If this is a question you've ever wondered, look no further. I've provided you with all the information you need in order to make the smartest decision for your unique situation, even if that situation is fat loss.
First, let's look at the pros and cons of each movement.
A more horizontal back angle means more back involvement.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
The conventional deadlift is the answer to the question that asks: "Which movement allows me to move the most amount of weight with the most muscle mass over the longest range of motion.
It tends to work the hamstrings, back, and spinal erectors more than the sumo due to the more horizontal back angle of the starting position. Your hips are moving further, so the hip extensor muscles have more work to do.
If you have weak hamstrings and/poor hip flexibility, this movement will be harder. But that shouldn't stop you from training it, The conventional deadlift will make you stronger in your hamstrings and more flexible in your hips over time.
Don't switch to sumo just because your back hurts! Check this out first!
Notice how vertical the shins are and how close the hips are to the bar.
The sumo deadlift takes a lot of stress off of your low back due to the more vertical back angle that you start the movement with. If you're trying to get more leg work in your training, but your back is smoked, the sumo deadlift may be the way to go.
The wide-legged stance of the sumo deadlift artificially shortens your leg length. This allows you to bend at the hips less and bend at the knees more than in the conventional deadlift. That's why there's much more quad involvement in the sumo deadlift.
You should think of it more like a skill that you must practice. The sumo deadlift tends to take longer to set up, especially if you want to be good at it. The goal is to get your hips as close to the bar as possible so that you can take your back out of the movement as much as possible and shorten the distance the bar has to travel to lockout as much as possible. Those two things are achieved through proper form of the skill of sumo deadlifting.
That's over 550 lbs lifted thanks to a strong posterior chain.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)
The conventional deadlift is in a category of its own.
The deadlift, which is a hip hinge exercise, is uniquely designed to work the muscles of the posterior chain. Those muscles include the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, lats, traps, and even calves. Those are the muscles you want to target when hip hinging.
In contrast, the sumo deadlift has a lot of quad involvement.
Often I'm asked if people should squat or deadlift. Conventional deadlift vs. sumo deadlift is a very similar question. Both the squat (especially high bar back squat and front squat) and the sumo deadlift recruit much more quad than the conventional deadlift.
This leaves the conventional deadlift in its own category. It lights up the entire back side of your body much more efficiently than any other lower body exercise. Especially if you perform it perfectly...
Make no mistake the sumo deadlift is still difficult.
When to sumo deadlift
There are three times you can consider adding the sumo deadlift to your training.
- If you compete at powerlifting and the sumo deadlift is approved, then you should probably sumo deadlift.
- If you want to get more hamstring and glute work but your back is sore from conventional deadlifting. This option assumes that you are conventional deadlifting at another time throughout the week.
- If you want to get more quad work in and CAN'T squat. This shouldn't last very long in your training program. Not liking squatting isn't a good enough reason.
There you go. There are absolutely times to sumo deadlift, but for the majority of us, that isn't all that often.
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