Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional : Critical Differences To Understand

sumo deadlift vs conventional deadlift

If you have just started out on your weightlifting journey, or you’re looking to add an exercise that can help you improve your overall strength, then the deadlift is one of the best compound exercises you can opt for.

You not be aware but there are different variations of the deadlift. 

In this article we will discuss the Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift

But which one is better?

The sumo deadlift is executed with a wide stance foot placement when compared to a conventional deadlift. 

The sumo deadlift is a movement with a shorter range of motion.

Recommended Reading – RDL vs Stiff Leg Deadlift Form Differences & Clear Benefits

Both deadlift variations target the same posterior chain muscles with the sumo placing more emphasis on the quads and upper traps. 

This article covers the main differences between each deadlift variation and the muscles worked.

Sumo deadlifts are great because they offer a similar lift to the conventional deadlift that works multiple muscles with one lift while using more than one joint.

This movement builds functional strength, which can be carried over into every aspect of your daily life.

Anyone interested in building their glutes may have heard that sumo deadlifts are more effective in this instance than conventional methods, but is there any truth to this?

While both deadlift variants work the glutes extensively, sumo deadlifts are often considered slightly better.

When undertaken with the correct form and stance, Sumo deadlifts typically engage the glutes, as well as the quads, more than the conventional variant.  

What’s more, when executed correctly, the sumo deadlift will place much less stress on the lower back making it a good alternative for those who may be predisposed to lower back problems.

The deadlift is one of the most popular lifts for all gym goers, whether they be weightlifters, powerlifters, or athletes.

They are an excellent choice for anyone looking to build strength, conditioning, and even flexibility, all of which can be carried over into your daily life.

Most people will have heard of the conventional method and, to some degree, the sumo variant, but did you know there are numerous deadlift variants?

Five of the most popular deadlifts will be listed below, along with a brief explanation.

Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift is the variant most people will see utilized in their gym.

This is typically where you may begin if you’re new to deadlifting and is often considered one of the best exercises for overall strength.

Whilst this is the most common variation of a deadlift, it’s important to remember this is a technical movement and proper form is vital in order to work the muscles effectively and limit any potential for injury.


This deadlift is usually performed with a barbell lift from the ground.

Your hands are positioned just outside your feet on the bar, and your feet are at hip width apart.

This method targets a large number of muscle groups, including the lower back, middle back, traps, lats, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and forearms.

It’s an excellent exercise and, when performed with the correct form, is very beneficial to beginners who are trying to build strength.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is an excellent variant of the traditional deadlift and is typically a favorite of those who want to focus more on the glutes and quads.

It’s often considered a little easier than the conventional lift due to the smaller range of motion and puts less stress on the back.


This exercise is performed by placing your feet in a wide stance, toes pointing out and with your hands on the inside of the bar.

This reduces how far you have to pull the bar up and down and makes it more manageable, this limited range of motion could enable you to pull more weight.

Snatch Deadlift

The snatch deadlift is a deadlift variation that, as well as working the posterior chain, helps to improve strength to the back muscles and spinal erectors. 

It is executed with a wide hand grip placement and a slight bend to the knees, with the barbell being pulled higher upon the body when compared to a traditional deadlift.

Whilst the name may imply it’s more of a weightlifting movement, it can offer fantastic carry over to the conventional barbell deadlift making it a complementary exercise. 

It’s important to establish the correct grip width before attempting this movement. 

When at the top of the movement and locked out, the bar should be at a height of your hip crease.

Romanian Deadlift 

The Romanian deadlift is sometimes referred to as the straight leg deadlift and focuses heavily on the hamstring muscles.

This exercise is performed with similar hand and foot placement as the conventional method; however, the execution is much different.


This particular variant of the deadlift involves bending the hips but not the knees, meaning that throughout the motion of the exercise, the legs should be stiff.

This results in an exercise that primarily focuses on the hamstring muscles.

Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are another great alternative to the conventional deadlift, and they decrease the range of motion required as your starting position is not on the ground.

You may opt to stack the barbell on plates, or even with pins on the squat rack, starting from a knee-height position.

This exercise can be performed with either a conventional or snatch grip, and the legs are typically at shoulders width apart.

They are an excellent alternative for increasing pulling strength and posterior chain muscle growth and reducing the risk of injury.

Why Is The Conventional Deadlift Harder Than The Sumo Deadlift? 

Deadlifts are typically seen as one of the most challenging exercises in the gym in physicality and form.

They demand a lot of energy, but the rewards you reap are often considered worth it.

Generally, people agree that a conventional deadlift is more difficult than the sumo variant, but why?

The conventional deadlift is often considered harder for multiple reasons, including, the bar needs to travel a longer distance on the way up and down.

It’s much harder to keep your back posture correct and flat during a conventional deadlift, and it’s harder to extend the hips.

This all results in a much more technically challenging lift.

What Is Better For Powerlifting; Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional?

When considering which variant of the deadlift is better for powerlifting, the sumo or conventional method, a few things must be taken into consideration.

While you may assume that conventional deadlifts are better as they typically work a lot more muscles to an intense level, with a sumo deadlift, you can add a lot more weight to the light.

In a powerlifting competition, the primary aim is to lift as much weight as is physically possible. 

Due to the reduced range of motion when undertaking the sumo deadlift, there is a possibility for you to pull more weight making it a good choice for lifting in a competition environment.

Recommended Reading – Powerlifting Basics Plus 3 Tips You Have To Know


So, now that you know the differences between the sumo, conventional and other forms of the deadlift, you can decide for yourself which one would benefit your training program and incorporate them into your workouts. 

Before choosing, consider what is best for your body type and weight lifting goals and don’t forget to factor in any injuries you may have.

Leave a Reply