3 Subtle But Important Differences Between the Conventional and Sumo Deadlift

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By Sean James

Deadlifts are exercises that are a part of a well-rounded strength training routine. They allow you to build overall body strength, including your core.

If you’re looking to take your fitness routine to the next level and add some extra muscle, deadlifts are the king of workouts.

There are two popular variations of this exercise: conventional and sumo deadlift

Keep reading to learn the 3 major differences. 

1. Deadlift Setup

Conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts have different setups. 

With a conventional deadlift, you need to keep your feet hip-distance apart, point your toes forward, and your shins close to the bar. As you lift, make sure you move the weight up your shins and keep the barbell as close to your body as possible on your way up.

As the name suggests, a sumo deadlift mimics the stance of a sumo wrestler. To get into position for a sumo deadlift, you need to position your feet wider than hip-width apart. 

Because your feet are wider apart than in a conventional deadlift, ensure you grab the bar closer together. Try to keep your hands about shoulder-width apart. 

Next, you need to point your toes out in a 30-degree angle. 

2. Moving Pattern

While similar, the moving pattern of these two deadlifts variations does differ. 

When you are ready to start a conventional deadlift, you should drop down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. You don’t have to worry about keeping them fully parallel. 

In order to maximize the movement, make sure you keep your back completely flat. It’s extremely important that you don’t curve your back because you’ll be more susceptible to injuries

You also need to stick your butt out to give your body a natural curve, keep your chest high, and put all of your weight in the back of your heels.

With a sumo deadlift, on the other hand, you need to keep the gravity closer to your body to maintain your balance. 

Since your body is in a wider stance, you can get your thighs parallel to the floor. Your back can also be more upright with this movement. 

3. Muscle Targets

While both movements are a great addition to your workout routine, they target different muscles.

With a conventional deadlift, you will target your spinal erectors. Because your torso tends to incline forward, it will contract more as you perform the movement. 

Sumo deadlifts, on the other hand, really work your quads. Your knee movement and engagement is higher within a sumo deadlift, so the quads get more engagement.

If you’re undecided on which variation to try, try both and listen to your body. It’s also a good idea to use both forms of deadlift depending on your fitness goals.

Sumo Deadlift Vs Conventional Deadlift: The Bottom Line

Although conventional and sumo deadlifts are essential to your fitness journey, they differ in some aspects. Both types of deadlifts vary in the setup, moving pattern, and the muscles they target. 

Want to learn about who has the deadlift record? Check out this article

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