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The Deadlift: Sumo vs. Conventional

Let’s talk deadlift. There has been a long debate on which variation of deadlift is better: sumo or conventional. I am here to tell you the answer that no body ever likes to hear, IT DEPENDS! It depends on a lot of things, but a couple factors you should consider before choosing which variation you want to utilize are: goals, anatomy and previous injury history. Are you an athlete looking to improve your performance in sport? If so what sport? Do you have any previous injuries? Do you have long legs or short legs? Are you looking to lift as much weight as possible, or are you trying to improve overall athleticism?

Now let’s explore these two variations while taking a look at some of these questions. When it comes to these lifts, they both have their benefits. With the sumo deadlift, we get more glute and quadricep activation and less stress placed on the low back. This typically allows the lifter to lift more weight while keeping risk for injury low. However, the sumo deadlift has little carryover into most sports and other lifts. For example, how many basketball players do you see jumping from a sumo stance? If you are a strength athlete and are looking to lift as much weight as possible, the sumo deadlift will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to mechanical advantage and injury prevention.

Now what about the conventional deadlift? The conventional variation requires more engagement of the low back extensors and hamstrings (essentially the whole posterior kinetic chain). Now while there is a higher stress placed at the low back, there is more carryover into other activities into other sports and activities. For example, the conventional deadlift is similar to a jumping stance, or the early phases of most Olympic lifts. If you are an athlete or someone who participates in more functional types of exercises, conventional could be the variation for you.

Bottom line, everyone should be deadlifting. Deadlifting is arguable THE most functional exercise. Not only is deadlifting not bad for your back, it can help strengthen your back and improve back pain if done properly. As long as we maintain a neutral spine and hip at our hips, you will be building a great foundational and functional movment while also maintaining and improving your joint health.

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