If you want to build a strong body with well-defined muscles, the deadlift is an excellent exercise to add to your program. There are several variations of deadlift you can try, but which is best for you? 

In this article, I'll be pitting the sumo vs conventional deadlift against each other to help you decide your best option 

When it comes to sumo deadlift vs conventional, many factors should be considered 

After training hundreds of clients throughout my career, there are times when sumo is better than conventional deadlift and vice-versa. This is due to the differences between sumo and conventional deadlifts.

Muscles Worked

When it comes to the muscles worked in sumo vs conventional deadlift, there is a considerable difference.

  • For Back
    If you’re looking to work your back, the conventional deadlift is superior as it engages your lats and lower back more than the sumo deadlift. This is mainly due to the increased force placed on your back during the conventional deadlift.
  • For Glutes
    If you want to stimulate your glutes, your best option is the sumo deadlift [1]. Sumo deadlifts activate your lower body more than the conventional deadlift, making it the perfect exercise to overload your glutes and quads.
  • For Hamstrings
    As the conventional deadlifts require more hip and glute strength, your body needs to recruit more hamstring muscle fibers to move the weight [2]. This makes the traditional deadlift superior if you want to develop your hamstrings. 

Set-Up & Technique 

There are several differences between the conventional deadlift vs sumo setup. Firstly, the stance you take during the sumo deadlift is wider, and your hands are placed on the inside of your legs.

Whereas the conventional deadlift requires you to take a narrower set up with your hands placed outside your legs.  

During the sumo deadlift, the range of motion is less and places less stress on your lower back, making it best suited for anyone who suffers from back pain. The sumo deadlift is also a preferred variation for taller gym-goers as it’s easier to get into position.

Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift (Differences & Which Is Best?)

Which Is Best For Hypertrophy Training?

When comparing the sumo vs conventional deadlifts for hypertrophy, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, you need to ask yourself what muscles you want to develop the most.

If you want to achieve hypertrophy in your glutes and quads, sumo deadlifts are your best option. But, if you want to develop your lats, back, and hamstrings, the conventional deadlift is a better choice.

You should also consider the range of motion your body has to move through for each movement. During the sumo deadlift, your muscles move through less range of motion than they would during conventional deadlifts. The greater the range of motion, the more muscle fibers are recruited.

Which Movement Is More Difficult?

If you’re wondering, "sumo vs conventional deadlift, which is harder?” the answer is... it depends.

Firstly, taller gym-goers might struggle with the conventional deadlift due to having longer limbs and torsos making it tougher to get into the correct starting position. However, sumo deadlifts are often easier for taller individuals. 

Several factors come into deciding the difficulty of the movements, ranging from the angles of your hip bones to limb length and torso size.

Your best bet is to try both variations and see which best suits your body and goals. 

Which Exercise Is Better For Building Mass?

Generally, you can lift more weight during the sumo deadlift.

If you’re looking to build mass and strength, I firmly believe combining the two can help iron out the “cons” of each variation. 

Conventional deadlifts will help you develop a stronger posterior chain as it engages more of your lower back and hamstrings. However, on the other hand, the sumo deadlift uses more glutes and quads.  

To develop strength, you’re best trying both types of deadlift for a few months and see which one you become stronger on; mixing things up is rarely a bad thing.

man doing heavy sumo squat

Overview Of Sumo Deadlifts (Pros & Cons)

The sumo deadlift is an excellent lower body developer which primarily targets your quads and glutes.  

It involves taking a wide stance (roughly 2x shoulder width) and lifting the barbell from the floor to hip height. The movement involves less hinging from the hips, reducing the work the lower back has to perform. This makes it ideal if you suffer from a lower back injury and want to limit lower back work.

The sumo deadlift has a reduced range of motion that helps you lift more weight than you would use during the traditional deadlift. By lifting heavier, you can overload your muscles easier, stimulating your muscle fibers for growth.  

But even though this may seem like a positive for some gym-goers, the lower range of motion can be a drawback. If you’re training for a powerlifting competition where you will be performing traditional deadlift (which uses a larger range of motion), then the sumo deadlift isn’t suitable.

Another factor to consider is that the sumo deadlift is a more technical lift that requires coordination and experience to perform correctly. This makes the sumo deadlift best suited for intermediate to advanced weight lifters.

When should you do Sumo deadlifts:

If you're wondering if the sumo deadlift is the exercise for you, there are a handful of instances where it would be ideal for your workout routine. 

  • You're looking to increase your hip and leg strength - The sumo deadlift allows you to lift a lot of weight, giving your legs and hips the stimulus they need to become strong. 
  • You're taller (usually with long legs and shorter torso) - Sumo deadlifts are perfect as they'll allow you to have a lower starting point so you don't need to bend over as much. 
  • You're a beginner - The sumo deadlift has a shorter range of motion and is generally easier to perform, making it ideal for gym newbies.
  • You have an injury - If you've got an injury (such as lower back issues), mobility problems, or joint pain, this deadlift variation may be what you're looking for. It places less strain on your spine and joints, largely because of the reduced range of motion.


  • Improves hip mobility.
  • Develops explosive power.
  • Places less stress on your lower back and knees.

Sumo Deadlift – How To Do It: 

  1. Stand over a loaded barbell and place your feet wide (roughly 1.5-2x shoulder width, leaving a gap between your toes and the weighted plates).
  2. Grab the barbell with both hands placed evenly on the inside of your legs. Your grip should be shoulder width.
  3. Bend your knees and straighten your spine (keep it in a neutral position).
  4. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and stand upright with the barbell.
  5. Once the barbell reaches your hip height, lower it to the starting point.
  6. Repeat.
sumo deadlift


  • Places less stress on your lower back 
  • Improved leg development 
  • Easier to lockout at the top of the movement 
  • You can lift heavier 


  • Shorter range of motion 
  • More technical, hard for beginners 

Overview Of The Conventional Deadlift (Pros & Cons)

The conventional deadlift is one of my favorite exercises to add to my client's programs (depending on their goals) for many reasons.  

Firstly, it’s an easier variation to teach beginners and is an excellent introduction to the hip-hinge movement. But, even though it’s easier to teach, its still a complex compound exercise that requires strict form to ensure your safety.  

Even though the movement is technically a whole-body exercise, the conventional deadlift primarily activates your back muscles, including your erector spinae, scapula, lats, and rhomboids. Your glutes and hamstrings are required to move the barbell through the lower portion of the lift.  

If you’re a competing weight lifter, this deadlift variation is best suited for you. It’s the standard lift for powerlifting competitions and will help you train for the next lifting meet.  

During conventional deadlifts, your body moves through a large range of motion, placing considerable force on your lower back. This might be an issue for some gym-goers if you’ve suffered a lower back injury or weakness.  

One of the drawbacks of this exercise is that it doesn’t target the legs as much as you’d think it would. If you want to target the legs, you’re best using a leg dominant variation like the sumo deadlift.  

When should you do conventional deadlifts?

Wondering if the conventional style deadlifts are for you? Here's a few instances when it would be the ideal exercise for your workout. 

  • You have a long torso with short legs - Your shorter legs and longer torso make the conventional deadlifts perfect for your build. You won't have to excessively bend your knees to reach the barbell.
  • You want to strengthen your hamstrings and lower back - The conventional deadlift is excellent for developing your posterior chain. 
  • You have no joint issues - The conventional deadlift can place more strain on your joints, so if you have joint pain, another deadlift variation might be best for you.
  • You want to use a larger range of motion - The conventional deadlift uses a wide range of motion, as you need to lift the barbell directly from the floor. 


  • Develops your posterior chain.
  • You can overload your muscles. 
  • It's one of the BEST compound exercises.

Conventional Deadlift – How To Do It: 

  1. Stand over a barbell with your feet placed hip-width apart, toes pointing forward).
  2. Place your hands on the barbell (hands outside your legs) shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bend your knees but keep your hips slightly higher than your knees.
  4. Straighten your spine, drawing your shoulder blades back and down (engaging your lats).
  5. Take a deep breath, engage your core and stand up with the weight.
  6. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat.
conventional deadlift


  • Larger range of motion 
  • Improved lat and lower back recruitment 
  • Best for powerlifters 
  • Easier for beginners 


  • Places more stress on the lower back 
  • It doesn’t target legs as much as sumo 

Sumo Vs Conventional Deadlift FAQs

Is sumo or conventional deadlift better for lower back pain? 

The sumo deadlift is far easier on the lower back as you don’t need to hinge from the hips as much as you would during the conventional deadlift. This decreases the shear forces acting on your back and places more force through your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.  

Can you lift heavier with sumo deadlifts? 

Generally, most people can lift heavier using sumo deadlifts than conventional deadlifts One of the main reasons for this is that the sumo deadlift has a smaller range of movement, making it easier to achieve complete lockout during the movement.  

Should I do both sumo and conventional deadlift? 

Yes, you should do both sumo and conventional deadlift. I’m a massive fan of variation and believe performing both types of deadlifts through your training program will give you the best of both worlds.  Using both variations, will iron out any gaps in your physique.

Is sumo safer than conventional? 

No, the sumo deadlift isn't safer than the conventional. Both lifts are safe to perform so long as you use good form and haven’t been told by your doctor not to do these exercises.  


If you’ve wanted to deadlift but have been wondering about the difference between sumo deadlifts and conventional deadlifts, you can find the answers to all your questions in the above article.

When it comes to which variation is best suited for you, you need to consider what your training goals are, current strength, and your body proportions. 

Have a read-through and see which type of deadlift is best for you and your goals. 




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.