Sumo Vs. Conventional Deadlift Stance

Deadlifts are simply the best.

If you’re a beginner lifter and found your way here because you want to know if there’s some secret benefit to doing one stance versus the other, welcome.

Good news, sumo and conventional deadlifts are both great. Neither is inherently “better” than the other. However, one stance might be “better” for YOU, especially when lifting heavy. And just because you realize one stance is “best” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever do the other.

If you take away nothing else from this article: Do more deadlifts and make sure your form is great, not just good.

But if you’d like to continue into the nitty gritty differences between these stances and why you might pick sumo over conventional (or vice versa), let’s dive in.

Sumo Deadlifts

Key components of a sumo deadlift

  • Wider stance (wider than shoulder width)
  • Feet externally rotated (usually)
  • Gripping the bar inside the legs

Conventional Deadlifts

Key components of a sumo deadlift

  • Narrower stance (close to shoulder width)
  • Feet pointing forward (usually)
  • Gripping the bar outside the legs

What is the impact of these differences?

Any deadlift primarily works the glutes, hamstrings and back (of course the quads, core, arms and really the whole body is involved).

Changing your stance alters which muscles are used a little more and a little less during the lift. Sumo deadlifts require more glute recruitment, while conventional deadlifts require more of the hamstrings and spinal erectors (low back).

How to choose your stance

Easiest answer: pick the one that feels most comfortable / you are strongest at.

Still do the other variation, inevitably it will strength your weaknesses, but do the one that feels best/strongest most of the time and with the heaviest weight.

Bonus tip: If you’re a taller lifter and identify with the term “lanky”, maybe give sumo stance a try.

My journey with deadlifts

I started off with conventional deadlifts and thought there was no looking back. As a tall lifter, I knew that there was a chance I could be even stronger eventually with sumos and I wasn’t mad at the extra glute engagement. So over a course of months I alternated between the two stances while getting used to how different sumos felt at first. After that transition period, I now can’t imagine primarily lifting with a conventional stance. It really is about whichever you like best and which fits your goals. I do still do conventional deadlifts because I know they work my weaknesses, but if I want to set a PR I know I’ll be doing it sumo.


Did you find this article helpful? What stance do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

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