Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift

Written by natural powerlifter and PhD sponsored athlete Merat Tafreshi

The Deadlift, considered the king of the three powerlifts and the best indication of raw strength for any lifter, gym goer or athlete. Even in the world of equipped powerlifting there is only so much the equipment can do, the majority of it, will have to come down to brute force and technique.

However, it is also an exercise that many people do incorrectly due to incorrect form and technique, or simply not doing the stance that is best for their levers and body type, hopefully this article will shed some light on what is best for you, and what assistance exercises you can do to smash your personal best!

There are two types of stances used in Powerlifting for the Deadlift: Conventional and Sumo.

Both Stances required different mechanics and use different muscle groups, however they are both exercises that target to Posterior Chain, hence both being extremely useful for any athlete in terms of increasing Posterior Chain strength.

Here are the Pros and Cons to both styles:

 

Conventional:
Pros: 

  • Not as technical compared to Sumo thus easier to learn
  • More aggression and brute force can be used with this lift
  • Quicker off the ground compared to Sumo
  • More involvement of the back muscles compared to sumo

 

 Cons:   

  • More stress on the lumbar region of the body
  • Longer ROM (Range of movement)
  • Higher energy expenditure used- this may be a positive in terms of training for physique however for a powerlifter in a competition setting, this could be a negative for them
  • Harder lockout compared to Sumo

 

Sumo:     

Pros:         

  • Less stress on the lumbar region- more upright compared to conventional and more hip/glute activation than back
  • Shorter ROM (Range of movement)
  • Easier to lockout compared to conventional

Cons:

  • Technical lift with a harder learning curve
  • Slower off the ground compared to Conventional

 

So as you can see both stances have their positives and negatives, it’s all about picking one that suits your body type,  don’t pick the stance on the basis that a certain lifter or someone you know does that stance, what works for them will not necessarily work for you.

Assistance exercises- crucial if you want to pull big, be it sumo or conventional.
Here are some good assistance exercises you can add to your split to improve your deadlift:

Conventional Assistance exercises:

Block Pulls (with chains, bands or without):  Works on the lockout portion of the lift, which is for most individuals the hardest part of the conventional deadlift, adding chains or bands is excellent for pushing through resistance during the lockout phase, so for example 100kg bar weight plus 40kg chains, 100kg off the floor, 120-130kg by the time it reaches the shins and 140kg at the top, helping you work through those barriers.

Rack Pulls: Excellent for overloading at the top, work on the upper back and lockout power, set the rack pins at knee height, mimicking the last portion of the deadlift, much like block pulls but not increasing resistance but instead one straight weight.

Deficit Deadlifts: This is pretty much deadlifting whilst standing on a raised platform, thus increasing the range of movement, this helps with lockout and the power off the ground, add chains or bands to this and you have yourself a painful yet powerful tool to excel your deadlift.

Barbell and DB Rows: Strengthens the upper back which is stimulated a lot when locking out in the deadlift, also made famous by Powerlifting legend Matt kroc with his famous kroc rows, heavy db rows for reps.

Power Shrugs: Traps are also a predominant muscle at the of the deadlift, power shrugs allow you to strengthen this with an overload of weight.

 

Sumo Assistance work:

Abduction and Adduction Machine: Yep those girly machines we all avoid, actually have a purpose! They strengthen your hips for sumo deadlifting, and this is something you will just need to swallow your pride on unless you like feeling like youve dropped the soap in a jail shower, after a deadlift session!

Wide stance rope cable rope pull throughs: Really good for working on Hip drive that finishing stage of the sumo deadlift.

KB swings: Another excellent exercise if you have kettle bells for hip drive, if not, the wide stance rope cable pull throughs will be just as good.

Glute ham raises: these are tough, but worth it when you get them right, start with bodyweight, you may only get a couple of reps, but its like learning to pull up or push up for the first time eventually you will get better at them, excellent for hamstring strengthening.

 

Exercises that will benefit both conventional and sumo deadlifting:

Stiff Leg Deadlifts: Excellent for strengthnening the lower back and hamstrings thus having a direct carryover to the deadlift, for sumo pullers they may wish to this in a wide stance to focus more on the muscle groups used in a sumo pull.

Good Mornings and Reverse Hypers:  Both these exercises are excellent for working on the lower back and hamstrings, for good mornings I suggest start light and make sure these are done in a power rack with the pins set so if you miss a rep you can dump the bar on the pins, reverse hypers are easier to do and yield similar results so if good mornings are too much to soon for you start off with them, in my opinion I prefer good mornings but both are good assistance exercises.

Well that’s my 2 pence on the deadlift, the different styles and how to improve it, I may have missed something, if I have apologies but this should be more than enough to get you guys going who are rearing to smash some pbs.

Hope you have enjoyed this article and it has helped you readers in some way! Many thanks to Fitmag for the opportunity to write for them.

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