Conventional or Sumo Deadlift: Deadlifts can probably be the best addition to any workout regime for muscle building, strength building, and health improvement. It’s a functional exercise that helps you get stronger and fitter in less time and helps you carry out everyday tasks quite efficiently. That being said, deadlifting is not that simple as the techniques are different for each individual. Like other exercises, deadlifts also may lead to injuries, back pain, or muscle pull when not done right. And while the movement needs attention, it’s the lifting form that seeks consideration, as well. 

Sumo deadlifts and traditional deadlifts here are two of the most common forms of deadlifting, with each placing different demands on the body. 

If you want to know the fastest way to lose weight then check: 10 Faster ways to lose your body fat: 2022 fitness goals.

Let’s discuss both side-by-side to help you decide!

What is a Conventional and Sumo deadlift?

Conventional deadlift: 

By jacoblund

Being a part of the Big 3; deadlift, squat, bench-press, conventional deadlift is as popular as its counterparts among bodybuilders, powerlifters, and Crossfit athletes. 

Conventional deadlift essentially involves lifting off the dead weight from the ground to hip level while creating a hinge movement. One of the things that make Conventional deadlift so effective is its motion. It combines both a push and a pull mechanism, wherein your legs push, and your upper body pulls to activate multiple muscle groups and thus offers the best functional movement and maximum athletic benefits. It’s easier to learn, requires less mobility, and feels more natural for the lifter. 

Conventional Deadlift setup: 

The deadlift requires the lifter to maintain a proper stance with their feet hip-distance apart while approaching the bar. The toes remain pointed forward and shin very close to the bar. 

In a conventional deadlift, the lifter pulls the weight up with his shins and keeps the barbell closer to his body. Doing so keeps your center of gravity in limits which supports your back & maximizes your weight lifting capacity. 

The staggered grip is employed on the barbell, wherein one hand takes an overhand grip and the other an underhand grip. You can also use two overhand grips. The use of two underhand grips may put additional stress on the forearm and can lead to a forearm injury. Hence should be avoided.

Conventional deadlift movement:

After maintaining a proper stance with hands on the barbell, the lifter drops down until his thighs almost become parallel to the floor with his back flat, chest high, and weight on the heels. The barbell is gradually lifted while the center of gravity remains closer to the lifter’s body. Lifters can either use a Staggered grip or two overhand grips to lift the barbell. 

Conventional deadlift pros and cons

Pros 

  • It is easier to get hands-on, so it’s ideal for beginners
  • It helps you beef up your back muscles, namely erector spinae, rhomboids, levator scapulae & more
  • Involve more posterior chain engagement than

Cons 

  • It’s easier to round your back, which leads to injury.
  • It doesn’t target leg muscles. 

Sumo deadlift: 

Sumo Deadlift
By NomadSoul1

Sumo deadlift literally imitates the stance of a sumo wrestler before a bout. It’s a highly preferred conventional deadlift variant by powerlifters as it helps them lift the best possible weight and build muscle size and strength. However, lifters have to consider various factors, like hip structure & proportions, bodyweight, muscular strength, and more to do sumo deadlift. The sumo deadlift is also helpful for hypertrophy or bodybuilding exercise.

Sumo deadlift Setup: 

One of the differentiating factors of sumo from the conventional deadlift is the feet positioned wider than hands and toes angles at 30° instead of being about hip-width apart and toes pointing forward. The hands are also closer than conventional deadlifts, with the back flat and shoulders directly above the bar.

Sumo deadlift movement: 

It’s a vertical pulling movement wherein the lifter drives through his heels and extends knees and hips to lift the bar to mid-thigh height. He then pulls the shoulders back and carefully lowers the bar back to the ground while being mindful not to round his back.

Sumo deadlift Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It puts less stress on the lower back when compared to a standard deadlift.
  • Activates more glutes and quadriceps to help you avoid knee injuries and improve athletic performance.
  • It helps lift more weight with ease
  • Best for tall lifters

Cons

  • Less posterior chain engagement
  • Requires more flexibility 
  • Requires practice to master the movement 

How do Conventional and Sumo deadlifts differ from each other?

  • Conventional deadlifts involve forming a narrow stance with grip width outside the legs. On the other hand, Sumo deadlifts involve forming the widest stance with grip width inside the legs.
  • Due to more vertical distance, the energy expenditure with the conventional deadlift is 30-40% more than the sumo deadlift.

How are Conventional and Sumo deadlifts similar?

  • Both deadlift forms focus on the same muscles category: glutes, hamstrings, core, and back.
  • With both sumo and conventional deadlift, the lifter loads weight onto a barbell and pulls the latter from the ground by extending hips and back.

Which deadlift form is correct for you?

There’s a lot of contemplation among the individual and athletes when talking about sumo and conventional deadlift. As such, both movements are equally effective. They have a little different working mechanism and work well with certain body types.

If you are ready to get started with deadlifting, there are certain Ifs you must acknowledge to zero down your decision between the two forms. 

Choose conventional deadlifting, if

  • You are a beginner at deadlifting.
  • Your height is shorter than 5’6″: With a shorter frame, there’s less space between the main hinge point (the hip) and the bar, and thus the chances of getting back pain are little.
  • The pelvis, hip socket, and femur also form a large part in selecting the best deadlift form. The angle of where the femur connects with the pelvis determines the motion of the hips to move comfortably. For conventional deadlift, the lower this angle, the better.
  • You have a stronger low and mid-back
  • Your torso & arm length falls in any categories: long torso/long arms, short torso/long arms, average torso/long arms, short torso/average arms, long torso/average arms.
  • You are a heavy lifter (i.e. based on body weight)

Choose sumo deadlifting, if:  

  • You have moderate expertise in deadlifting.
  • You have shorter arms: With a sumo deadlift, you don’t bend your knees much to reach the bar, and thus you can easily keep the chest up. This stance feels more natural and helps you ramp up muscle utilization in your lower body.
  • The pelvis, hip socket, and femur also form a large part in selecting the best deadlift form. The angle of where the femur connects with the pelvis determines the motion of the hips to move comfortably. For sumo deadlift, the greater this angle, the better.
  • You have stronger quads.
  • Your torso & arm length falls in any categories: long torso/short arms, short torso/short arms, average torso/short arms, short torso/average arms, long torso/average arms. 
  • You are a light lifter. Let’s say: You are a woman weighing less than 63kg / 138lbs or a man weighing 93kg / 204lbs

Conventional VS Sumo Deadlifts: Other deciding factors

  • Strength development: Ideally, the one that allows you to lift more weight, which is Sumo style. But for some, it can be conventional style too. 
  • Hypertrophy: Sumo for bigger quads, glutes, abductors, and adductors. The conventional style for wide and thick back.
  • Variations: Both styles allow variation to help you maintain your progress, like

– Deficit deadlifts: Performed from a raised surface increase motion range

– Deadlifts with chains or bands: Helps you increase load as you reach lockout

– Paused deadlifts: Pausing with the bar between floor and knee height for 2 seconds

– Speed deadlifts: Using 50-70% of your one-rep max and lifting the bar as fast as possible

Rack or block pull: Elevated deadlift with the start of each rep with the bar at just below knee height.

  • Ease of learning: Conventional deadlifts feel more natural and are quicker and easier to pick up than the sumo style. 
  • Safety: Sumo deadlifts here take the lead as with these deadlifts you maintain an upright torso, so the risk of back injury is lower than with conventional stance deadlifts.
  • Functionality: Both deadlifts have some functionalities, but conventional deadlifts are the most functional because of the shoulder-width stance.

Final thoughts

Both deadlift forms have their fair share of benefits, pros, and cons. For individuals who want to focus more on the legs, lift more weights, and are tall, then sumo deadlifts are sure to be the choice. But, if you are the one wanting to focus on your back and develop your overall body strength, a conventional deadlift will benefit you more. Conventional deadlifts are easier to pull off, and it’s great for starters.

Or, if you are just starting with the deadlift, your biggest deciding factors will be these questions: 

  • Which form feels more natural to you?
  • Which stance helps you lift more weight?

And the best way to determine it is to try both deadlifting ways in assistance with a trainer and test your strength for at least a few months. 

Also, have a look at Advantage and disadvantage of Isolation Exercises.

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