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Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlift: Which is Better

The Deadlift: Pure, Primal, and Brutal

By: Noah Bryant

Reprinted from Muscle Media Magazine

The deadlift is the simplest, purest test of strength that exists. Simply pick up a weight from the floor and stand up, nothing could be easier. Because of its simplicity, the deadlift tests the limit strength of the participant better than any other lift. It is a pure, unadulterated test of what you and your muscles are made of. The deadlift is the ultimate test of mental toughness and intestinal fortitude, a lot of lifters can make up for muscle weakness or poor technique with pure, primal rage. That is the beauty of the deadlift, more than any other lift it tests the whole lifter; mind, body, and spirit!

What is the Deadlift?

The deadlift is the least technical and easiest lift to do of “the big three.” You start with the weight on the ground and you lift it up until you are completely erect, knees, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. There are two styles of deadlifting; sumo and conventional.

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Sumo vs. Conventional Deadlift

The sumo style is characterized by a stance with the feet wide and arms inside of the legs. Conventional style means your feet are closer together (shoulder width or closer) and your hands outside of your legs. Which style you decide to do is a matter of preference, muscular weakness/strength, and anatomical characteristics.

Conventional pulls place more emphasis on the lower back and posterior chain. So, if you have a really strong back, this may be the style for you. Sumo deadlift places more emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips and upper traps. If you have a weak lower back or have low back problems you may want to consider the sumo deadlift. The best advice is try both and see which one feels more natural and which one you think has a higher potential for heavy weight.

Identifying Weaknesses: The Key to Big Deads

shutterstock_233873632The key to successful deadlifting (or lifting in general, really) is identifying weaknesses and through intelligent exercise selection and programming, turning those weaknesses into strengths.

Luckily for you, in the deadlift, weaknesses are usually easy to identify. If you can lift a weight off the floor but can’t complete the lift, you obviously need more lockout work. On the other hand, if you are one of the lifters who can lockout anything that you can break off the floor, you would be best suited by working on your start. Once you have identified your weaknesses, it is time to devise a plan that attacks the weak points in your lift.

Exercises for the Lockout Challenged Deadlifter

Deadlifts with Bands

One of the best ways to work on the top end of your deadlift is to employ the use of Bands. As you lift the barbell from the floor the bands start to stretch further, adding more and more weight as you reach your weak point, the lockout. So you may only be lifting 400 pounds off the floor, but you are actually locking out 500 pounds. This concept is called Variable Resistance Training (VRT).

The bands can be set up a few different ways. You can hook the bands to heavy dumbbells on the floor, if you are lucky enough to have a platform with hooks use them, that’s what they are there for. Another way to set the band up is to wrap one end of the band around the collar of the barbell and stretch it over to the other side and hook it on the opposite collar. This method will require you to stand on the band while performing the lift.

Deadlift With Chains

The same VRT principle is at work here, the weight gets heavier as you lift the bar up and chain links are lifted off the floor. The chain method is much easier to hook up and easier to gauge how much weight you are actually lifting. Also, a lot of lifters prefer this method of VRT because it allows the bar to travel closer to its natural path, whereas bands can interfere with the bar path.

Deadlift from Blocks or Rack Pulls

To perform this variation, simply set up blocks, or safety pins, to just below your sticking point. Next, try to mimic your true deadlift position as closely as possible. Many times while doing this exercise athletes change the mechanics of the lift and transfer of training to the deadlift is not as good as it could be. You can really overload the weight on this exercise… so don’t be scared to throw some big numbers on there.

Exercises for the Start-Challenged Deadlifter

Starting strength is hugely important in the deadlift. Getting the bar off the ground with maximal speed is crucial to completing the lift.

Deficit Deadlifts

One way to work on your starting strength is to incorporate deficit deadlifts into your training. The deficit deadlift is the single best exercise for someone who lacks strength off the bottom in the deadlift. You can use them as an accessory after your deadlifts or you can replace your deadlifts with deficit deadlifts for an entire cycle.

Set up a platform or plates so that you raise your feet 1-3” off the ground. Then, simply perform a deadlift. Do not set the platform above 3”, this puts you too far out of a true deadlift position and the transfer will not be as great.

Speed Deadlifts

Lifting sub maximal weights with maximal effort leads to strength adaptations similar to lifting maximal weights. Lifting maximal weights with explosive intent throughout the entire range of motion can create staggering strength benefits. Using this method will help you build great strength off the floor.

An explosive start is crucial to a good deadlift, so we want to train explosively. Load the bar with 50-65% of 1RM and pull as fast as possible through the entire lift. Don’t let off the gas! You can add speed deads after your working sets of deadlift.

If you are not already, add the deadlift to your program. Your mind, body, and spirt will thank you!

Exercises for the Start-Challenged Deadlifter

Starting strength is hugely important in the deadlift. Getting the bar off the ground with maximal speed is crucial to completing the lift.

Deficit Deadlifts

One way to work on your starting strength is to incorporate deficit deadlifts into your training. The deficit deadlift is the single best exercise for someone who lacks strength off the bottom in the deadlift. You can use them as an accessory after your deadlifts or you can replace your deadlifts with deficit deadlifts for an entire cycle.

Set up a platform or plates so that you raise your feet 1-3” off the ground. Then, simply perform a deadlift. Do not set the platform above 3”, this puts you too far out of a true deadlift position and the transfer will not be as great.

Speed Deadlifts

Lifting sub maximal weights with maximal effort leads to strength adaptations similar to lifting maximal weights. Lifting maximal weights with explosive intent throughout the entire range of motion can create staggering strength benefits. Using this method will help you build great strength off the floor.

An explosive start is crucial to a good deadlift, so we want to train explosively. Load the bar with 50-65% of 1RM and pull as fast as possible through the entire lift. Don’t let off the gas! You can add speed deads after your working sets of deadlift.

If you are not already, add the deadlift to your program. Your mind, body, and spirt will thank you!

MUSCLE MEDIA MAGAZINE FOR MEN
The premier source of training, nutrition, supplements, fat loss and health for men.

 

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