There are lots of “so-called sumo exercises” out there and if you’ve ever wondered, they refer to the sumo stance.
Basically, these exercises imply a wide posture, similar to the approach of sumo fighters.
Now, I’ve never really bothered about these things.
Even when I was new to fitness, I just saved a few videos off the Internet, took my phone to the backyard gym and did everything I could.
Then, we all get to that point where everything seems to stop.
You smash the gym for weeks or even months and there are no visible updates.
You may find yourself wondering why your triceps aren't growing or how many push-ups you need to do to get a bigger chest.
You may even ask yourself how long should you run on the treadmill.
This is when I started reading more, learning more about different fitness exercises, what muscles they work on, what they mean, why their names are so important and so on…
When it comes to sumo exercises, the most popular ones are the sumo squat and the sumo deadlift with smith machine.
Comparing sumo squat vs sumo deadlift may seem tricky because they seem different, but I’ll make sure you get what each of them does and how they need to be done by the book. Let’s go!
Sumo squat – how to do this exercise?
So, let me start with the sumo squat.
Just like for other types of squats, you need to start in a standing position.
Now, the difference is in the posture. Your feet must be wide apart. Toes should point outwards at 45 degree angles. When I say wide, I mean feet must be at a longer distance than the distance between your shoulders. Each foot should be about a foot away from the same side shoulder.
Drop slowly into the squatting position while bending around the hips and knees. Meanwhile, the butt must go backwards, while the knees and chest go forward.
Go down until your thighs and the ground are parallel. This is the ideal position to perform sumo squat everyday. If you cannot, go as close as you can.
Wait for a few seconds and slowly go back in the standing position. Never move feet off the ground. Never bend out your lower back. Be careful here because it feels natural to do it, so you have to focus. (1)
Here is how to perform sumo squat
Sumo deadlift - how to do this exercise?
Now that you know what the sumo squat is about, let’s move on to the sumo deadlift.
Just like in the squat position, you need to stand and feet must be wider than shoulder width apart. Again, toes should point out at about 45 degree angles. Bend at the middle of your body to get down towards the bar.
The grip is irrelevant. Whatever grip you use for standard deadlifts will work for the sumo deadlift too. It can be a mixed grip, an underhand or an overhand grip, you name it.
While down there, ensure the back is perfectly straight. In fact, you should keep it round throughout the rep, rather than round it. Push through your heels while extending knees to lift the bar.
As you reach the top of your standing position, pull the shoulders back. Lower the bar slowly and maintain momentum. Again, focus on the back and keep it straight. (2)
Here is how to perform sumo deadlift
Sumo squat Vs sumo deadlift - Muscles worked
You probably wonder what muscles work these two exercises. Just like other types of squats, the sumo squat will mostly focus on your legs.
When I say this exercise works on your legs, I mean it also gives your butt a firm and round appearance, so it’s a top choice for fitness enthusiasts interesting in this part of the body. For a well-shaped booty, I suggest try performing different exercises such as wall sits, squats and lunges.
All in all, the sumo squat employs the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and adductors before anything else.
Then, since the hip is also involved, hip flexors will also be worked on. You need to focus on the core too, so core muscles will be improved as well. Doing cardio after this workout will give your body more definition, endurance and strength.
There isn’t much difference between the sumo squat vs sumo deadlift here.
The deadlift variation will also improve your glutes and quads. It works on the inner thighs as well, not to mention the hamstrings.
You have to focus on keeping that back straight, so your core will be engaged too.
The deadlift will add to your balance, flexibility and mobility too, especially around the hips.
Benefits and drawbacks of sumo squat and sumo deadlift
Pros and cons of sumo squats
The sumo squat will give you a bit of a surprise feeling when you first do it. You’ll feel the pressure between your legs.
Exactly! Your inner thighs will be targeted. If you think about it, when was the last time you focused on these muscles? I know, no one does… With this exercise, you will give your inner thighs a good workout too.
Those muscles are not necessarily important, but they tend to be the flabbiest leg muscles. Pretty much everything else is targeted by other exercises, so it’s usually this part of the body that’s left behind.
My point is, this exercise is much more complex and complete than others. Don’t worry about other leg muscles because they’ll get plenty of attention too.
Other than that, the sumo variation works your core too. It requires more engagement than other squat variations, so this is another major benefit.
As for drawbacks, you’ll struggle a bit to get in the bottom position. I find the sumo squat to be more difficult than the classic one, but after all, variety challenges muscles.
Other than that, I don’t think this exercise will work with all kinds of leverages. Each individual’s body is different, so give it a try and see how it goes.
Finally, sumo squats don’t engage quad and erector muscles, so you’ll need other exercises too. (3)
Moving on to sumo deadlifts…
Pros and cons of sumo deadlifts
Sumo deadlifts require less hip flexibility and will actually improve it with time. They make it easier to keep the back straight and they enhance strength.
I also find sumo deadlifts to put less strain on my back, so I think they’re great for those with fragile backs or injuries.
I nearly got injured in the beginning because of the unnatural stance though, so I recommend being careful there.
There’s a higher risk to face an injury if you rush.
Compared to classic deadlifts, these exercises are more difficult to master. You should do them in a mirror and observe your mistakes in the beginning. (4)
Variations of sumo squats and sumo deadlifts
Both the sumo squat vs sumo deadlift are variations of standard exercises and while it may sound funny, they have their own variations too.
Sumo squat barbell
The sumo squat barbell implies getting a barbell on your shoulders and behind your neck while performing the exercise. Even a cheap barbell can be just as effective for this workout, there's no need to break the bank.
Sumo squat dumbbell/kettlebell
The sumo squat dumbbell implies holding a dumbbell in front of you. You can do the same with an adjustable kettlebells or adjustable dumbbells. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the ground in the lowest position.
The sumo deadlift can be just as varied…
Three count deadlift
The three count deadlift is great to develop strength. Pause for a few seconds twice as you go up and twice as you go down. It’s difficult, trust me… You’ll only be able to do a rep or two first, but go on from there. Before I discovered this exercise, I was using planche lean as an effective way to build strength. And good new is you don't need for any special equipment for this bodyweight exercise.
Halting sumo deadlift
This sumo deadlift is basically doubling up.
Lift the bar, go up, put it back down, then lift it again in a slower motion. Use the same slow movement to return it. This double deadlift counts as a single rep.
Frequently asked questions
Still unsure about which exercise is better?
Are sumo squats better?
Not necessarily, but it depends on what you’re trying to train. I do both exercises, as they train similar muscle groups. Differences between them will challenge muscles and work them better.
Can sumo deadlifts replace squats?
They can, but to a certain point. None of them will be able to give a full leg workout, as some groups are left behind. Therefore, I recommend doing more exercises on leg day, rather than just deadlifts or squats. Combining a squat to overhead with a sumo deadlift is an excellent way to target leg muscle groups and maximize your workout.
Is sumo deadlift better than regular deadlift?
There is a common misconception that sumo deadlifts are considered cheating, mostly because the range of motion is shorter. However, it’s not. Both exercises have similar benefits, but a bit of variety will challenge you, add to your balance and prevent boredom from kicking in.
Which exercise is for beginners?
If you’re new to fitness, I recommend starting with the standard exercises and moving on to the sumo variations later on. Both of them are suitable for people with a bit of experience. However, you can also try them as a newbie, but be careful and make sure the movement is perfect. It's also important for beginners to take pre-workout without beta alanine to get good workout results.
Which is better for building glutes?
Both sumo squats and sumo deadlifts work on your glutes. For better results, I recommend implementing both exercises for a more comprehensive approach.
Comparing sumo squat vs sumo deadlift is a bit tricky because results are similar, but with quite a few major differences.
It’s hard to tell whether one or the other is better because they both have their benefits. For a complete workout, I think you should perform both of them.
After all, you can’t really get fit with a single exercise for each muscle group. You need to challenge your muscles and push them from more directions.
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