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Is Sumo Deadlift Cheating?

Yo, What is up Gym N Japan Fam! Continuing on from the hot/ controversial topics. This specifically has been a hot topic for the last couple of weeks since the video with Chris Bumstead saying that Sumo deadlift is CHEATING!

Here is the exact moment he says it in a short Q&A

Now, as we know, whatever CBum says, is the gospel and is always true…so Sumo deadlifts are cheating…JUST KIDDING!!

Let’s start this discussion off correctly by first going through what is the difference between sumo and conventional deadlifts?


Alright let’s start with the conventional deadlift, the way Arnie would lift it, the way the big dogs back in 1982 would smash out their 300kg reps, the only way to pull the bar. It is where our feet start at around hip width apart from under our torso. Our hands are placed just outside of our knees, the weight is then pulled from there. We think that the conventional should be the starting point for any lifter out there because you will not really get as many benefits by doing sumos or other variations right away. That is unless you like ego lifting which we personally hate so your choice to be a clown or not. The deadlift in itself is classified as a complex movement because it requires quite a bit of input from multiple muscle groups AND with this complexity means it can be easy to screw it up and hurt yourself.

Some argue the fact it is a lot harder, but I beg to differ. For especially taller individuals, pulling conventional is a lot easier as their limbs are longer and can reach the bar a lot easier.



Sumo deadlifts are basically where lifters take a much wider leg, hip and foot stance in relation to the bar and their torso. This type of deadlift is said to be easier because it can have a shortened range of motion. But what a load of shit. Usually it is shorter guys (not always) that do sumo deadlifts, because to do a conventional style deadlift, would require them to move the same weight a lot further than someone who is for example 20cm taller than them. So does this reduced ROM make it easier or cheating? NO.

We think that sumo deadlifts certainly have a place in gym programs, specifically those who are at the upper end and train a lot but need another variation to keep it fresh. The sumo deadlift puts a larger emphasis on quadriceps and glute strength when compared to the conventional deadlift. There is a slight back angle change which can benefit some people



I personally don’t do sumo deadlifts but I think that they are a great variation to normal deadlifts and can make you feel stronger. I’m not sure why people are shitting on this variation because the benefits far outweigh the negatives! One thing I do have a problem with is if someone calls their sumo PR their “deadlift pr”.. like you wouldn’t compare a front squat and back squat would you? I just think of them as different exercises so the PRs should be treated that way too. So my opinion is that it is not classified as cheating.. unless you say it’s your deadlift PR.


So what's the difference and how do we conclude this argument?

Let's start with the basic setup for both techniques to gain a better understanding of the biomechanics and roles the muscles play in both of these movements

First the hand position. In the conventional deadlift the hands are placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart on the outside of the knees. While the sumo deadlift has you set up with hands inside the knee at around shoulder width apart.

Next we have the foot position. The feet are placed much wider, to whatever feels most comfortable to you in the sumo variation of the deadlift. Typically this is as far laterally as possible with your heels still being inline with your knees. The wider your feet start to go, the more externally rotated your feet become. The feet are generally placed slightly closer than shoulder width. This will help minimize how far the bar has to travel. Unlike the sumo, the toes here are generally pointed forward

The sumo is a probably the largest compound movement. We are doing both hip extension - targeting the glutes and hamstrings and knee extension - targeting the quads, with the hip motion being much more dominant. There is also the isometric and stabilization of the mid and upper back coming from the spinal erectors, traps and lats. There is the same muscle activation of the hip and knee extensors as well as the same stabilizing muscles in the conventional deadlift.

The main differences besides set up:

Sumo - harder on the quads due to the hips being closer to the bar at the start of the movement

Conventional - spinal erectors act more due to the hips being further away from the bar

Basically to end the small debacle , you should be doing whatever of the two lifts feels more comfortable to you. Some people lack the hip and ankle mobility to do a conventional deadlift, while others prefer conventional as they feel more comfortable in that closer stance. Depending on your muscle or strength goals, it may also be wise to periodically change between the two variations in your routine.

For a more in depth analysis and discussion on this - check out:


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