T Nation

Sumo DL Fail (Help)



Hi, I posted a thread about sumo Dl and got some pretty good replies. I switched to blocks for 3 weeks now.

Basically last week I pulled 1703, today I did 1652(pics) and failed 182.5 twice, both hook and with straps. I could feel my lower back itching to round and knew the only way I’d get it up was to round. I really want that Double BW dead, 192kg. I’d be happy if I got it from low blocks. Should I lower the blocks a little? What exercises could I do to increase the Dl?

I’m running boring but big, so day is Dl 5/3/1 and FS 510, day two is FS 5/3/1 and snatch RDl 510. Abs both days. I thought of doing core work every day I lift, to increase core strength.

Mobility- 30min to one hour every single day. I take it very seriously. It seems that I round my back slightly and I can usually fee slight discomfort in the lumbar region.
I’m open to any tips and critiques. The DL is my fave lift and I hate failing at it. I’m legit considering switching to Trap bar DL and maxing out on it as it’s more forgiving. Thoughts? Thanks for the help.

Vids below


147.5*3 (today)

182 fail


The pull from the floor has always been my weakest point. I’ll be interested to see what the veterans have to say. For me, I started pulling a lot of deficit DL to help out. Lots of singles or doubles between 85-95% over a 4 week training period. My understanding is that pulling from blocks or pins greatly increases strength at the top, but does nothing for coming off the floor. Not to say they don’t help, as I pull from blocks or pins, or both on a weekly basis. But if the bar won’t leave the floor, I think you’re easy target is your posterior chain and possibly upper back. Deficit DL, straight legged DL (I know, not favored by very many) and RDL would be the 3 best exercises that I would choose to build strength off the floor.


When you say mobility, what are you doing? I’ve started using the Horse stance to improve my starting position for sumo deads, it looks like you would benefit from that as well. Better starting position (hips lower and closer to bar) could help with what youre feeling in your low back, as well as making things easier off the floor. Google “horse stance axis sports” for a page that’ll help you a lot (I would post the link but i think they tend to get taken down). Its at axissportstherapy.com, it should be the first result. Give that a try, it definitely wont hurt


Your shoulders are way in front of the bar. You need to shift your center of gravity back onto your heels. Also, push your knees out before you start the pull and try to get your hips open a bit more.


@bctx1981 Same here in regards to pull off floor. I heard many top lifters saying that deficirs strengthen lockout and blocks pulls help off the floor.

The logic is that you’ll have less momentum and speed at lockout on a deficit, whereas Block pullls put you into a shitty position with good lockout. I’m too inexperienced to comment tbh. RDL’S are fantastic, I’m doing them 5*10 with a snatch grip right now.

@Mence97 Various hip mobility exercises. Pigeon pose, butterfly, lungee variations, deep squats, hamstring stretches, glute bridges and broomstick rdl/gm sets of 50 reps. Also trying to land a full side split. I worka desk job and do everything I can to avoid sitting. Thank you for the link. I’ll check it and get back to you!

@chris_ottawa Yes, I agree. My shoulders are too far in front of the bar. Somehow I know that my back isn’t completely straight yet even off blocks I end up sometimes pulling from a shit position. One thing I notice is that I felt the brunt of the load on my core, which I guess means I need to strengthen it.

I want to do the following:

Day 1:
Sumo Dl off blocks 5/3/1
Paused conv. DL 50-55% 33 with 2-4 sec pause
10 Fs

Day 3
Front squat 5/3/1
RDL 5*10

No other lifts that compress the spine asides from OHP. Would it be overkill? I think it’s reasonable and would hammer my weak points.


Just from the videos, first video hips are way high, second video you have your shoulders in front of the bar as stated already. Third video didn’t look like you really tried also your need to open the hips your conventional pulling with a sumo stance. Work on those and hit some heavy back squats to get more leg strength.


All of the above, but also gain more weight and muscle. You have a very big frame to fill.

If you are feeling discomfort in your back, then add more muscle to your back. Add three sets of lats/upper back work, and three sets of back extensions (work up to weighted if you can’t do them weighted yet) for 10-20 reps each set on every lower body session. If the upper back/lat work isn’t something like rows that use your lower back as a stabilizer, then you can even super set them to reduce time.

Also three cues that you need to be doing: open your hips, arch, spread the floor. If you are doing those three right with the weight on your heels you are going to be in the right position to pull. Opening your hips will get the bar closer to your hips, arching will pull your hips down and get your shoulders behind the bar, and spreading the floor will get your hips to do their job right off the blocks/ground and enforce the opening the hips thing throughout the lift. To clarify, you arch once you’ve gotten your hands on the bar.


@Vincepac1500 On third video I could’ve grindes it out but I wasn’t happy with the pressure I felt on my back. I will work on better hip mobility to be able to keep ny shoulders behind the bar.

@Destrength I’d like to add some weight, yeah. I don’t want to become fat though. I don’t really care about have chiseled abs, but I don’t want to carry so much fat it hinders my performance and appearance. Thus I eat a surplus of mostly clean food. I’m gaining weight but slowly, I started bulking in September and have gained 20+ lbs since then.

I do around 100-150 reps of pull ups and some for rows every week. Split them into upper body workouts. Good idea, on the back extensions. They used to be my go to erector exercise. I did 125 36 and 1455 today. Taking it light since I haven’t done them in a couple of months. Fantastic idea haha!

Thank you for the cues. Results in the video below today. I did sets of 2 paused as I took a deload because I’m beat from constantly working up above 90 percent. It already feels a lot better.


Very probably a waste of time unless you’re coming back from some serious injuries. Something like Agile 8 would most likely work as well or better.

A whole buttload of back raises. Maybe 200 per week. Don’t add weight until you can knock out 50 in one hit.

@Destrength and @Vincepac1500 covered the technique

Honestly, I’d back your TM waaaay down and pull from the floor focusing on good technique. IMO front squats won’t help your sumo DL much, although they’re amazing for conventional if paused and heavy. If you’ve got access to a safety squat bar, that would probably be a better option. I also think Kroc rows are about as good a DL helper as you’ll find.


You’re not doing a sumo, you’re doing a conventional with the feet out.

Your knees need to turn out more. When viewed from the side your shins should be perfectly vertical NOT inclined forward. When your shins are vertical your shoulders will be almost directly over the bar, not forward as in a conventional. When done correctly, your femurs and feet will be parallel. This is not affected by stance width. Narrow stance sumo lifters (Inaba, John Inzer) and moderate sumo lifters (Coan) still have the turned out thighs and duck stance.

It takes a lot of mobility and balance in addition to adductor strength to correctly sumo deadlift. In short think of the sumo as a wide stance half squat. For a perfect example look up Mike Bridges whos said the sumo was a squat with the bar in the hands.

Good luck.


@MarkKO I do mobility because of my desk job. I try to work as much as possible standing but it’s not always possible. If I don’t do it I literally straight leg my sumos lol.

Notes taken on back raises. I’ve done 110 for sets of 20+ as burnout, so I’m going to load them up moderately now. Will add reverse bw hypers on the other day.

I will take the advice of pulling lower and will decrease the TM by 10 pounds. Ego is taking a hit though, but longevity is more important.

@jbackos Thank you for the thorough explanation. I will go with a wider stance and lighter weight until my mobility improves. Will turn feet out a lot more as well.

The shins vertical position is very difficult for me to get into but I will work on it.


Your toes look really narrow try pointing them out more may help with getting the knees out as the should be behind the bar not over it


Good advice already given about your feet and hips.

One thing I would add is that your upper back leaks power. You should really pay attention firing up your lats and upper back during the lift. I’m quite sure that alone will fix at least two errors: 1) bar drifting away from you and 2) that slight lumbar rounding you are concerned about.

Of course it is practically impossible to keep your upper back totally straight when lifting really heavy, but you should always try to do that as aggressively as humanly possible.

I had similar issues (lower back pain, weakness of the floor) in the past, and fixing the upper back helped a great deal. In my case it wasn’t even about my back strength, it was all about the focus. My upper back has always been very strong, I was just too passive activating it.

Bret Conteras has written a great article about rounding:

Hope this helps man!


I don’t know about that. Look at Yuri Belkin, Krzysztof Wierzbicki, or Mike Tuchscherer, they all keep their backs straight. Some lifters intentionally allow their back (upper, lower, or both) to round to give them better leverages off the floor, but this makes the lockout more difficult and increases the risk of injury.