Ask The Trainer #51 – Deadlifting Style


Hey Chad. Can you tell me what style of deadlifting is superior for growth, comparing conventional to sumo style?



Hi, Mark. I suppose that would depend on what your idea of superior is? In other words, what muscle groups do you want to target primarily?

Both Sumo and conventional styles are extremely popular. An individual’s decision to gravitate towards one versus the other will usually be based on their personal goals and body mechanics.

Let me explain some important differences between the two styles…

SUMO DEADLIFT: Deadlifting Sumo style will involve more engagement of the glutes, quadriceps, and adductors. The hamstrings and muscles of the lower back also play a significant role in this style. Many powerlifters prefer Sumo style because it involves less mobility of the hips.

Chad ShawYou begin the lift with your hips closer to the bar. The beginning position is a good 6-9 inches further away from the floor which means the bar doesn’t have as great of a distance to travel compared to a conventional deadlift.

People who prefer Sumo deadlifting, generally have more dominant quadriceps and powerful hips. In fact, lifters I know who are great Sumo deadlifters are also great squatters. This makes sense considering many of the same muscles come into play.

I personally do not prefer Sumo deadlifting because this form exacerbates some mechanical issues I have with my right knee and sacroiliac joint.

CONVENTIONAL DEADLIFT: Because of several idiosyncrasies in my body, I prefer this method of deadlifting. For one, it doesn’t place as much stress on the knee and hip joints.

When you pull conventional style, you’re going to utilize more of your posterior muscles and less of your anterior muscles compared to a Sumo style deadlift. That means most of the emphasis will be on the back muscles, spinal erectors, hamstrings, glutes, and traps.

You begin a conventional deadlift with your hips further away from the bar. You also begin the movement with your torso much closer to the ground. This means you will have to pull the bar an additional 6-9 inches than you would when performing a Sumo style deadlift.

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8 Week Transformation Triumph

Since conventional deadlifting involves a greater degree of movement, getting the correct form down can be a bit more challenging than learning a Sumo deadlift.

Since you begin with your hips much further away from the bar, it can be a challenge to maintain proper form. A key thing to remember is to lower your hips and keep your back flat throughout the movement.

In Sumo deadlifting, you’re not leaning over nearly as much, so it’s much easier to keep your back flat. At the end of the day, I feel conventional deadlifting is superior for overall back and hamstring development.

I always advise people to begin by using relatively light weights first to master their form. This is critical before ever attempting to grind out heavy weight.

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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