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Rack Chat: Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlift

In this installment of Rack Chat, I will decipher the difference between the sumo and conventional deadlift, and why this actually matters. The two deadlifts are fairly similar, pick the bar up off floor and place it back down, that is the deadlift in a nutshell. The major difference in the two is the set-up, biomechanics in the execution, and the dominant muscles involved. In my opinion, one is not better than the other, rather, either lift could be beneficial to different types of lifters (i.e. short, tall, long legs, long arms, stronger hips, stronger hams, etc.). I perform both lifts because I think each serves an important purpose in my programming. I am as “strong” on both, but I enjoy working the sumo more because of the fact that my low back feels better when performing. I went ahead and bullet pointed the the more interesting differences below for each lift, enjoy!!

Conventional Deadlift:

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  • Hips farther from bar
  • Torso is more horizontal (more load on low back)
  • Hips might start in a higher position (depends on flexibility)
  • More hamstring dominant (requires more hip mobility)
  • More load on lower back (lumbar and sacrum)
  • Grip outside of legs
  • More shearing forces on lumbar spine

Sumo Deadlift:

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  • Hips are closer to bar
  • Torso position is more vertical (less load on low back)
  • Hips start in lower position (may get lower depending on width of stance)
  • More load on hips and adductors (requires more groin flexibility)
  • Less load on low back (might be better for those with low back issues)
  • Grip inside of legs
  • Less shearing forces on lumbar spine