You might be always in a dilemma, which one to go for. Most times, you end up doing conventional Deadlifts, because maybe it looks fancier?

Maybe because you may think Sumo deadlifts are done by Sumo Wrestlers?

Now here comes the question! Which one is better?

Well, it depends on what you’re looking for!

Puzzled? Let’s find out.

Both of them have their own benefits over other. A person may benefit more from conventional deadlifts if his or her requirement fits the bill for conventional one and similar is the case with Sumo.

There are many other kinds of deadlifts too, but this article will elaborate only about Sumo and Conventional Deadlifts.


Sumo Deadlifts Vs. Conventional Deadlifts



As it can be seen in the image, the sumo deadlifts differ from conventional deadlifts in the form of feet placement and grip held onto the barbell.  The primary muscles involved here are Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius, Adductor Magnus, Tibialis anterior and Trapezius.

Whoa! that’s a load of muscles. No wonder deadlifts are one of the most celebrated exercises.

Coming back to our prime topic, so how Sumo differs from Conventional and which one you should target?

Again, the same answer- It depends on your goals.

If your goal is to put more emphasis on inner hamstrings, quadriceps, Gluteus Maximus and tibialis anterior muscles, then sumo deadlift is for you.

If your goal is to put more emphasis on gastrocnemius, erector spinae then conventional deadlift is for you.

Also, as per the research (Ref 3), the electromyographic analysis of both the form of deadlift also confirms the same.

There is a slight argument that Sumo deadlift are relatively easier than conventional. Let’s see if that is really true.



Image source:


Looking at the above picture, one may think that since the distance between hip and the barbell is less in Sumo(right side pic), it would require less hip extension torque to lift the weight.

Torque? Damn, the last time we heard this word was in our physics class, isn’t it? Well, torque here is nothing but the multiplication of moment arm with the load lifted.

Confused what a moment arm is? Nothing but the distance between hip and the barbell

So by that formula, the torque for sumo should be less than conventional. Correct?

That’s not how easy it is. This is where just biomechanics doesn’t work. Physics will come into picture here.

Hip extension isn’t only done in a sagittal plane (front and back) but in all 3 dimensions. Hence the Moment arm is not correctly calculated in the first place, the moment arm needs to be calculated with respect to the femur bone. So in whatever position you are, as your femur length won’t change, your moment arm stays the same too.

On which training days we should include these?

  • Sumo Deadlifts on your Leg day makes sense as it involves the Quadriceps majorly along with glutes.
  • Conventional Deadlifts on your back day makes sense as it involves your erector spinae.

Nevertheless, if you are having a lower back injury and still want to go for deadlifts, go with Sumo.


Take away points:

  • If some of the muscle group names were alien to you, let me put forward in very simple terms. Sumo deadlifts target your Quadriceps (front part of thighs), Hamstrings(back part of your thighs), Gluteus Maximus(Majority of your Glutes), Tibialis anterior(Outer frontal part of the calves). Conventional deadlifts primarily targets your lower back and of course also hamstrings and glutes.
  • If you are suffering from lower back injury and still want to deadlift, always prefer sumo deadlifts as the shear force in this kind is quite less compared to conventional one. Our body is comfortable with compressive force, but not really with the shear force.
  • As the popular belief goes, People with shorter limbs can go with sumo deadlifts and the people with longer limbs can do well with conventional one, this isn’t entirely true either. The limbs won’t decide whether you can do sumo or conventional. Your hip structure decides that. How to find whether it will suit you or not? Try both.


~Matin Shaikh


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