T Nation

Found an Interesting Article on Sumo vs Conventional Deadlifts


#1

Article on the Starting Strength site.

Basically he is implying that if you’re a novice/intermediate lifter you should almost always be pulling conventional, due to the conventional being able to incorporate the back and hips more than the sumo. He goes into the physics of it in the article, which I didn’t read in great detail.

I’m a beginning/intermediate lifter and I’ve struggled with form issues with my conventional deadlift. My sumo deadlift is nearly just as strong with no prior training. I’m not planning on doing a meet anytime soon, I’m just looking to get stronger. I’m currently doing Madcow 5x5 intermediate version, so I squat 2 times per weak heavy. I’m just not sure whether to pull sumo or keep trying to fix my conventional form. I’d imagine the conventional would give me the benefit of more back recruitment than the sumo, so I’m tempted to stay pulling conventional even though I believe that my sumo would be much stronger than my conventional if I trained it. Any thoughts?


#2

Like a lot of SS stuff I think it’s a little suspect. It’s too dogmatic. The only possible issue I see with less experienced lifters pulling sumo is that it’s more technical, so it takes more skill to execute properly but that’s not necessarily a problem. You just need to put more time in learning the technique.

If you can pull more sumo, pull sumo. No reason you can’t train both, which is most likely what will drive both lifts better than excluding either. Pulling sumo definitely helped me improve my conventional.


#3

[quote=“idontbrag123, post:1, topic:231862”]
Basically he is implying that if you’re a novice/intermediate lifter you should almost always be pulling conventional, due to the conventional being able to incorporate the back and hips more than the sumo. He goes into the physics of it in the article, which I didn’t read in great detail. [/quote]

Conventional Vs Sumo

The essence of the article is that the Conventional Deadlift works the back more than the Sumo Deadlift.

Common Sense as well as research has documented that fact. Here is…

The Take Home Message

Individual who want or need to work the back more should employ on of the following exercises.

  1. Conventional Deadlift.

Research (Dr Tom McLaughlin, PhD Exercise Biomechanics/former Powerlifter) research demonstrate the the muscle firing sequence is…

Back-Legs-Back

The initial drive off the floor is initiated with the Back in a Conventional Deadlift. Then Leg Drive kicks in. It occurs similar to a one two punch in boxing; a jab is followed with a cross.

Once the weight is broken off the floor, the Legs Drive the weight with some assistance with the Back.

When the weight hits the knee area, Leg Drive drops off and the Back take over.

  1. Stiff Leg Deadlift (Slight Break in Knees):

This exercise takes the Legs out of the movement, placing the work load on the Back.

If an individual really wants to work the Back (Posterior Chain), this employs the Back more so than a Conventional Deadlift.

McLaughlin’s research found Conventional Powerlifter Deadlifters that implemented Still Leg Deadlift in their program, Pulled more.

  1. Good Mornings

This exercise movement pattern parallels the Deadlift. Bill Starr was a great Strength Coach. The foundation of “Starting Strength” is based on Starr’s methods. That because Starr was one of Mark Rippetoe’s mentors, mine and Louie Simmons’ (Westside Method), as well.

  1. Back/Hip Extension Raises

Variations of this exercise overload the same muscle as a Conventional Deadlift and have a somewhat similar movement pattern.

Sumo Deadlift

The muscle firing sequence is Legs>Back. Research by McLaughlin as well as common sense have demonstrated this.

The Leg break the weight off the floor, the Back finishes the top end.

Why EVERYONE Should Train Sumo and Conventional Deadlifts

One of the keys to increasing Strength is…

Exercise Variation

  1. Research: The National Strength and Conditioning Association research (abstract) above demonstrated Exercise Variation is necessary for optimal results.

  2. Simmons Westside Method (circa early 1980s) provide empirical data the Exercise Variation produce results.

The determinate factor of Exercise Variation is…

Training Age

This is defined as the number of year a lifter has been training.

  1. Novice Lifters: These lifter have a longer adaptation process. That means they can employ the same exercise for a longer period of time before their progress stops.

A Novice Lifter program needs to be changed for 8 - 12 weeks.

  1. Advance Lifters; These lifter adapt quickly Their training exercise/program needs to be changed about every 3 - 4 weeks.

The General Adaptation Syndrome

This is a body’s survival mechanism. Subjecting the body to any new trauma (new training program, disease, etc) stimulate the body to adapt and become stronger.

Once training adaption occurs via training, training stagnation occurs; you stop making progress.

You are constantly need to change something with your training. You need to trick you body into making progress.

[quoe]I’m a beginning/intermediate lifter and I’ve struggled with form issues with my conventional deadlift. [/quote]

Conventional Deadlift Technique

There are two type of Conventional Deadlift Training…

  1. Olympic Style: This method revolves around breaking the weight off the floor by “Leg Pressing”, using the Leg.

For Olympic Lifters, the key is to maintain a flat back. Doing correctly position the weight/bar for the second pull.

  1. Powerlifting Style: For the majority of Conventional Deadlifters, the main key,

a) Greater back strength/back involvement to break the weight off the floor.

b) Upper Back Rounding in the Knee Area. This allows you to keep the bar in closer to your COG (Body’s Center of Gravity); decreasing the force needed to pull the weight. It decreases Back Torque (loading on the back), which is fine.

Upper Back Rounding occurs with max load. The back flexes with heavy loads as does a barbell.

The fact that the back is quickly and easily overtrained. That means Maximal Conventional Powerlifting Deadlifts training should be less frequent.

Lower Back Rounding is a bad thing.

Misconception on The Conventional Deadlift

One of the misconception that continues to be perpetuated in gym with the Conventional Deadlift is, "Drive the weight off the floor with you legs (Leg Press it).

The training objective is the determinate factor in which method should be used, Olympic or Powerlifting.

Pull BACK

To ensure the bar remains as close to your COG (Center of Gravity) as possible, the bar MUST be pulled BACK on top of you.

That require that you sit back on your heels as the bar ascends. The article prescribed having the load position in the middle of your foot, which is incorrect.,

Pulling the bar back on top of you mean the bar will curve back into you as you pull it., The article incorrectly stated the bar would travel straight up.

Getting Stronger

Conventional Deadlifting will increase a Sumo Deadlifters Strength.

Sumo Deadlifting will increase a Conventional Deadlifters Strength.

Research has demonstrated that for Strength and Hypertrophy (Increasing Muscle Mass), attaching the muscle from different angles (varying exercises) elicits a greater training effect.

[quote\ I’m just not sure whether to pull sumo or keep trying to fix my conventional form. I’d imagine the conventional would give me the benefit of more back recruitment than the sumo, so I’m tempted to stay pulling conventional even though I believe that my sumo would be much stronger than my conventional if I trained it. [/quote]

Technique Development

The key to developing technique in the Sumo Deadlift (any movement) is to practice it with load of 85% plus of your 1 Repetition Max for single reps.

The number of set is dependent on your technique. Once fatigue set in, technique falls apart. Continuing in a fatigued state, only develop poor technique.

Strength is built with Auxiliary Exercise that are similar in nature the movement you want gain Strength in.

There are various training method you could use.

One would be, as you mentioned Conventional Deadlifting for a while then preforming Sumo Deadlifts.

Another would be to perform Sumo Technique Training. Then follow it with Conventional Deadlift Strength Training.

The Article

It is a hodgepodge of good information and incorrect information.

Kenny Croxdale

[quote=“idontbrag123, post:1, topic:231862”]
Basically he is implying that if you’re a novice/intermediate lifter you should almost always be pulling conventional, due to the conventional being able to incorporate the back and hips more than the sumo. He goes into the physics of it in the article, which I didn’t read in great detail. [/quote]

Conventional Vs Sumo

The essence of the article is that the Conventional Deadlift works the back more than the Sumo Deadlift.

Common Sense as well as research has documented that fact. Here is…

The Take Home Message

Individual who want or need to work the back more should employ on of the following exercises.

  1. Conventional Deadlift.

Research (Dr Tom McLaughlin, PhD Exercise Biomechanics/former Powerlifter) research demonstrate the the muscle firing sequence is…

Back-Legs-Back

The initial drive off the floor is initiated with the Back in a Conventional Deadlift. Then Leg Drive kicks in. It occurs similar to a one two punch in boxing; a jab is followed with a cross.

Once the weight is broken off the floor, the Legs Drive the weight with some assistance with the Back.

When the weight hits the knee area, Leg Drive drops off and the Back take over.

  1. Stiff Leg Deadlift (Slight Break in Knees):

This exercise takes the Legs out of the movement, placing the work load on the Back.

If an individual really wants to work the Back (Posterior Chain), this employs the Back more so than a Conventional Deadlift.

McLaughlin’s research found Conventional Powerlifter Deadlifters that implemented Still Leg Deadlift in their program, Pulled more.

  1. Good Mornings

This exercise movement pattern parallels the Deadlift. Bill Starr was a great Strength Coach. The foundation of “Starting Strength” is based on Starr’s methods. That because Starr was one of Mark Rippetoe’s mentors, mine and Louie Simmons’ (Westside Method), as well.

  1. Back/Hip Extension Raises

Variations of this exercise overload the same muscle as a Conventional Deadlift and have a somewhat similar movement pattern.

Sumo Deadlift

The muscle firing sequence is Legs>Back. Research by McLaughlin as well as common sense have demonstrated this.

The Leg break the weight off the floor, the Back finishes the top end.

Why EVERYONE Should Train Sumo and Conventional Deadlifts

One of the keys to increasing Strength is…

Exercise Variation

  1. Research: The National Strength and Conditioning Association research (abstract) above demonstrated Exercise Variation is necessary for optimal results.

  2. Simmons Westside Method (circa early 1980s) provide empirical data the Exercise Variation produce results.

The determinate factor of Exercise Variation is…

Training Age

This is defined as the number of year a lifter has been training.

  1. Novice Lifters: These lifter have a longer adaptation process. That means they can employ the same exercise for a longer period of time before their progress stops.

A Novice Lifter program needs to be changed for 8 - 12 weeks.

  1. Advance Lifters; These lifter adapt quickly Their training exercise/program needs to be changed about every 3 - 4 weeks.

The General Adaptation Syndrome

This is the body’s survival mechanism. Subjecting the body to any new trauma (new training program, disease, etc) stimulate the body to adapt and become stronger.

Once training adaption occurs via training, training stagnation occurs; you stop making progress.

You constantly need to change something with your training. You need to trick you body into making progress.

Conventional Deadlift Technique

There are two type of Conventional Deadlift Training…

  1. Olympic Style: This method revolves around breaking the weight off the floor by “Leg Pressing”, using the Leg.

For Olympic Lifters, the key is to maintain a flat back. Doing correctly position the weight/bar for the second pull.

  1. Powerlifting Style: For the majority of Conventional Deadlifters, the main key to pulling more is…

a) Greater back strength/back involvement to break the weight off the floor.

b) Upper Back Rounding in the Knee Area. This allows you to keep the bar in closer to your COG (Body’s Center of Gravity); decreasing the force needed to pull the weight. It decreases Back Torque (loading on the back), which is fine.

Upper Back Rounding occurs with max load. The back flexes with heavy loads as does a barbell.

The fact that the back is quickly and easily overtrained, means Maximal Conventional Powerlifting Deadlifts training should be less frequent.

Lower Back Rounding is a bad thing.

Misconception on The Conventional Deadlift

One of the misconception that continues to be perpetuated in gyms with the Conventional Deadlift is, “Drive the weight off the floor with you legs (Leg Press it).”

The training objective is the determinate factor in which method should be used, Olympic or Powerlifting.

Pull BACK

To ensure the bar remains as close to your COG (Center of Gravity) as possible, the bar MUST be pulled BACK on top of you.

That require that you sit back on your heels as the bar ascends. The article prescribed having the load position in the middle of your foot, which is incorrect.,

Pulling the bar back on top of you mean the bar will curve back into you as you pull it., The article incorrectly stated the bar would travel straight up.

Getting Stronger

Conventional Deadlifting will increase a Sumo Deadlifter’s Strength.

Sumo Deadlifting will increase a Conventional Deadlifter’s Strength.

Research has demonstrated that for Strength and Hypertrophy (Increasing Muscle Mass), attaching the muscle from different angles (varying exercises) elicits a greater training effect.

Technique Development

The key to developing technique in the Sumo Deadlift (any movement) is to practice it with loads of 85% plus of your 1 Repetition Max for single reps.

The number of set is dependent on your technique. Once fatigue set in, technique falls apart. Continuing in a fatigued state, only develop and reinforces poor technique.

Strength is built with Auxiliary Exercise that are similar in nature the movement you want gain Strength in.

There are various training method you could use.

One would be, as you mentioned, Conventional Deadlifting for a while then preforming Sumo Deadlifts.

Another would be to perform Sumo Technique Training. Then follow it with Conventional Deadlift Strength Training.

The Article

It is a hodgepodge of good information and incorrect information.

Kenny Croxdale


#4

Bingo!

Great advice.

Kenny Croxdale


#5

The personality cult of Mark Rippetoe


#6

The thing in your case is that you can’t perform a conventional deadlift without rounding your back, so any possible benefits are outweighed by the high risk of injury. I don’t pull conventional al all either, for me to set up with a neutral spine it’s basically an SLDL (hips way too high) and at the end range of hip flexion in that stance. However, RDLs have more or less all the same benefits of conventional deadlifts so I do those regularly. Good mornings are another option, but RDLs seem more specific to deadlifting, whether sumo or conventional. A lot of Russian lifters pull sumo because they can’t set up for conventional without a rounded back, and some well known coaches like Boris Sheiko don’t use opposite stance deadlifts at all, but will incorporate good mornings, seated good mornings, and RDLs.

You’re lucky that you pull more sumo without ever training it. I tried messing around with sumo before I busted up my back. My conventional pull was in the low 500s, with sumo everything was flying off the floor up to 405 and I couldn’t even move 445. It took me a while to get anywhere with sumo, I’m still not at 600, but my back isn’t going to explode either so I’m not complaining. Not everyone is destined to become a great deadlifter, but the least you can do is train it without injuring yourself and try to get a big squat instead.


#7

I didn’t have time to read Kenny’s article so I apologize if I repeated anything he said.


#8

That’s a reasonable approach. However, if the OP is just naturally stronger with sumo and can’t pull conventional without risking back injury, a potential solution is to focus on sumo and use conventional rack/block pulls - from a height where he can set up with a neutral spine - as an assistance lift. Stuart McGill has said that the deadlift (specifically referring to conventional) is a useful exercise in athletic development but poses an injury risk for some who can’t set up with a neutral spine. This risk is not justified for athletes whose sport does not involve lifting a barbell from the floor, so he recommends rack or block pulls for those people. Similarly, someone who pulls sumo and can’t safely pull conventional from the floor could instead pull from blocks or a rack instead and get a similar training effect.


#9

For someone who pulls sumo, do you see any advantage of doing conventional deadlifts rather than RDLs or SLDLs? It seems that the latter two would shift more of the load to the lower back and posterior chain, but a conventional deadlift would allow more weight to be moved because of quad involvement. Does it really make a difference?


#10

Thanks for the great responses as usual guys. Looks like I will be pulling sumo on deadlift day. I’ll be incorporating good mornings and something else to hit the upperback. I do pendlay rows twice a week so my upper back isnt totally neglected, but i’d like to do a bit more. Maybe shrugs and/or facepulls, I’m not quite sure yet.