lifts in the program such as RDLs and GMs. And I have tried sumo SLDLs, they messed with my starting position and caused me to pull with my hips too high which can work with lighter weights but would make 495 feel like a max.


Ah, gotcha. Yeah that makes sense I guess. Especially since you’re already tight, it’d probably fuck your whole setup up to do stiff legs.