How to Do a Sumo Deadlift (And Why It's a Must-Do Move)

This exercise might be the key to lifting your heaviest weights ever.

There's something about the widened stance and slightly turned-out toes of the sumo deadlift that make this weightlifting move feel super powerful. It's one of the reasons you'll love incorporating it into strength-training workouts — that, and its ability to work almost all of the muscles in the back of your body.

"It's easier to lift much heavier with this type of deadlift versus the conventional or Romanian deadlift because you're not traveling as far from the ground," says Stephany Bolivar, a CrossFit coach and personal trainer. (Deadlifting newbie? Here's a complete guide to deadlifts, including variations you should know.)

And, yes, you should want to lift heavy: The benefits of lifting heavy weights are endless, from building strength faster to increasing muscle tone and fighting osteoporosis. Not to mention, heavier loads can make you feel pretty badass. (Just remember to decrease your load as necessary if you switch back to other deadlift varieties, warns Bolivar.)

Sumo Deadlift Benefits and Variations

What muscles do sumo deadlifts work, exactly? Like other deadlift variations, the sumo deadlift (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) works your posterior chain (the back of your body), including your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Bracing your core during this movement will also build strength and stability in your abs.

Start this deadlift with your feet in a wider stance and toes turned slightly out, which decreases the distance your hips need to travel, loading the hamstrings more than a conventional deadlift.

If you're new to deadlifting, start out with light weights until you feel comfortable with the movement. From there, you can progressively increase the load. You can also make this move easier by limiting the distance traveled to the ground. Once you've graduated to some pretty heavy dumbbells, try sumo deadlifting with a loaded barbell instead. (See also: The Beginner's Guide to Lifting Heavy Weights)

How to Do a Sumo Deadlift

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Hold dumbbells in front of hips, palms facing thighs.

B. Start sending hips back, keeping spine in a neutral position, squeezing shoulder blades, and bracing core.

C. Once dumbbells are lower than knees, do not allow hips to sink further. Dumbbells should be a few inches off the floor.

D. At the bottom of the movement, drive through heels to return to standing, maintaining neutral spine and keeping dumbbells close to body. After dumbbells pass knees, fully extend hips and knees, squeezing glutes at the top.

Sumo Deadlift Form Tips

  • Keep dumbbells close to the body throughout the movement.
  • Maintain an upright, neutral spine during the movement (don't arch back or round forward) to protect the low back from injury.
  • For strength, do 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps, building up to a heavy weight.
  • For endurance, do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. (BTW, here's the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance.)
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