Can sumo deadlifts replace the squat?

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By Sean James

The sumo deadlift is a modification of the standard deadlift and shouldn’t be confused with the squat. Primary muscles worked during the sumo lift are glutes, hamstrings, quads, back and traps. Whereas the primary squat muscles worked are; quads, glutes, hamstrings and adductors. To answer the question: No, sumo deadlifts cannot replace the squat as they are different exercises and target different muscles.

What do sumo deadlifts do

The sumo is very similar to the conventional deadlift; however, the foot stance and grip is different. The difference with the sumo is that the feet and hip position are wider compared with a regular deadlift. The grip is also narrower; instead of gripping the deadlift bar either side of the knees the grip is between the knees. Other than these differences the sumo lift is very similar to the regular deadlift. People with shorter arms may find the sumo beneficial as they will be closer to the bar, shortening the range of motion.

Can sumo deadlifts replace the squat? 1
Credit: Perfect Sports

Are sumo deadlifts easier?

This depends on the individual’s capabilities, strength and body composition. But the conventional deadlift is probably harder to perform overall. As I mentioned earlier, the sumo deadlift reduces the range of motion and will decrease the distance between the arms and the bar. With the conventional deadlift, the bar will seem lower to the floor as your leg position is narrower which makes the arms further away. But it’s subjective and should be the individual’s preference.

Sumo deadlift vs squat

The squat is a big lift which mainly targets the quads. If you want big wheels, the squat is probably the answer. Sumo deadlifts don’t use the quads as much as squats will, though, during the lift the quads are still worked to some degree. Sumo deadlifts are great if you want to build overall muscle and strength in the hamstrings, back and glutes. These are two separate lifts and should be performed for two different reasons.

Does sumo deadlift work the quads?

The sumo deadlift will work the quads, but it’s not the primary focus when performing the exercise. Due to the stance of the sumo deadlift the quads are not really under pressure. Think of the deadlift for building core strength and overall muscle. Unfortunately, there’s no escape from squatting, so the deadlift is not an alternative if you wish to grow your legs.

Does sumo deadlift work the back?

The deadlift works the posterior chain and targets more muscles than any other lift. The lower back, which is known as erectors are put through stress when performing the lift. Over time the lower back will develop and become stronger. Many people struggle with a weak lower back, so the deadlift may help to build that strength. When lifting, remember to start with a sensible load and correct position/form to ensure you do not damage your back.

To clarify; the sumo deadlift and the squat are separate exercises and performed for different reasons. If you want to build overall strength and size, the deadlift is probably the best exercise to utilise. If quad size and power are the preference, then there is no better option than the squat.

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