1. Pull Conventional
As a primarily Sumo Deadlifter, it’s crucial that you dedicate certain phases or periods of training to pulling Conventional- whether as a primary movement or as a close variation on a secondary day (For example: Squat, Conventional Deadlift on Monday, then Sumo Deadlift on Wednesday’s primary Deadlift training session). I recommend that all Sumo pullers train their opposite stance due to the direct carryover that the Conventional Deadlift has to the Sumo.
The total time, volume and overall training stress dedicated to the Conventional Deadlift should be relatively low (depending upon training block or phase), but there should be some portion of training allotted. For example, here’s how I’d organize a Hypertrophy Block for a Sumo Deadlifter.
Week 1, Day 1 (Squat Day): High Bar Squat, Conventional Deadlift 3x6-8 @ 60%
Week 1, Day 2 (Deadlift Day): Sumo Deadlift 1x8@6-7, followed by (-10%)x3x8
Week 2, Day 1 (Squat Day): High Bar Squat, Conventional Deadlift 3x6-8 @ 62.5%
Week 2, Day 2 (Deadlift Day): Sumo Deadlift 4x8 @ 65-67.5%
Week 3, Day 1 (Squat Day): High Bar Squat, Conventional Deadlift 3x6-8 @ 65%
Week 3, Day 2 (Deadlift Day): Sumo Deadlift 1x8@7-8, followed by (-10%)x4x8
Week 4, Day 1 (Squat Day): High Bar Squat, Conventional Deadlift 3x6-8 @ 67.5%
Week 4, Day 2 (Deadlift Day): Sumo Deadlift 5-6x8 @ 67.5-70%
As you can see, the progression on Day 1 is linear throughout the training Block, while the primary Deadlift Day is performed in a Weekly Undulating fashion. This allows the athlete to continually drive the amount of volume performed on the Conventional Deadlift, while still focusing on the Sumo Deadlift on their alternate training day. This style of programming has given my athletes, as well as myself, outstanding results across the board.
2. Prioritize Technical Proficiency
If you take a look at the greatest Sumo Deadlifters on the planet you will notice one very common trend- extremely technically proficient, flawless execution. This is achieved through constant technical reinforcement, practice, and variations that aid in improving technical proficiency over the long term. In my opinion, the Sumo Deadlift is one of the hardest lifts to truly master due to its highly technical nature and mobility demands put upon the athlete, therefore you must prioritize developing sports-specific skill, while also improving mobility and developing the specific accessory movements/variations required to further improve the Sumo Deadlift.
Much like any other movement, the Sumo Deadlift requires sports-specific skill to actually improve the movement, but also close variations to further aid in the long-term development of training block to training block. The following variations and movements are what I consider to be the most effective in developing the Sumo Deadlift.
High Bar Squats In my opinion, continually driving the total intensity and volume of the High Bar Squat is key to the long-term development of the Sumo Deadlift since it’s highly dependent upon the athlete’s ability to get as upright as possible in the starting position and “push with the legs”. As a Coach, I teach the Sumo Deadlift by cuing the athlete to get as upright as possible before beginning the pull, then spread the floor and push with the legs. This’ll create as much tension and power in the desired direction as possible. The level of success of the Sumo Deadlift is highly determined upon leverages, mobility, and strength in specific positions, so the High Bar Squat is an excellent tool to develop the starting position without the constant stress on the hips/back that multiple Deadlift variations would cause.
Paused Deadlifts (Mid-Shin) As aforementioned, the success of the Sumo Deadlift is highly dependant upon positioning and overall lift execution. The Paused Deadlift (Mid-Shin) allows the athlete to get into a strong, proper starting position while also forcing them to maintain it throughout the entirety of the movement. The starting position is one of the biggest errors in the Sumo Deadlift and a poor start will equate to a poor lockout. Reinforcing proper positioning is a key proponent to continue driving the Deadlift, as well as becoming more and more proficient at it over time.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below or on Facebook!