Sumo Deadlift Form : Learn How To Perfect The Movement

If you were scouring the internet looking for a place where you can truly learn the sumo deadlift form, you have come to the right spot.

In this guide I am going to cover quite possibly my favorite strength training movement in the history of strength training movements.

The sumo deadlift is a display of raw strength, power, and bad a**-ness ( is that a word? I am making it one for this guide! ).

I am going to give you the most in depth information you can find on the internet in regards to sumo deadlift form, including not only how to do it, but how to warm up for it, how to keep yourself injury free, and much more.

Therefore I need you to remain locked into this guide in it’s entirety. No skimming around, checking messages, or taking your eyes off this page until you are done reading.

Do we have a deal?

Awesome, then we shall get started!

Sumo Deadlift Form

Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift, Which Is Better?

When it comes to the sumo deadlift vs the conventional deadlift, people often ask which is better.

Just a quick reminder, the sumo deadlift looks like this.

sumo deadlift form

** don’t mind my lifting face!! **

The conventional deadlift looks like this.

The truth is, one isn’t inherently “better” than the other. They both have their differences, pros, and cons.

Let’s cover some of them now, and we will be biasing the sumo deadlift form obviously as that is the star of this guide today!

Muscles Used & Stance Width

During a conventional deadlift where your feet are closer in stance and you tend to use more of your lower back / spinal erectors.

It is also generally speaking a more back dominant movement.

During a sumo deadlift, you tend to recruit more hips and adductor (inside groin).

This makes primarily a hip dominant movement.

Neither one is better or worse than the other, they just simply have their differences.

In my two cents, from personal experience, from coaching people for 5+ years, and from basic human anatomy, the sumo deadlift seems to be the more advantageous position.

This could be for a few reasons.

Number one, the wider your feet are out, the more external rotation you create in your hip.

Generally speaking the more external rotation you have in your hips, the more you femur can move freely through the socket without causing any hip impingement.

Number two, with the stance being wider, you don’t have to bend over as much through your lower back.

This can save people from some pretty serious low back injuries.

*There will be some people arguing with me here. Again, this is not for EVERYONE, but for the majority of people this is what I have seen through my years of coaching and research *.

Which brings me to my next point.

Risk Of Injury

Now listen, you could get out of your car in an awkward position and hurt your knee, ankle, foot, etc.

You also have to be conscious when doing exercises that you aren’t using too heavy of a load for what you can currently handle in order to protect yourself from injury.

Yet the point being, the sumo deadlift generally leads towards being the “safer”, less risk of injury variation of the two deadlifts.

This could mainly be for reasons as mentioned above.

When you have a wider stance, you create more room for your body to move. It is the same with a squat.

If you take a bit wider stance of a squat, you can usually get a bit deeper in the movement. Why? Because you are eating more external rotation and allowing your femurs to move a bit more freely.

Now this is not a one size fits all as literally everybody’s body structure is independent to that one individual, but again for majority of people, a wider stance tends to me a bit more safe.

As well as once more, in a conventional deadlift it can put a good amount of strain on the low back.

Through the nature of that movement, you have to bend over more and load your spine in a more direct manner.

With the sumo deadlift, you don’t have to bend straight down as much, rather you can use your hips for more leverage which ultimately puts less stress on your low back.

Can Pull More Weight

Once more, this is not a steadfast line for everyone, but generally speaking an individual can pull more weight with a sumo stance versus a conventional stance.

This is generally because of the decreased range of motion when it comes to the sumo deadlift form.

Now some people will fight to the death that sumo is “cheating!”.

Which, I am not sure how an exercise can “cheat”? Your ex girlfriend or boyfriend cheated back in 10th grade.. not a sumo deadlift! 😉

Yet for the most part, people tend to be stronger in the sumo deadlift variation compared to the conventional deadlift purely due to mechanics and how far the bar has to travel to lockout.

Sumo Deadlift Form : The Tutorial

Now that we have dove into the main differences between a sumo deadlift form and a conventional deadlift form, let’s now do our deep dive on specifically the sumo deadlift.

The sumo deadlift is a full body strength training movement. I mentioned above that it is a more hip dominant movement and also works more of the inner groin / adductor region, but overall it is a full body strength training movement.

Therefore, we need to treat it as such. You cannot just focus on the lower half of your body when it comes to performing a deadlift, your body is like one big chain.

All of the pieces have to link together top to bottom. With that being said, we will start with the major muscles besides the lower body ones we mentioned above and how to properly warm up for the sumo deadlift.

Sumo Deadlift Other Muscles Working

The two main muscles that we are going to concern ourself with for the sumo deadlift outside of the obvious lower body work that needs to happen is the core complex and the lats.

Some might argue the core and lower body could be combined into one, and they very well could because they have a ton of overlap.

Yet point being, your core being strong, rigid, and working properly is one of, if not the most important component of having a strong and safe sumo deadlift form.

I am going to link a quick video here below on how to properly brace your core.

The reason I am linking this video is because I would say 90% say of people are not bracing their core correctly when going into a sumo deadlift.

This then leads to not only lower back injuries but also a decreased amount of weight being lifted.

Properly working to have your core protect and propel you forward is a massive component of having a strong and safe sumo deadlift.

We will touch more on our core here in a second.

The second muscle group we are looking at is your lats.

sumo deadlift form lat muscles

Your lats are on the side / back on your body, they run from your bottom ribcage inserting into your humorous (upper arm).

The are the power house of any strong, safe lift whether it be squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin ups, etc.

Being able to properly activate and use your lats in a deadlift is again a key component to having a safe and strong deadlift.

Most often times when you see lower back rounding or injuries occur during the sumo deadlift it is due to the lats not being fired or the core not being braced.

In this tutorial we will make sure both of those are covered, but I just wanted to have you know that you need to take the approach of this truly being a full body movement, not just a lower body movement.

It was one mistake I made very early on in my career that led to a lot of injuries and decreased strength, so I do not want you making the same mistake.

Sumo Deadlift Form : How To Warm Up

Perfecting the sumo deadlift starts long before even touching the barbell.

It starts with a proper warm up to get the muscles activated, firing, and ready to work.

There were 3 main components of the sumo deadlift if you recall.

Your lower body, your core, and your lats.

A proper warm up for a sumo deadlift should encompass all 3 of those components to ensure safety and maximal strength output.

Keep in mind, this is a warm up. You are not taking these movements to failure. You are not going balls to the walls.

This is simply to activate the right muscles and get them firing, not fatiguing them completely.

Let’s talk about what that might look like below.

Exercise #1 – Activate Glutes, Adductors, Lower Body

We know that your lower body, glutes and adductors specifically, play a huge role in performing the sumo deadlift.

So, why don’t we fire those puppies up before hand?!

The adductor glute bridge is a great way to do just that.

The adductor glute bridge involves hip extension, aka extending your hips at the top of a glute bridge.

This is the same hip extension that has to occur at the top of a sumo deadlift when you lock out!

It also recruits the adductor muscles by squeezing the ball or object you place between your knees.

Getting the adductor muscles firing before heading into the sumo deadlift can quite possibly make all of the difference in the work.

How Many Reps & Sets

Sets – 2 sets

Reps – 6-10 reps

  • Really focus on squeezing the ball hard, pushing your heels into the ground, and think about pinching a penny between your butt cheeks at the top*.

Exercise #2 – Activate Core

The next step in our process is to activate your core musculature.

Now, this is not your traditional sit up or crunches. We are looking for anti – movement based core exercises because when you go to do a deadlift, you want your core to not round or over extend right?

So why would you do a sit up that is going to round your back?

We want anti rotation / anti movement exercises that are meant to resist movement and maintain a neutral spine.

Two examples can be here below.

The pallof press is great because you are working to resist the movement as you push your hands out.

The side plank is a classic core stabilization movement that resists rotation in your spine.

How Many Sets & Reps?

Sets – 2 set

Reps – 6-8 each arm for the pallof press, 15-35 seconds for the side plank

  • Remember, this is about maintaining a rigid core and resisting movement. You want to think of yourself as a concrete statue here!*

Exercise #3 – Lat Activation

Last but not least we want an exercise to activate your lats, those powerhouses we talked about earlier.

The straight arm band pullover is a perfect exercise for that.

You are using your lats to pull the band closer to your body, just like you will when you go to do your deadlift, keeping the bar close to your body.

How Many Sets and Reps?

Sets – 2 sets

Reps – 6-10 reps

  • Really think about bringing your elbows and hands to your hips*.

Sumo Deadlift Form : Step By Step

Alright, now we are warmed up, muscles firing, and ready to tackle this sumo deadlift form!

I am going to break things down piece by piece, but first, I am going to link a tutorial video I did here on exactly how to execute the movement.

Now, let’s break it down step by step in writing !

Stance Width

Your stance width will be truly determined by your own specific limb length, joint structure, etc, therefore I can’t give you an exact answer.

That being said, I can give you a good recommendation and place to start.

Your stance width should be outside of your hip width to start.

From there it becomes variable, I am 6’4 and have long legs, my feet almost hit the plates as you can see here.

Yet this is what feels comfortable for me and what I find the most advantageous for strength and injury prevention.

Someone else may take not as wide of a stance and a more moderate approach.

I would encourage you to play around and see what feels best for you. Generally speaking your body will let you know what feels bet.

From here, slightly point your toes out. Not like a penguin, but a slight point outwards will do just fine.

Bending Over To Grab The Bar

Spoiler alert, we are going to touch on this a bit more in the Q&A section of this guide.

Yet for right now, when you get your stance width set up, I want you to push your hips back as you descend down the grab the bar.

Your shins should be damn near vertical the ground, meaning, you should not be squatting down the get the bar.

When you lead with your hips back first this allows your shins to stay vertical as you descend down the grab the bar.

You also do not want your hips too low to start, which, if you are squatting down, they will be.

We will touch on this soon!

Grip The Bar

There are two options here.

The first option is a double overhand grip. This is when both palms are facing you.

The second option is a mixed grip. This is when one palm is facing you and the other is an overhand grip.

Here is my two cents on these options.

The double overhand is my preferred option because of two reasons.

I can set my lats better ( we will touch on that here shortly ) and I wear wrist straps.

I feel that I can use my lats better in an overhand grip (this is purely personal preference!) and I am able to use wrist wraps so I do not lose any strength.

My favorite are versa Gripps, I can link them HERE.

Now, if I were not using wrist wraps, I would lean towards the mixed grip because typically you can lift heavier loads that way.

Either way, once again, I would try both out and see what works best for you!

Set Your Lats

This is a strategy that has helped me more than words can describe.

The component of setting and engaging your lats is one that that take your sumo deadlift to the next level.

You are going to want to pull your shoulders down and away from your ears and try and squeeze an orange between your arm pits.

You can see that in this video here. (This was a video taken from content inside My Clubhouse!).

This will ensure you can keep your nipples facing the wall in front of you and maintain a proper spine position.

Rip The Ground Apart With Your Feet

This cue is massive and once again, something that has helped myself and a ton of my clients.

I want you to think about ripping the ground apart with your feet like you are trying to create a volcano crack in the ground.

Or, imagine that there is a huge wad of cash underneath the ground below you and the only way to get that cash is to rip the ground apart with your feet.

You should be trying to break the outside seams of your shoes you are ripping the ground apart so hard.

Now, you still want to maintain your 3 points of contact. Meaning you still want your big toe, pinky toe, and heel touching the ground.

Yet ripping the ground apart with your feet is what you should be thinking about doing the entire time.

Most people think a deadlift is “down and up” when in reality you should be thinking about pushing your knees out as well as our next cue here below.

Push The Ground Away From You

Now that you have gotten set up, using your lats, the whole 9, you want to think about pushing the ground away from you as you simultaneously rip the ground apart.

Again, most people think “up!” When they want to pull the weight off the ground and understandably so.

But I actually want you to think about pushing the ground away from you as you rip the ground apart.

This will ensure you are rising your hips and your chest at the same time, keeping a proper back position, and using the right muscles.

Keep Your Chest Facing The Wall In Front Of You

If you have a logo on your shirt, that logo should be facing the wall in front of you the entire time.

You don’t ever want to look down towards the ground, this will end up rounding your back and lead to injury over time.

Make sure to have the logo on your chest facing the wall in front of you, or, just show your nipples to the wall in front of you!

Lock Your Hips And Knees Out

For the Sumo Deadlift form at the very top of the movement you want to think about locking your hips and knees out at the same time.

Sumo Deadlift Form Mistakes

Now that we covered the main principles of the sumo deadlift step by step, let’s cover some most common mistakes.

Hips Rising First

One common mistake I see being made with the sumo deadlift is that your hips hike up before you pull the bar off the ground.

This results in loss of power as well as leading to potential injury down the road.

How to fix this is simply starting with your hips up in a higher position.

If you record yourself lifting and you notice your hips always rise to a certain point first before even starting the movement, then simply just start with your hips there instead!

That is a simple fix most people can make.

Again, do not squat down to the bar. You want your shins vertical to the ground and you want to try wedge yourself between the bar.

If your hips start in a higher position then they will be less likely to hike up.

Over Extending Hips

People often hear “extend your hips” or “squeeze your glutes” and take that as a reason to hump the air as hard as humanly possible.

When you are looking to lock out your deadlift at the top, do not think about over extending your hips and squeezing your glutes super hard.

This will lead to over extending your lower back.

Rather, think about locking your knees and hips out at the same time, that will help.

Also think about your stomach / core being a bucket of water. If you over extend your hips and flare your ribs, that bucket of water is going to spill.

Be sure to keep your ribs over tup of your pelvis when you lock your deadlifts out.

Last but not least, as opposed to thinking “thrusting forward” at the top, think about pinching a penny between your butt cheeks.

I don’t know why you’d do that but here you are. That will help with the over extending of the hips at the top.

Back Rounding

Quite possibly the most common mistake which is that your back rounds during the movement.

I think most things we covered here today will help that, but just to recap.

  • Keep your nipples facing the wall in front of you
  • Don’t set your hips too low, start with your hips higher
  • Engage your lats
  • Brace your core like I am going to punch you, or like you gotta poop! ( But don’t poop!)

Trying To Lift With Arms

The last most common mistake I see people making with the sumo deadlift is trying to lift the bar with their arms.

Remember, your arms are just hooks. Your arms aren’t lifting the weights.

Your legs are pushing the ground away from you.

Your lats are what is holding the bar in place, not your biceps or your arms, your lats hold the bar in place (which is why setting your lats are so important!).

If you try to jerk the weight up with your arms, it won’t work.

Maintain a rigid core, use your lats, rip the ground apart, and push the ground away from you as you stand up.

Don’t focus on pulling with your arms.

Pro Tip : Don’t Quit

Oftentimes during the sumo deadlift, the weight isn’t going to immediately fly off the ground.

It is going to be a slow push off of the ground.

The pro tip for you is don’t quit. Most people don’t hit the numbers they want to hit on a sumo deadlift because they quit during the first 1-3 inches of the movement.

Once you push past that initial first 1-3 inches, it becomes easier and you will be able to use your hip drive to lock it out.

Just don’t get discouraged or quit when the weight doesn’t fly off the ground, that is totally normal and you should expect it!

Don’t rush it, stick with it, and you got it!

Sumo Deadlift Form : Final Pull

Well, that is finally the end of this guide.

I hope this information here today helped with your sumo deadlift form but also with all of the things surrounding the sumo deadlift.

The warm up, the set up, the mistakes, all of it.

If you are looking to take your sumo deadlift form and strength to the next level, I have a 60 day program to Demolish Your Deadlift that you just may be interested in.

sumo deadlift form

You automatically gain access to it when you join My Clubhouse .

Inside the Clubhouse we also have an exercise database of literally hundreds of technique videos just like the ones you saw here in this article.

It will give you week by week workout programming to take your deadlift to the next level!

Feel free to check it out, beyond that, I hope you enjoyed the guide and happy deadlifting!