“The same muscles are used in sumo and conventional, but the percentages switch. Do not think for one moment that you can get away with being a great sumo deadlifter without having a strong back.”
Last time we discussed conventional deadlifting. This time we are going to discuss the sumo (wide stance, hands inside) style. The old adage on sumo pulling used to be, “If you’re short do sumo, if you’re tall go conventional”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe all beginners should first build their foundation by conventional deadlifting, sets of five reps, to build up a great base. That being said, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of the sumo.
Muscle Utilized, Finer Sumo Deadlift Points
The same muscles are used in sumo and conventional, but the percentages switch. Do not think for one moment that you can get away with being a great sumo deadlifter without having a strong back. The sumo is more of an “athletic” movement, requiring more flexibility. Each person will have to experiment for the right stance as there is not a one size fits all. One thing to keep in mind from a leverage standpoint is the wider you put your feet, the less the distance you have to pull the bar, hence the less work you do, and in some cases, the more weight you can pull. Notice I said SOME cases. I found in my own case, that if I put my feet out near the plates, I locked the weight out just above the knee, making for a really short stroke. I just don’t have the flexibility and hip strength to use that stance. The hips are used much more in the sumo. Technique is paramount in both styles, but if you fail to keep the hips down from the start in the sumo, you are finished. The lower back is utilized more in the conventional, but plays a large role in the sumo as well. The upper back muscles, lats, traps, teres, rhomboids, all are key players as well. Grip of course can also be a limiting factor, as well as ab strength.
Sumo Deadlift Technique
The setup in the sumo should go as follows. Set your feet at the desired width, feet should be outside the rings on a standard powerbar, unless you are very short, with toes pointing slightly outward. The more you point them in, the more hip involvement, and the harder to reach the bar. The more you point the toes out the easier to reach the bar, and a little less hip involvement. Keep your head up and pretend you are doing a contest squat. Your glutes should come back first, then reach down just enough to reach the bar, with glutes back, and head up, shins should be nearly straight. Bar should be touching the shins. Ensure your hands are chalked and for an added advantage, put baby powder on your thighs if you are wearing shorts. Now take a big breath and hold it, and force your hips down really quick, and towards the bar. Once they are down DRIVE the feet out and through the floor, keep your head up. Once it clears the knees DRIVE the hips through. You have done one perfect rep.
There are several deadlift suits on the market. I lean towards the Inzer Max DL. The legs are non-slip, and the suit provides much support in the hip area where you need it. Ensure your suit is super tight. Next piece of gear is the Erector shirt. I like a medium tight fit. The shirt enables the straps of the suit to slide on it during lockout, making a much smoother lift. Footwear is next. In either style I feel wrestling shoes are best. They give you a touch of ankle support, flat soles, no added heel, and that tight feeling. All things to help you pull more. I already talked about chalking your hands and baby powder on your legs, all for your heavy sets only.
Ok so it isn’t the peaking routine, but this routine is ESSENTIAL for prepping for a peaking routine. You need to build up a base for future gains. You can’t jack a car up in sand, so let’s get started on the off-season plan.
• Stiff-Leg Deadlifts 2x5
Do both sets conventional if you are a conventional puller, and if you are sumo puller, do the first set sumo and second conventional, as the conventional builds more back strength. Warm up and do 2 top sets of five reps, wearing a belt only. Conventional stiff legs, or American stiff legs, are done as follows: stand on a 100-pound plate or a 2-3 inch platform with conventional stance. Bend down to pick up the weight as you would a normal deadlift and lock it out, now your ready to start. Bend knees SLIGHTLY, and keep the bar in close. PAUSE the weight on the floor not letting it settle all the way, the whole time keeping your head BACK. Keep the bar in close and bring to lockout, always keeping your head back.
• Sumo Stiff Leg
Take two 35 pound plates where your normal sumo stance is, same technique as conventional except for the wide stance. Your back will be "flatter" during these--this is a great movement seldom done--you will notice great gains on this one!
On the fifth rep of either style, always let the weight settle ALL the way, then explode to lockout. That is the American stiff leg. You are showing the weight who is fucking boss on that last rep... You own it. Work up to around 70 percent of your best deadlift max eventually. When starting out, use lighter weights until your technique is flawless. Now the rest of the off-season workout!!
• Barbell Bent Rows
Barbell bent rows off a 100 plate, no belt. NEVER USE STRAPS IN THESE WORKOUTS FOR ANY REASON. Grip is important. You won't improve if you use straps. Two sets, 5 reps heavy.
Front chins with weight if you can, 3x5
Next week do Front lat pulls, 3x7
Cable rowing, 3x7 reps
Next week machine rows, or one arm rows 3x7
• Dumbbell Shrugs 2x20
• Reverse or Regular Hypers 3x10
• Ab Work 4x15
Heavy ab work: your choice on the exercises, WITH WEIGHT.
You can do heavy good mornings on this day if you have the energy for 1x5, or on squat day. Everyone is different. I do mine on squat day often times.
Do your stiff legs two weeks on, one off. On the off week do all the assistance, just no heavy stiff legs. This will keep your lower back fresh. Ensure you keep 3 days in between your next squat workout, and do not ever do back more than once a week. I pull once every 10 days and that is plenty for me. You are on the way to being a deadlifting Animal. Train hard, train smart, and remember: THE ONLY FUCKING LIMITS YOU HAVE ARE THE ONES YOU CREATE. Semper fi.