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How To Perform the Sumo Deadlift and Increase Your Lift

How To Perform the Sumo Deadlift and Increase Your Lift

by | Jun 7, 2021 | Fitness

Let’s take a look at how to properly perform the sumo deadlift.  This is a variation of the conventional deadlift. The sumo deadlift is often used by females and in competitive powerlifting or strongman competitions as it has a greater emphasis on the hips and legs and less on the back.  It is not as common to see in general strengthening programs as there is little carry over to functional movements and real world activities. 

Muscles Used During the Sumo Deadlift

Before we look at the sumo deadlift, let’s review the muscles that we will be targeting throughout the lift. The sumo deadlift will focus more on the glutes and quads as well as the erector spinae.  There is not much emphasis on the hamstrings as seen in the romanian deadlift or conventional deadlift.   

The sumo deadlift will require more mobility in the hips, primarily opening the front of the hips to really get the legs wide.  This is to maintain the bar as close to the body as possible without much of a forward trunk lean.

How to Properly Perform the Sumo Deadlift

For a visual representation of the sumo deadlift form watch this video.

When approaching the bar, you want your feet to be placed as needed to have a vertical shin in the bottom position.  Many athletes will externally rotate their feet to assist with opening the front of the hips as well as getting as close to the bar as possible. Typically this is about a 40 degree angle but will vary slightly depending on the athlete’s anatomy.  

The arms should simply be an extension of the body and used as hooks to hold the bar.  This means the arms should be vertical throughout the entire lift with the elbows in full extension.  

The hands should be just outside shoulder width apart. Competitive athletes will typically assume a hook grip as it places less stress on the biceps.  Another option includes an alternating grip where one hand is pronated and the other is supinated.  This allows the bar to roll into one hand as you lose grip of the other.  On a side note, it’s always a good idea to alternate which hand is pronated and which hand is supinated to keep from getting muscle imbalances side to side.  

Once the athlete is in the bottom position, they will push outwards through their legs to lift the bar off the ground.  When lifting a maximal amount of weight, many athletes will build momentum over an extended period of time from the bottom position before the bar leaves the ground. The most challenging part of the sumo deadlift is getting it started. This is directly in contrast to the conventional deadlift where the hardest part is the lockout.  

As the bar comes off the ground, we want to keep the bar as close to the body as possible throughout the lift.  The knees extend simultaneously with the hips to continue lifting the bar upwards until finishing the lift at the top.  The knees and hips are fully extended and the bar is resting against the thigh.  

The bar should be lowered back down in a controlled manner for the next rep.  


    Dr Joseph Rosi II, DPT, Cert DN, CSCS

    Dr. Rosi was born and raised in Dayton, OH. He graduated from The University of Findlay with a dual degree – a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology as well as a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish where he was immersed in the culture and lived in Costa Rica while studying at La Universidad de Costa Rica- San Pedro.  He then returned to University of Findlay and continued to graduate school to pursue his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. During this time he completed mission work in Nicaragua, in which he served many young families who were unable to access the most basic forms of healthcare. 
    After graduation, he set out to continue to learn and enhance his hands-on clinical skills, where he spent the next two years completing a Manual Therapy Certification from The University of Saint Augustine in St. Augustine, FL.  During this time he also completed his certification in Dry Needling from the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy. He also took coursework and furthered his specialty into male pelvic health. During this time he traveled, learned and worked in many different clinics in multiple states including Ohio, Texas, Indiana, South Carolina, New Mexico, California, and now Florida where Alinea Performance was born.

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    Joseph Rosi, DPT

    Dr. Rosi is a performance orthopedic and men’s pelvic health physical therapist. He has a passion for helping people get out of pain, recover from an injury, and increase performance. He believes everyone should take the time to learn how to move optimally before injuries ever occur. Outside of working with clients, he spends time with his wife and loves to travel the world.


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