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How Do I Know if I Should Switch DL Stance for My Next Meet?

I brought it up with my coach in my weekly check-in, but def open to other suggestions. Although I enjoy the alternate stance training, I feel slightly stronger in conventional, but not sure if I can build up my sumo enough to go way past how I do conventional.

My deadlift is generally poverty, and I’ve always competed conventional, but I did sumo for an 8 month period in 2017, and have been going Sumo with some pause conventional since December.

My highest conventional in training was over the summer at 435, and 429 at a meet in December.
Highest sumo was 405 over a year ago in 12/2017, and peaked off at working sets of 315x6 so far last week. I also did a recent 3-4 second pause conventional with 360x2 as accessory.

If it makes a difference, I also squat pretty narrow/medium, and I do narrow RDLs on my sumo days, and pause conventional on my squat days.

For most lifters look at these 2 questions

  1. Which stance can you pull more
  2. Which stance hurts less

For a beat up lifter, switch them in priority

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Yeah, sumo kinda makes my grundle/taint sore, but doesn’t feel as rough on my lower back.

The powerlifters at my gym will train the opposite stance in their offseason as the main deadlift movement with their typical stance as an assistance.

After a few bouts of those blocks you find out which is more suitable. Most go sumo the exception being if you can’t get a flat upperback using sumo, particularly if you have a more bent over posture. The thinking here is you will get to a point where you won’t be able to over come the weight because you lose too much energy transfer and getting stronger won’t help while you have that technical problem.

Some other clues that can help you decide are the relative distances of your hips to the bar. The best conventional pullers seem to barely need to bring their hips to the bar:


If your ass is touching the wall behind you when you conventional lift then you may be better served with sumo, especially if you can get your taint over the bar pulling sumo. Other indicators are if you tend to shoot your hips back when you squat then your back is probably stronger than your legs and you may be suited to conventional if you can’t correct it.

The other thing to keep in mind is you may need to build up your mobility to pull a good sumo deadlift. Knees out over ankles with a flat back is hard so make sure you are able to get in position before making your mind up on sumo. Going all out with a rounded back, bent over, shins angled back, shoulders forward and knees caved in and deciding the stance is not for you isn’t a smart way to operate.

Sumo is more technical, if you have the coordination of a new born giraffe then you might want to factor that into your decision.

Also, listen to your coach! Also risk of injury should trump all decisions. If you put your back out every other month and can’t fix the issue then I don’t care how weak you are in the opposite stance, you should use it.

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I have no idea why but Sumo feels very unnatural for me, Whenever I try to lock out my hands get in the way. Ive only pulled 275 sumo before and did 425 conventional last week pretty easy.
Ive only been deadlifting for like 4-5 months, and seen people my age and build pull more with sumo than conventional, so I decided to try it but it just doesnt work.

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Yeah my coach is basically leaving it up to me at this point. He says I can go either way.

My goal this next meet is to break the records unofficially in May, and break them for real by a long shot in September. I can’t break drug tested records in May, but I can break them in September and hopefully qualify for Nationals (ideally drug tested nationals, but I’ll be glad to do non tested nationals if I qualify)

I think I’ll run with sumo this meet prep (I can probably unofficially break the squat and bench record with my openers, deadlift needs work), and by next meet prep, I’ll figure out which one works better once I’ve built them both up.

Was it ahead of your conventional DL at that point? If you can pull conventional without any lower back issues and you aren’t stronger on sumo within a short time of focusing on it (8 months is way more than enough) then I don’t see the point in switching.

At that time, reps felt better on Sumo than conventional (I didn’t wanna AMRAP Conventional, but I could AMRAP sumo decently at the time).

My conventional max was 405 when I started doing Sumo, and I matched 405 at the end of the 8 months. But then I went back to conventional for a year after that.

It should be also noted that when I did Sumo in 2017, it was on my own off YouTube knowledge at a commercial gym, and now I’m working with a coach and other competitive lifters.

I guess a major issue I have as well is that I don’t really max out that often. Most of the year my rep ranges are between 5-8 for volume.

OK, and how was your conventional when you switched back?

You don’t need to max out, you can compare rep maxes or sets pushed within a few reps of failure. If you can do more reps with the same weight with one stance then that is probably the stronger stance.

Yeah I think that’s a good call.

Looking at my log, I did 6 reps with relative ease on sumo with around the same weight for 4-5 reps on conventional last meet prep (Dating back to like October). I probably could go heavier, but still trying to figure out technique.

With all respect, if you’ve only been deadlifting for 5 months, you have no idea what will work in the long run.

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You could train both for a bit to see what works better, either pull twice a week and alternate between stances or if you want to pull once a week then same idea, one week sumo and the next conventional.

Yeah I been pulling twice a week lately. One day Sumo and another day pause conventional. I like both, but I don’t think I’ve ran sumo long enough. I’ve just done conventional comparatively longer, so it feels better given my experience.

I’m gonna post videos/pics soon to demo

But even if sumo doesn’t work as well for me as conventional, I might do this meet prep with sumo just to get more time with it (worst case scenario), or build my deadlift way more than it was (best case scenario).

Understood, another reason I am scared of sumo is that I had recently smashed a toe with a 45lbs plate and with sumo your toes are so close to plates. The feeling of having your nail pulled off piece by piece still freaks me out.

Yeah that’s pretty scary, but it could also be that you were too wide. I dont go that wide - my shins are basically perpindicular with the rings.

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I will ask a generalized question to any of the powerlifter who post in this thread: do we have anyone here that has extensively worked both, or seen significant progress from like “doing an entire training cycle in sumo stance, then saw big carryover to my conventional stance” ?

I did some sumo deadlifting as a teen, but have been almost exclusively conventional in my second lifting life (last 5 years). Maybe once or twice I screwed around with sumo and just couldn’t get excited about it. But if anyone here has a story of seeing significant carryover from training the “opposite” style to their preferred one, I might reconsider.

(Ok, I probably won’t reconsider…but I am curious)

There are lots of lifters, and particularly the old time ones like Ed Coan and Dan Austin, who trained only conventional until they got close to a meet and then switched to sumo. It was because their sumo was ahead of their conventional without even training it, but as their conventional got stronger so did their sumo.

As far as using sumo to build conventional, Josh Bryant has some people do that and Mike Tuchscherer was talking about that as well. I can’t point out anyone who has had great results from that but part of the idea is to reduce stress on the lower back (which is higher with conventional) and build up the adductors, if you are beating up your lower back all the time then taking a break from that now and then is probably a good idea.

I think trap bar is probably better to build conventional instead of switching to sumo.

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Just compare numbers, you are already training sumo. If you aren’t sure if your sumo is stronger then it’s not and don’t bother with it.

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Something to keep in mind when comparing the two, I don’t think they have equivalent multi-rep max to one-rep max conversion, RPE, or recovery time. In other words, using the same sub-maximal weight for sumo and conventional I could potentially get more reps, recover faster from the same volume, and have all reps on average feel lighter while pulling sumo, and yet still have a higher 1RM on conventional.

Not saying this is true for everyone (it definitely is for me) but just be careful with assuming that a rep PR at submax weight pulling sumo automatically means that’s your stronger stance.

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Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking as well. I don’t think I’ve gone heavy enough yet to really put it to the test. Might go off program and decide that haha.

But even if it’s not my strong stance, I don’t think it’ll hurt to do one meet with sumo just to get more training time with it. Not sure if I’ll get a ton of crossover into conventional, but might as well.

I’ll probably commit more to conventional when I do strongman as well.