Is Sumo Deadlift Easier? (Less Back Strain)

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Tonya McIntosh

Tonya McIntosh—The main person behind TGFFitness as its Founder and Chief Editor. Get to know more about Tonya


The sumo deadlift is gaining popularity, but is it actually easier than the conventional deadlift?

In my opinion, the sumo deadlift can be easier for some lifters. This is because it allows you to maintain a more upright torso, reducing strain on the lower back. However, the sumo requires more hip mobility and can be harder if you are quad-dominant. Ultimately, choose the variation that aligns best with your body type and goals.

In this article, I’ll compare sumo and conventional deadlifts so you can decide which is right for you. I’ll also teach you how to perform the sumo deadlift with proper form.

Key Takeaways
  • Sumo deadlifts are a popular variation of conventional deadlifts, and their suitability depends on factors like body type, mobility, and personal preference.
  • This deadlift variation can potentially allow you to lift heavier weights while reducing the risk of lower back injuries.
  • Understanding the differences between sumo and conventional deadlifts, as well as their benefits and drawbacks, can help you decide which option is best for you.

What is the Sumo Deadlift?

The sumo deadlift is a variation of the standard deadlift, where you take a wider stance and grip the bar inside your legs. This stance might look familiar to you, as it closely resembles the stance of a sumo wrestler, hence the name.

So, what sets the sumo deadlift apart from the conventional deadlift? Let’s talk about the main differences between these two techniques:

  • Stance width: In the sumo deadlift, you’ll start with a wider stance, while the conventional deadlift requires a narrower stance.
  • Grip width: Your grip in the sumo deadlift will be narrower than in the conventional deadlift, where your hands are typically shoulder-width apart.
  • Bar path: When performing a sumo deadlift, the barbell path is more vertical, while conventional deadlift tends to have a more horizontal path.
  • Torso angle: With sumo deadlifting, you’ll maintain a more upright torso compared to the bent-over positioning of the conventional deadlift.
  • Hip angle: During sumo deadlifts, your hips are more open, while conventional deadlifts have a more closed hip angle.
  • Knee angle: When sumo deadlifting, your knees will be more bent than in conventional deadlifts that require more straightened legs.
  • Muscle activation: Sumo deadlifts focus more on your quadriceps, glutes, and adductors, while conventional deadlifts emphasize your hamstrings, lower back, and lats.

Is Sumo Deadlift Easier?

There’s no definitive answer to whether the sumo deadlift is easier, as it depends on various factors such as:

1. Your body type: Some people have longer arms, shorter legs, or wider hips that make them more suited for sumo deadlifts, while others have shorter arms, longer legs, or narrower hips that make them better suited for conventional deadlifts.

2. Your mobility: Are your hips more or less mobile? Some people have better hip mobility that allows them to get into a comfortable and efficient sumo position, while others have tighter hips that limit their range of motion and force them to use their lower back.

3. Your strength: What parts of your body are stronger? Some people have stronger quads, glutes, and adductors that give them an advantage in sumo deadlifts, while others have stronger hamstrings, lower back, and lats that give them an advantage in conventional deadlifts.

4. Your preference: Lastly, some people simply prefer one style over the other based on their personal experience, comfort level, and enjoyment.

There are famous powerlifters who excel in either sumo or conventional deadlifts. For example:

  • Sumo: Ray Williams, Stefi Cohen, Yuri Belkin, Kimberly Walford
  • Conventional: Eddie Hall, Hafthor Bjornsson, Brian Shaw, Amanda Lawrence

The best way to find out which style is easier for you is to try both and compare your performance, technique, and feeling.

What are the benefits of Sumo Deadlift?

More Weight

First, if you have favorable leverages for the sumo deadlift, you may be able to lift more weight. How great is that? By utilizing your unique body structure, you can maximize your lifting potential.

Lower Back Relief

Second, the sumo deadlift helps reduce stress on your lower back. It achieves this by decreasing the horizontal distance between the bar and your center of gravity. So, not only are you lifting more weight, but you’re also taking care of your body in the process.

Hip Mobility

Another great advantage of the sumo deadlift is the improvement in hip mobility. This lift increases the range of motion of your hip joint, giving you more flexibility and freedom of movement. Who doesn’t want that?

Muscle Activation

But that’s not all! The sumo deadlift targets your quads, glutes, and adductors more effectively by increasing their involvement in the lift. This means a more balanced and efficient workout for your lower body muscles.

Exercise Variety

Finally, incorporating the sumo deadlift into your training routine adds a new challenge and stimulus for your muscles. It diversifies your workouts, making them more engaging and fun to perform.

Why do people prefer sumo deadlifts?

So, why is it that some people think sumo deadlifts are more approachable? The answer lies in the unique form and benefits that come with this deadlift variation. Let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we?

Less Effort

Sumo deadlifts often feel easier to some people thanks to their shorter range of motion, less mechanical disadvantage, and lower demand on the back and cardiovascular system. The shorter bar path and more upright stance cut down the effort needed to complete the lift.

Better Mobility

If you have flexible hips and hamstrings, sumo deadlifts might be a better fit for you. The wide stance and toes-out position cater to those with good hip mobility. Less tight hamstrings help reduce back rounding, while stable ankles enhance balance and cut down the risk of injury.

Simpler Form

Sumo deadlifts come with fewer cues to remember, less room for error, and a more consistent body position. The straight bar path lessens the chances of messing up. This simpler form can make sumo deadlifts safer and easier to get right.

Shorter Motion

The wider stance in sumo deadlifts leads to a shorter bar path and lever arm compared to conventional deadlifts. Less time under tension and a shorter range of motion can make the lift feel easier to perform.

More Muscles

Sumo deadlifts do a better job of activating the quads, glutes, and adductors, leading to better teamwork among the leg muscles. This results in more power, better coordination, and balanced muscle development.

Suitable Biomechanics

For some people, the sumo deadlift may be a better option than the conventional deadlift due to individual biomechanics.

Those with long arms, short legs, or wide hip structures tend to find that the sumo deadlift improves their leverage and alignment during the lift. The wide stance and grip of the sumo deadlift reduces the range of motion, making it more suitable for these leverages.

On the other hand, people with short arms, long legs, or narrow hips often find the conventional deadlift more challenging. The narrower stance requires them to move the weight a greater distance, which can compromise leverage and form.

Can You Deadlift More With Sumo?

Is sumo deadlift easier, and can you lift more weight with it? There’s no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on various factors, such as body type, personal preference, and experience. Let’s explore some evidence from research and powerlifting records.

Research on sumo versus conventional deadlifts has produced mixed results. Some studies found no significant difference in one-repetition maximum (1RM) or muscle activation between the two styles.

However, others reported a higher 1RM during sumo deadlifts or lower back activation compared to conventional deadlifts. It seems that the scientific consensus isn’t as clear-cut as you might expect

How do I perform a Sumo Deadlift?

To perform a sumo deadlift, follow these steps:

  • Setup: Stand in front of a loaded barbell with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing outwards at about 45 degrees. Your shins should be close to the bar and perpendicular to the floor. Bend down and grab the bar with an overhand or mixed grip, keeping your hands inside your legs. Make sure your arms are straight, and your shoulders are above or slightly behind the bar. Brace your core, take a deep breath, and look forward or slightly down.
  • Pull: Initiate the movement by pushing your feet into the floor and extending your knees. Keep your chest up and your back flat while pulling the bar up in a straight line close to your body. Drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top, locking out your knees and hips simultaneously. Hold the bar at the lockout position for a brief moment to ensure proper form.
  • Lower: Slowly reverse the movement by bending your knees and hips, lowering the bar down in a straight line close to your body. Maintain good form, keeping your chest up and your back flat as you return the bar to the floor. Release the grip on the bar and exhale.

For visual examples of sumo deadlift form and technique, check out this video to help you understand the correct way to perform this exercise.

What equipment do you need?

When it comes to sumo deadlifts, there are a few essential pieces of equipment that you’ll need to make your workout as effective and safe as possible. Here’s a quick rundown of the equipment to consider:

  • A barbell and plates: Of course, any deadlift variation starts with a barbell and some weight plates. Choose the appropriate weight for your skill and strength level, and as always, remember to progress gradually.
  • A power rack or a platform: It’s worth investing in a power rack or platform to set up the bar at a convenient height, protect the floor beneath you, and ensure you have enough space to perform the exercise with proper form.
  • Chalk or liquid grip: A good grip is crucial for sumo deadlifts, so consider using some chalk or liquid grip to enhance your grip strength and prevent the bar from slipping out of your hands.
  • A belt or suit: Many lifters utilize a belt or suit to support their core and increase their intra-abdominal pressure during heavy lifts like the deadlift. This extra support can be especially valuable when you’re pushing your limits.
  • Shoes or socks: You’ll want a stable surface for your feet when performing sumo deadlifts, so consider investing in a pair of shoes specifically designed for lifting or using non-slip socks. These options provide traction and stability plus can even reduce your range of motion slightly, making the lift a bit easier.

Is Sumo Deadlift Easier on the Lower Back?

When it comes to deadlifting, you might have wondered if the sumo deadlift is easier on your lower back compared to the conventional deadlift.

While it’s generally true that the sumo deadlift is easier on the lower back, it doesn’t mean it’s completely risk-free or pain-free.

Some reasons might make the sumo deadlift easier on your lower back. These include:

  • Reducing the shear force on your spine by decreasing the horizontal distance between the bar and the center of gravity.
  • Reducing the compressive force on your spine by decreasing the moment arm and the torque.
  • Reducing the muscular demand on your spine by increasing the involvement of your quads, glutes, and adductors.

There’s evidence from several sources to support these claims, such as the article “Is Sumo Deadlift Easier On Your Low Back?” as well as studies like “Sumo versus conventional style deadlifts: an electromyographic and force plate analysis” and “A biomechanical comparison of sumo and conventional style deadlifts.”

Why Is The Sumo Deadlift Easier On Your Low Back?

The sumo deadlift is favored for its reduced strain on the lower back compared to the conventional style, mainly due to lesser shear and compressive forces and lower muscular demand on the spine.

This occurs because the sumo stance allows for a more upright torso, decreasing shear force, and better hip engagement, minimizing compressive force.

Additionally, the wider stance engages the quads, glutes, and hamstrings more, relieving spinal muscles.

Will Switching to Sumo Deadlift Prevent Low Back Injury?

Transitioning to a sumo deadlift may mitigate low back injury risks, though it’s not a foolproof solution. Prior to switching, consulting a medical professional, especially with a history of back issues, is advisable.

Learning the correct sumo technique from a reputable coach and starting with lighter weights will ensure a safe transition, allowing your body to adapt to the new form.

Continuous monitoring of your progress and symptoms is essential; if back pain persists or intensifies, professional advice should be sought to ascertain if sumo deadlifting suits your situation.


Can I mix conventional and sumo deadlifts in my training?

Absolutely! In fact, many powerlifters and strength athletes incorporate both conventional and sumo deadlifts into their training programs.

Mixing deadlift variations can help target and develop different muscle groups and improve overall lifting technique.

By incorporating both conventional and sumo deadlifts, you can benefit from the unique advantages each variation offers and potentially reduce the risk of muscle imbalances or overuse injuries.

Are sumo deadlifts easier off the floor?

Sumo deadlifts, with their wider stance and upright torso, often ease the initial lift off the floor due to a shorter range of motion and better leverage from a closer grip and vertical bar path.

However, they may pose a challenge at lockout; the shorter motion lessens momentum, and a narrower grip at lockout can reduce leverage, making it harder to complete the lift.

Understanding these nuances can help tailor your training to maximize deadlifting efficacy.

How much can the average person sumo deadlift?

The average sumo deadlift varies widely, influenced by factors like age, gender, and training level. 

General figures suggest males average around 160-165 kg (353-364 lbs) and females around 97-104 kg (214-229 lbs). 

These averages, from sources like Strength Level and, merely provide a ballpark, as individual capabilities can differ significantly.


The sumo deadlift offers several advantages over the conventional deadlift, including reducing stress on your lower back, improving your hip mobility, effectively targeting your quads, glutes, and adductors, and adding variety to your training routine.

Proper technique and equipment are necessary to perform the sumo deadlift safely and effectively. You may find that this variation allows you to lift more weight if you have favorable leverages for it.

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Chief Editor
Tonya McIntosh

Hello there! My name is Tonya McIntosh, and I’m the Founder and Chief Editor of TGFFitness. I’m also a NASM-certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. With eight years of experience under my belt, I’ve found that one of the most common issues my clients struggle with is remaining consistent.

Finding your main motivator to keep going is easier said than done for Keep Reading.

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