T Nation

Switching to Sumo Deadlift


#1

I have long femurs an short arms, which means that my back angle on conventional deadlifts is 10-15 degrees. I feel a lot of strain in the lumbar spine - back position is not really rounded but not 100% neutral on heavy lifts either. The other day I strained something in my back, whether a disc or muscle I’m not sure but it could be worse and I saw this coming from a mile away. I have been experimenting with a sumo stance, but technique is by far the limiting factor. I have a much more upright position with a moderate sumo stance, but the problem is that I have no drive off the floor. Conventional - 485x3 (not T&G), 230kg in competition - failed 247.5 due to excuses. 425 (about 380 kg) lbs. is easy in a sumo stance, but 455 (212kg) wouldn’t move.

I know, spread the floor and fire glutes at the same time, but any other advice? Specific assistance lifts?

Sorry for the kg’s and lbs., in Canada we train in pounds and compete in kilos.


#2

Need to be honest with yourself and identify whether in training you are allowing movement in your back once the weight is moving - otherwise no stance will help you.

That said, semi-sumo works better for most folks (think most of the heavier lifts in the non-monster classes are held by people with this stance now). It’s a reasonably different lift with more focus on muscles which are playing a slightly lesser role in the conventional DL. So start light and give it some time to develop the requisite strength.

If you really, really, really think it’s a form/cue issue, post a vidya.


#3

Using ROM progression, rack pulls or pause deadlifts might help. Those all reinforce holding a strong position throughout the lift and not only at lockout. With the sumo, you have to start from a strong position and hold it throughout or it’ll be very difficult to lock out the weight. Less upper back rounding makes it more difficult at the start but easier for the finish. I found that my upper back strength increased the most relative to anything else as my sumo technique improved.

I agree with tsantos in starting off slow and being patient. My sumo was 20 lbs less than my conventional when I first made the transition (405 vs 385). I set my training max at 340 for sumo and did a ton of volume. In 8 months my sumo went up to around 460. Don’t sacrifice upper body tightness and you’ll keep making good progress. Another thing to take away from this progress was that my upper back was very weak and sumo helped build that strength.


#4

When I started learning how to pull sumo I found wide stance box squats just above parallel using around 80-85% of my conventional max worked wonders in teaching me how to drive off the floor.

I’d imagine using an SSB or Spider bar would work even better than a straight bar.


#5

[quote]tsantos wrote:
Need to be honest with yourself and identify whether in training you are allowing movement in your back once the weight is moving - otherwise no stance will help you.

That said, semi-sumo works better for most folks (think most of the heavier lifts in the non-monster classes are held by people with this stance now). It’s a reasonably different lift with more focus on muscles which are playing a slightly lesser role in the conventional DL. So start light and give it some time to develop the requisite strength.

If you really, really, really think it’s a form/cue issue, post a vidya.[/quote]
The original post should have said that I feel a lot of strain in my back on heavy weights, not that I lose spinal position. I was having a couple of drinks after work when I typed that. Anyway, I used to have an issue with my upper back rounding and having a hard time locking out the weight, but since then I did a lot of paused deadlifts, deadlifts against bands, and SSB squats and my thoracic spine is able to maintain position. I realize that flexion under load is a good way to mess up your back, I don’t round over but like I said my back position is not perfectly straight (although not particularly rounded)on conventional deadlifts. I think the issue in my case is the shear forces from being in a nearly horizontal position. Something like atlas stones would send me straight to the hospital. I can pull with a perfectly straight back but due to shorter arms and longer femurs it’s basically a SLDL and my hips and shoulders are at the same level - not a strong position. I think that I can maintain good position with a semi-sumo stance, but getting the weight off the floor is the issue.


#6

[quote]chris_ottawa wrote:

The original post should have said that I feel a lot of strain in my back on heavy weights, not that I lose spinal position. I was having a couple of drinks after work when I typed that. Anyway, I used to have an issue with my upper back rounding and having a hard time locking out the weight, but since then I did a lot of paused deadlifts, deadlifts against bands, and SSB squats and my thoracic spine is able to maintain position. I realize that flexion under load is a good way to mess up your back, I don’t round over but like I said my back position is not perfectly straight (although not particularly rounded)on conventional deadlifts. I think the issue in my case is the shear forces from being in a nearly horizontal position. Something like atlas stones would send me straight to the hospital. I can pull with a perfectly straight back but due to shorter arms and longer femurs it’s basically a SLDL and my hips and shoulders are at the same level - not a strong position. I think that I can maintain good position with a semi-sumo stance, but getting the weight off the floor is the issue.[/quote]

I have the exact same build as you and the same nearly stiff legged stance on conventional, and have also had back problems when pulling sumo. Try narrowing your stance slightly like the other guy said (semi sumo) and don’t be afraid to lean forward. This will allow you to generate speed without rounding or straining your back, because your legs are more underneath you and can apply pressure to the ground better.

Trying to keep a vertical torso and use an ultra wide stance is good in theory but it usually results in the back rounding ironically, since it’s hard to break the floor with the feet spread so much.


#7

With sumo, you’re rarely gonna be fast off the floor. I’m a very explosive lifter and on the heaviest attempts, I’m slower off the floor and faster the further up I get. It’s natural, you’ll just have to get used to it.