T Nation

Sumo Deadlifts


I alway deadlift conventional and can pull over 315, which isn't too bad. However, I decided this morning I would try sumo DLs. I've tried them a few times in the past, but my right knee was very unhappy with it, so I always stopped. But this morning I thought I would try them again and the knee quieted down after the second warm up set so I kept going. Well, what a humbling experience. I couldn't pull nearly as much weight. Now, granted I intentionally kept it rather light for my knees sake, but the experiment was very enlightening. It really pointed out my weak points. I have a very strong back which comes into play with the conventitional DL style. However, with sumo, a lot of back is taken out and it relies on glute and ham strength. And this, boys and girls, I believe is my weak point (based upon this experience) and may explain why my squat performance is lagging behind my DL. But it's not as if I don't work my posterior chain. I do GHR's, SDL's, and good mornings. But I feel really strongly that if I can stick with the sumo's (given my knee remains content) that it will really help to bring up those weaks points I've been missing.


Nice way to ID your weakness.

Sumo is actually my perfered pulling style. Juyst comes more natural to me due to a leg injury pulling conventional can be cumbersome.

Anyway good work, its a good idea to changes all things up from time to time for variety. grip, stance etc. Go out of your comfort zone and many times it will bring up lagging areas.

Looking forward to hearing about a new PR coming from this,



For me, nothing has brought my sumo up like wide stance box squats to slightly below parallel. If you really concentrate on sitting back and pushig out with your feet and thighs, the exercise is essentially a sumo with your bar on your traps and not in your hands.

Also, make use of that sled o' yours and do some wide stance pull-through walks up your driveway.


That still may not be your weakpoint. I have sumo styled Deadlifted for years. I switched to this styled 12 years ago. I as well do tons of glute ham work GHR, RDL, pull throughs and GM.
My Squat as well lags behind it may be the disc in your back.
I thought my back was strong as well but Dr.Mike Hartle(Mike Robertson works with)enlightened me to the fact is was the way my disc were aligned that was causing the lack of strength in the squat. Have a chiro Doctor or Ortho Doctor take a look and help you with a few exercises. It has helped but it takes time. Oh by the way I have lifted for 38 yrs


Already do 'em on a twelve inch box. But thanks.

So in order to do this I pull the chain through my legs as I'm walking? Sounds good. Please elaborate. Doing single leg pulls this week. Hard and akward.


The pull-throughs are just like a cable pull-through...take a wide stance, position yourself relative to the grips/handle on your sled so that your feet are a foot or so in front of it, bend down, grab the grip and pull through/up ala a sumo. Take two steps forward so that the grip is once again behind yourself and repeat.

I'm no sumo/PL master but I've found these and/or moderate weight wide stance DB swings seem to reinforce good form - namely using glutes and not just "erectoring" it.


Pulling style has to do with body type. I am a lanky guy. I am 6'2" 205lbs. I can pull 355 but squat well under 300lbs. If I were to use a sumo style pull my leverages would not be working in my favor anymore. A sumo deadlift is like a combo between a squat and a deadlift and doesn't necessarily use anymore glute/ham strength than conventional in my experience.


I had a very similar experience recently. I'm tall and the conventional dead is my preferred way of pulling. About a month ago I decided to work sumos into the mix just for the sake of switching up my training a bit, and while I had just pulled 10x3 conventional with 380# w/o being near failure the week before, I was dying with 315 sumo.

This also conviced me I need to work more on posterior chain strength, which I thought I had pretty much covered. I'm not sure sumos are going to work for me though, because the inside of my knees always hurt. I tried varying the stance and hands over the course of 4 weeks, but I never found one that didn't stress my knees.

I think my best glute/ham exercise is romanian deads Dan John style. He has a description in one of his Get Up! articles. Basically it's done with a snatch grip and the entire movement is moving your butt back, ie, you shouldn't think about lowering the bar. That hits my G/H complex better than anything I've ever tried, including pull throughs with cables and sleds.... although, in the interest of full disclosure, I've never been able to try a G/H raise machine. After reading Coach Davies's last article though, I plan to try the natural style.


This really goes to body type. I'm 6'2 200 lbs my numbers are almost the opposite of yours. Sumo reps of 3@ 375. Conventional 300. So try any of the suggestions that have been given and see which ones work. Sumo is close to being a hybrid lift


I recently switched to sumo after pulling conventional almost exclusively. Sumo is a super technical lift and speed work has helped me get my form nailed and my weights to catch up with my conventional pulls. My shins really hate sumo's though, scabs are cool:-) I am going to try those snatch grip RDL's after my speed squats tomorrow, they sound like a killer.


Pulling sumo shouldn't stress your knees any more than wide squatting - how's your knee health in general? Are your knees buckling in a little when you pull sumo, or are they staying out in line with your ankles? I thought mine were staying in good form until I took a short video. Turns out they weren't - if you can have an experienced sumo puller watch your form, it would be invaluable.

I ask about the general knee health because if you have even a little bit of a patellar tracking issue, it'll show up in heavy sumo deadlifts.



gojira, where is your sticking point in the sumo DL and where is it for youR conventional DL? If it's the bottom for your sumo DL you need to bring up your hip flexors which kneeling squats are great for. If the sticking point is at the top with sumo or conventional or both then your glutes are a glaring weakness. I like Bulgarian squats or lunges onto a box to increase ROM. Your glutes will be thrashed after that.


It's at the bottom. So it may be my hip flexors. Describe kneeling squats for me. Not sure I've heard of them. Thanks.


My knee health isn't great, but not terrible. I do have tracking issues, mostly from injuries over the years, particularly from a fractured tibia in my teens that didn't heal properly, which in turn altered my gait and, over time, screwed up my knees.

I'd love for someone to look at my form, but, oddly enough, I've been lifting for 14 years and I personally know exactly zero people who lift seriously.

I'll continue to experiment with them. So far I've tried wider and narrower stances, played with foot placement, eg, more outward pointing or not, etc.

But I'm not afraid to train without them. It's kind of like the joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and tells him (or her... see, old dogs can learn new tricks) "it hurts when I do this," and the doctor replies, "then don't do that." That's part of my training philosophy, differentiating between good pain and bad pain, and eliminating movements that don't work for you, or have a higher risk factor than beniefit factor. I'd probably lump barbell rows into this category. Yeah, they're a great basic compound exercise, but I've never been able to get into a groove with them. It just feels like I'm stressing my lower back for a sub-par (for me) lat movement, so I just do other movements that do work for me, like one arm db rows.


The kneeling squat is a hip/glute movment. Here's the explanation i stole from "Get your Butt in Gear II":

Set up some padding on the floor at the base of a power rack, and position the bar so that it's slightly below shoulder level when you're on your knees on the padding. From a kneeling position, slide under the bar as if you're going to squat it and unrack the weight. At this point, you'll be upright witha 90-degree angle at your knees.

From here, simply push the butt back while looking straight ahead or slightly up. When your butt makes contact with your calves, fire your glutes in order to push the hips forward, and squeeze the glutes together as you lock out the bar.


Also for those with knee problems while pulling sumo, how is your feet angled in relation to your body?


Sounds interesting. Tomorrows a leg day. I'll give 'em a try after box squats.


There is a video of Garrett over at Diablo barbell doing kneeling squats.



Good to hear you're not locked into some sort of dogma where you're required to sumo :slightly_smiling:

If you have permanent tracking issues that can't be resolved by strengthening the VMO, calves, and proper flexibility, I'd just let them go. Though strengthening the VMO may do the trick if there's no connective tissue damage that obstructs movement.

Keystone deadlifts are great for the hamstrings and produce almost no stress on the knees and back, if playing around with the stance doesn't find a solution.

Good luck-



Did you mean hip extensors? The hip flexors are only acting as antagonists to the hip extensors and stabilizers for the femur at the hip joint in kneeling squats.