Welcome back! Today I decided to write about the sumo deadlift in Powerlifting. I was inspired to write on this topic after reading far too many negative comments towards powerlifters who deadlift with a sumo stance on social media over the last few months. I hope this gives you a better insight and you’ll get to see my opinion on the lift.
What is a sumo deadlift?
The sumo stance refers to having your feet placed wider than your hands. It is a legitimate way to execute the deadlift in the sport of Powerlifting. There is no rule that disallows the use of a sumo stance. Taken from the GPC Australia rulebook: “The bar must be laid horizontally in front of the lifter’s feet, gripped with an optional grip in both hands, and lifted until the lifter is standing erect”.
The main benefit to deadlifting with a sumo stance is that it reduces the range of motion of the lift, which is a large factor when moving maximal loads. The sumo deadlift is a very technical lift, more so than the conventional deadlift. A perfectly executed sumo deadlift is a work of art, and only those who have spent time trying to master the lift can appreciate this. There is less room for error in the execution. If you’re sightly out of position while pulling conventional, you are likely still able to “muscle up” the weight. If you’re slightly out of position while pulling sumo, you will have a lot of trouble getting your hips through or the bar will dip near lock out. Sumo is not the better stance for everyone. Hip mobility is of high importance – many lifters struggle to get into a good enough position and getting their hips closer (in a horizontal plane) to the bar. I’d bet most people that hate on sumo couldn’t even get into a good position or they’ll get injured, and they wouldn’t deadlift more than they would with a conventional stance.
If you’re on social media, you’ll most likely know the hate that sumo deadlifters in competition get. The hate and lack of respect is either from the general public on more mainstream pages or [typically] beginner-intermediate powerlifters. You would have heard or read the following “sumo is cheating”, “lol that range of motion”, “now do it properly” on social media. But why? Powerlifters are competing in a sport, under official rules. The sumo deadlift is allowed. If the lifter can lift more weight with the sumo stance, why would they not use that stance? Because a non competing powerlifter doesn’t think the range of motion is enough? Let me tell you… the powerlifter doesn’t worry about you think. If you’re a competing powerlifter and you don’t respect sumo deadlifters…firstly, you should be focusing on what you are lifting. At the end of the day, if you lift more than any other lifter, you win the competition. What stance someone else is lifting with should not concern you. If sumo is that much easier, do it yourself, you’re allowed to!
I used to deadlift with a sumo stance, and my best current deadlift is with sumo (312.5kg / 689lbs weighing 81.45kg / 179lbs). I know how difficult the lift is, and the demands of the body. I swapped to sumo from conventional as I was having lower back issues training the conventional deadlift a few years ago – and sumo allowed me to train the deadlift without the lower back issues. I have recently swapped back to conventional, due to some hip issues, as well as the benefit of being able to train my squat harder. My next competition (ProRaw X at the Arnold Classic) will be my first competition back using a conventional deadlift stance. I may return to sumo in the future – I will always pull with the best stance for me at the given time.
Most sumo deadlifters are still really strong conventional deadlifters. A couple of good examples are Cailer Woolam, Dan Green and Yuri Belkin. Cailer has a 421kg (928lbs) deadlift weighing under 100kg in competition (sumo) and has pulled 365kg (800lbs) x 3 conventional in the gym. Dan Green’s conventional and sumo deadlift seem to be very even, however he pulls sumo in competition. He has pulled 400kg (881lbs) sumo in the gym, and 385kg (849lbs) conventional in the gym. His best deadlift in competition is 380kg (838lbs). Yuri Belkin has a 440kg (970lbs) weighing under 110kg in competition (sumo) and has pulled a VERY comfortable 350kg (771lbs) x 3 conventional in the gym. I always recommend training the conventional deadlift (or at least Romanian deadlifts, or a low block pull) even if you are a sumo deadlifter in competition.
Those of you that are reading this that don’t respect a lifter if they deadlift sumo, ask yourself – why? Do you actually have a reason or is your ego bruised because someone who pulls sumo lifts more than you?
For those of you want the sumo deadlift banned… well, I suggest you gather up your sumo hate club and get in contact with the president of the federation you compete in and tell them you want the rulebook to be changed. Until then…
Question: You are in the gym and your crush is watching you and you’re about to deadlift. Do you pull sumo or conventional?
My answer: I’ll stick to the program. If my crush didn’t respect my deadlift regardless of stance, she’s not the one!