T Nation

Fixing Sumo Deadlift


Hi lads,

So I switched to Sumo this summer, after not deadlifting for 4 months after a disc injury due to shit form. So I worked on form a lot and today took a video of 150kgx5 and it looked like shit. I’m not in pain but feel some tightness and the next few days won’t feel really nice for my back. I did some back off sets at 3*3 with 117.5 on which my spine is neutral.

How can I fix the main issues? I can see my lower back slightly rounding (which used to never happen) and my hips shooting up into oblivion.

I’d like to start with lower hips and keep a neutral spine. I noticed that as reps go on I’m unable to brace properly due to being unable to breathe…can’t get enough air in to brace maximally. I do core work, ab wheel, leg raises, seated rdl, bb hypers and etc. Help me out guys, I’ll be thankful!





Based on your description and the videos, it looks to me like you’re moving the bar off the floor with your back and maybe your quads - so effectively you’re pulling conventional, just with a massively wide stance. Certainly your hips seem too high and your torso too far forward for sumo as far as I’m aware.

Are you breaking the bar off the floor by pushing your knees and feet out hard while sitting back and keeping your shoulders behind the bar? If you’re doing this, you should feel a massive amount of tension and torque in your hips and nothing too much in your back until the bar is approaching your knees. My experience pulling sumo has been that when you get those two cues right, you’re slow off the floor and all your back does initially is lock you into position so you have all you weight behind the bar; then once you pass your knees the bar suddenly accelerates.

I found wide stance box squats with the box height set so my hips were at my sumo starting point a really good way to learn how to get that knees and feet outward drive going.


Your shins should be vertical as the bar leaves the floor, yours are angled forward. You need to shift your weight back onto your heels and get your glutes more into the movement. Low block pulls or rack pulls can help because they take out most of the leg drive, you want the plates to be about 4 inches off the ground at the starting position. Take a video from the front so we can see what’s going on there. You might be better off with a wider stance.

If you can’t breathe or brace properly then stop the set. It is better to do more sets of lower reps rather than go all out with bad technique and a high risk of injury. I get the impression that you aren’t bracing properly, there are lots of videos (Chris Duffin for example) on bracing. Also get your lats tight before you start pulling, looks like that could be an issue here too.


I think a lot of your issues are pretty common mobility issues in people learning Sumo. In time this will kind of fix itself. Until then try frog stretches.

And front view videos, lower rep sets (singles watch recording repeat).

Once you get your form locked in add weight until form fails or you can do higher rep sets.

Also once you get form locked in do Pause Deads. These really strengthen bracing and movement patterns. Dont do it before mobility and form is locked in though because then you are just strengthening poor form and patterns.

oops @ed wrong person :smiley:


Hey lads thank you all for the replies!

@MarkKO I am moving the bar off the floor mainly with my back and hamstrings. My quads have never been sore after DL’s but hammies all the time. I agree my starting position is terrible.

I understand the cues, I apply them at smaller weights and it works, but for some reason when I get to heavier sets I forget everything and start doing Sumo stiff legs. I will try leaning behind the back more, and being more patient off the floor.

@chris_ottawa Agreed about shin position, I’m unable for now to stay behind the bar. I would love to be able to have my shins parallel as I know it’s a necessity in Sumo. My stance is actually pretty narrow in Sumo. I tried wide but due to terrible mobility (even though I do at least one hour of mobility work every single day for the last month) I am unable to have any power from a wide stance. So I naturally use a stronger stance, which uses more back. My back is alot stronger because I can’t back squat. I do Front Squats but the weight is rarely over 100 kg because I suck at them. I will start doing 10*3 on squat day. I included a video from the front in this reply.

I’ve watched Chris Duffins content and I know how to brace properly, thankfully also to front squats. I brace my abs even on stuff like Pull Ups and Curls to keep my spine supported. I just couldn’t get air in and could feel my lower back giving out. I should stop the set there, I was going for a rep pr and I had more in me, but I called it a day at 5. I will deload now on 5/3/1 and start over with a lower training max. Patience is key, I can pull 180+ next week but I don’t want to risk it with terrible technique like that. Do you think maybe I should run a cycle of 5/3/1 of blocks?

@BOTSLAYER Yeah mobility is not something I’m good at. I included a video from the front on this reply. I think as per advice of everybody in this thread i should go wider and get used to it. I do pause deads some times with light weight, I will include them again.

How does one approach locking knees out? I know they should be locked out first and agressively in Sumo, but I think I do it too early which throws me forward.


140*3 another view


Rep maxes are a bad idea if you don’t have good (or at least decent) technique, you should stop when your technique starts to break down and don’t worry about how many more reps you can do. You would be better off doing multiple sets of 3-5 with the same weight and adding a few pounds each session.

About shin position, part of it is that you need to be pushing your knees out as you start the lift. You don’t need an extremely wide stance but most likely going a bit wider will be better and allow for a better start position, right now it looks like you are trying to squat the weight up. Work on adductor flexibility and make small adjustments. Right now you are severely limited by your technique.

Why can’t you back squat?


Not necessarily. That works for some people, others lock out knees and hips at the same time. The key is to find what works for you, but right now you need to fix the bottom of your deadlift and keep your back from rounding more that anything. How you start will determine how you finish.

One other thing, stop dropping the bar!


As some here mentioned, your lifting with a wide conventional style. Sumo is not just about stance width.

The first rule of sumo is to OPEN THE HIPS. Sometimes this is flexibility related, but usually it is due to a weak posterior chain (including the adductors). Once you open the hips, you will be closer to the bar, your back will be more erect, your shoulders wil be directly over the bar, and your shins will be straight up and down and get beat up by the bar on the way up. This is the key to the sumo.

How do we open the hips? From a training standpoint, box squats (wide), and side lunges. From a flexibility standpoint, split stretches, side leg raisies (martial arts side kicks), DEEP third world squats with the knees out, and ballet plies.

Start sumo off the blocks and lower the bar each week until position is attained. BTW the hips should be as high as possible with all the other cues in place. This is NOT a squat, its still a deadlift. The hip height will be different depending on the individual.


Posted today, read the deadlift section.


@chris_ottawa Yeah I will keep the reps over 5 on Deadlifts to a minimum right now. I think it’s a good to idea to go wider. What about toe position, is 45 degrees out a good position for feet? I can’t back squat due to a lower back injury, a disc issue which still causes me minor pain sometimes.

If I try to low bar I have to squat with a ridiculously wide stance, and my lats and whole shoulder girdle gets cramped up and my back feels bad. High bar gives me instant knee pain, and turns into a good morning. I tried to back squat properly for a year but it’s the exercise that has caused most of my injuries, so I just don’t do it. Zercher squats, Front squats, Split squats but no back squat.

Dropped the bar because my grip slipped, it was a double overhand pr. Or do you mean in between reps? I’m not doing TNG so I don’t see the point in putting energy into fighting the negative movement which has a higher risk of injury then concentric.

@usmccds423 Will check it out, thank you!

@jbackos My shins are all torn up, and I have to weark socks to keep the blood of the barbell. Lately it’s been better becaus the bar was getting out in front of me. I will work on keeping it closer to my shins.

Opening up the hips- I do all the stretches you pointed out multiple times a day. Shall Ido side lungees with weight? Unfortunately can’t do box squats or back squats of any kind. As many of you suggested I will start from blocks, should I keep my training numbers the same or slightly increase them as I can pull more from blocks?


Probably a good idea, I remember Dan Green advising exactly that.


Knees should be pointed the same direction as your toes, knees caving in makes the movement less efficient and puts a lot of strain on your knee joint. When you start the lift, push your knees out and hips forward like you are trying to get them closer to the bar.

I’m willing to bet that 90% of your squatting issue have to do with technique, squat technique is more difficult that the deadlift for most people. There’s nothing wrong with high bar (except that you might not be able to lift as much) and if it hurts your knees it’s probably because you are doing it wrong. Start light (like empty bar) and post videos if you want to straighten that out.

It just looks like you drop the bar after the last rep in all your videos, you don’t need a slow eccentric or anything like that but why are you dropping it?


I watched this the other day and thought it was helpful.


@chris_ottawa Yeah Chris I mean how far should be pointed my toes? Some lifters have barely 15-20 degrees whereas some are like a duck at 60-70 degrees. I think somewhere in the middle is good? If I go too wide my knees cave in, just like you explain.

About squat I just gave up. I had a back nagging pain, and one day I listened to some advice to “switch to low bar because I’m tall” and injured myself right away. Squatted too low and out of business in lower body lifts for 4 months. I just don’t see the point in doing something that hurts me everywhere, just like I won’t do conventional DL’s from the floor because the risk reward ratio is retarded for me. Sumo pulls or block conv pulls are a better idea. I dropped the bar because my grip failed in that last video, or the others where I smashed it into the ground was because Iwas angry and it just happened. I’ll stop doing that as it’s not very nice for the gym and equipment. I don’t do it on every set, just sometimes when I’m overflowing with adrenaline and anger and it just flies back in the floor. Thank you for pointing that out!

@usmccds423 Hey I’ve watched it, but will rewatch it again. Might learn some good stuff. Cheers!


Your feet should be in line with your femurs, regardless of stance.

You’re posting in the powerlifting section, so it is kind of unusual to not want to squat around here. Your squatting pain/injuries are quite likely from rounding your back at the bottom to increase depth, aka butt wink. It’s easier for a lot of people to learn to squat high bar first, and it allows for less forward lean so less potential for bad technique. Once you get that then you can move onto low bar. That’s what Boris Sheiko recommends, I think he’s right.


The correct squat stance is the one in which you can move the most weight with NO pain. Heres how I teach people to squat:

  1. Sit on a chair or box that has you at parallel.
  2. Without changing position try to stand - can’t do it, good.
  3. Lean forward a bit while keeping the back LOCKED. Try to stand again.
  4. If you can’t, move the feet out a bit. Try to stand again.
  5. Keep alternating the back lean and the leg spread until you are balanced enough to stand up off the box.
  6. Your NATURAL squat position is attained with the both the minimum lean and min leg width.
  7. Now get your ass to the gym and perform box squats with the SAME height box and position
  8. Once you have mastered this, lower the box to an inch below parallel and start over.
  9. DONE

Once you have competed with this stance for a few years and want to experiment fine, but find your NATURAL stance first.


@chris_ottawa Yeah, I know it comes of weird. My goal is building a solid and athletic body. I think squats are essential. I just gave up after realizing I can build solid and massive legs with Front squats and lungees.

I did indeed round like a dumbass on a low bar squat which was the cause of one injury. I can’t squat whitout a lot of forward lean, which puts too much stress on my lower back. I’m tempted to give them a try. The problem is if I start doing them I won’t be able to load them heavy for a few months…

@jbackos that’s actually a solid idea! So you suggest doing box squats before transitioning to normal squats?


Not exactly.

I suggest using the box as a tool to discover your natural squat position. Once you discover this, you proceed to train regular squats. IMO stick with this squat for a year or so before adding variations. You want the body to memorize the movement pattern. After you master this, then you could experiment with tweaks.


The problem with front squats is that you will always be limited by upper back strength. There is no reason to squat low bar if you have no plans to compete in PL, but high bar back squats are a staple exercise for bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes in general because nothing else really works the legs the same. If you have access to a safety squat bar then you can use that instead, the leverages are similar to a front squat but because the bar is on your back you won’t dump it if you tip forward slightly. You can stick with front squats if you are determined to do so, but pretty much everyone will tell you that back squats are better once you learn to do them properly.


Why is that a problem? Do them first, try to perfect your technique and don’t go anywhere close to failure, then front squat after.