Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlifting

Posted on August 3, 2020 by Caitlyn Miller

The biggest powerlifting debate out there is, sumo or conventional deadlifting? These different lifting  techniques both have their pros and cons. I have tried both sumo and deadlift and can vouch for both of these movements. I think there is a time and place for both of these. 

Table of Contents

  1. Conventional Deadlift
  2. Sumo Deadlift
  3. Final Thoughts

Conventional Deadlift

First, let’s discuss the setup of the conventional deadlift. You should try to be as close to the bar as possible. Your feet should be hip width apart and toes pointed forward. When you go to lift the bar, make sure your butt is low to the group and not up in the air. You need to keep your back flat, do NOT round your back as this can lead to injuries. Keeping a natural curve in your spine, sticking out butt when low to the ground, keeping your chest high, and placing your weight your heels will help you maximize the weight you lift. When you lift the bar up, you are basically dragging the bar against your shins and keeping the bar as close to you as possible all the way up. This prevents your center of gravity from shifting too far forward, which protects your back and helps maximize the amount of weight you lift. As you go to set the bar down, slowly bring it to the ground. Please, do not drop your weight. This is sloppy and shows lack of control.

I used to lift conventional before I hurt my back during a competition. I swore by lifting conventional! However, I found that this may not be the best position if you have chronic back issues. 

Sumo Deadlift

This position received its name from sumo wrestlers, as it it mimics their movement. Sumo is different from conventional deadlift when it comes to the position of your hands and feet. When you get into position for sumo, your feet are positioned wider than your hands are. I recommend positioning your feet as wide as the indents on each side of the bar. When your feet are in position, your toes should be turned out about 30 degrees instead of pointed straight as in conventional. To maximize the weight you lift, you should sit slightly back to keep your center of gravity close to your body as you raise and lower the weight. 

As I stated above, I used to perform conventional. However, once I hurt my back I decided to try sumo. Now I LOVE sumo! I have less back pain and it is slightly easier to me. By easier I mean, I don’t have to lift the bar as far up as I did with conventional. This is one, due to me being so short, and two, the stance makes you closer to the ground. The stance does take some getting used to as it feels awkward as first. I definitely recommend trying the position for a little while.

Final Thoughts

Both of these lifting positions have great benefits. I recommend trying both of them in your lifting career. I would recommend sticking to one of them for about 2-3 weeks and then trying the other position. This will give you plenty of time to get a feel of the position and make a decision about which one you prefer. Sumo deadlifts put more stress on your shoulders rather than your back. Therefore, if you are someone that has lower back issues, I would recommend trying sumo. 

What is your favorite deadlift position? 

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