T Nation

Switching to Sumo Deadlifts


Conventional deadlifts have been putting a strain on my lower back since 455 a year ago i can deadlift 545 but the next morning it feels like a train hit my back. I have short legs a relatively long torso and long arms. I can get into position but it never felt real stable. I have a problem in the hole on deadlifts i dont have the flexibility to get my hips and back into the exact position for optimal pulling. Ive tried mobility work and everything else. My 545 deadlift looks exactly lik my 315 or 405 deadlift same speed close to body i have just never felt comfortable in the hole.

Enter sumo deadlift.

Ive tried these about 4 times on and off.
Ive pulled 405 sumomy first time trying with relative ease. I have zero back pain when doing these and they feel much more natural to me.

My set up on sumo: wide stance feet out 60-65 degrees shins wedged against bar. To get to the bar i externally rotate my hips and sit down grab the bar pull the slack out and explode up.

So ive been convinced to switch it feels much more natural.

My concern is assistance work to bring these sumo deadlifts up.

Someone suggested a wider stance RDL Glute Ham Raises

I also squat wide not quite as wide as my sumo deadlift but damn near close.

Any good sumo deadlifters out there with some good advice let me know. I follow wendler 531 and im gonna be working off a 315 max to get intothe swing of things adding 20 lbs per cycle


If you want to learn to sumo, you have to sumo. Bring your numbers down this cycle and hit your reps hard, focus on building the proper mobility and positions. When I started sumo, I had already been using it for a few months as an assistance exercise so it was an easy switch, also watch as many andrey belyeav videos and sumo technique videos as possible. Also remember to keep in conventional as an assistance exercise to keep your back strong, but care less about weight and more about form as it is not your main style any more.


How would you recommend programing the conventional deadlifts in?

Maybe doing a 5x5? Or 3x5? Adding 5 lbs a month until I stall then go back a cycle?


How would you recommend programing the conventional deadlifts in?

Maybe doing a 5x5? Or 3x5? Adding 5 lbs a month until I stall then go back a cycle?


I have previously used semi-sumo as my main DL once a week with conv. DL twice as well, one day quite heavy (~85%) and the other day light (~70%). Worked well for me, along with squatting 3x/week too of course.
Don't get caught up in assistance work though, especially with sumo as squats work a very similar movement pattern and mostly the same muscles.

If you want to peak, the conv. DLs can be programmed to go 5x5, 4x4, 3x3, 2x2 with increasing weight alongside a singles/doubles progression for sumo. I never perform higher reps with sumo, as I don't feel it is productive. My main strength with the sumo position is the tension I can generate for singles and doubles compared with what I could get conventionally.
Good Luck.


OK I'm gonna do conventional like this I'll do them after squats.

Week1 5x5 315lbs

Week2 4x4 320lbs

Week3 3x3 330lbs

Add 5 pounds for every new cycle.

Does this seem like a good strategy?

What would you recommend if I stall on that approach?

Just go back 2 cycles?


It will work, but if you are planning to use it continuously then I would consider varying it slightly depending on results etc. - maybe do a couple of weeks of speed pulls before returning to it if you begin to stall, or even change it entirely. 10x3 at various percentages (maybe start with 80% and follow a 3:1 progression such as 80%, 82.5%, 85%, 70%, reset) could also be great, particularly if you're not peaking.
Whatever you do, it's not the main lift; don't get overly distracted as long as your sumo is progressing.
Stay Strong(er)


By the way good move DLing after squats, it really helps when it comes to a meet.


Yeah can do 5x5, or whatever. I at one point did 3x8 to really hit my back hard. Don't get to caught up in the weight as you are doing this to build your sumo, so just make sure you are getting solid work in and keep the reps at least 5 for your purposes. Maybe even beltless, just put in solid work and the gains will come on both.


Thanks I do a varied assistance on Squat day.

This is what my new program will look like.

531 squat
2 sec paused squat
Speed sumos
Conventional deadlift at low weights with good form
Ghetto Glute Ham raise on lat pull down
Hyper extensions
Hanging leg raises

I do a decent amount of assistance but I'm currently prepping for a meet 3 months out and fixing weak points.


Aaaaah! The volume!
Seriously though, I don't think you need all that in one session. Keep it to sumo one day, conv. another, if possible, and don't add RDL after squats and conventional deadlifts - it's surely just too much. More assistance is not better in my opinion (and many other people's). It detracts from the competition lifts.


Honestly I'm not sure that you really need to be doing much conventional at this point. If you've built a 545 DL with bad starting position (which is what I'm assuming you have), your back isn't going to limit your sumo pull.

If you were a sumo puller who sucked at conventional I would have a completely different opinion, but since you're having back issues I'd say you might be better off not doing conventional pulls for a while.

I'm in the same boat as you currently, but I also can tell you you won't just lose your conventional strength if you're anything like me. I had knee surgery last summer and could barely squat 135 when I was able to do them again, but I pulled over 400 stiff-legged the first time I did them. Now I'm not you, but I'd wager back strength doesn't just disappear, especially when you are doing things like heavy squats and even sumo pulls.


Well thanks for the help guys i appreciate it.

Ill post some videos in a few weeks for a form check review maybe a 315 for 5


I train both sumo and conventional and have been able to get my sumo up to the same level as my conventional pull. I feel, however, as though my sumo has more development potential than my conventional pull. This was surprising for me, as I didn't ever consider myself built for sumo.

The only advice that I can offer you is to take your time to nail in your technique. I found the transition to sumo to be technically difficult -- I needed to find the perfect foot width and angle, I needed to learn how to crank open the hips and knees while pulling, I needed to learn how to transition to lockout (which feels different than conventional), I needed to learn how to pull back and bring the hips to the bar.

Best of luck!


What do you guys think heres an easy pull at 345 slowly transitioning


315 x 5 x 5 = 7875# total volume
320 x 4 x 4 = 5120# total volume
330 x 3 x 3 = 2970# total volume

This kind of stuff looks great on paper but it doesn't make the grade, IMO, in real life. If you can squat 315 25 times, you can do better weights for fewer sets.

I think you can do better than this... volume should wave UP, not down. Food for thought.


Hey thanks strength dawg. I never thought of it that way. I was thinking of programming 531 conventional in as well. I dk if im gonna stick with sumo or not. I just recently watched diesel crews deadlift technique video. I dont think keeping your shins straight in conventional is good for everyone...maybe the smaller lifters but it seems if i keep the bar about 2-3 inches away about mid foot and bend my knees until the bar hits my shins is a better pulling position for me.