By Gage Reid of Nova Strength Training Systems
The Sumo Deadlift, much like the wide-grip, arched competition Bench Press, is often ridiculed online for being a “cheater lift”, when in reality the Sumo Deadlift is a highly technical lift dependant upon leverages, mobility, and strength in the starting position.Being able to efficiently pull and stay within the proper positions is a skill in itself. Mobility is a huge determining factor in the Sumo Deadlift- if you cannot get into a good starting position and maintain it throughout the entire movement then you will more than likely miss the lift or complete it in a less than proficient manner. If you look at the two greatest Deadlifters in history, Yury Belkin and Stefi Cohen, you will immediately notice two very prevalent trends- great starting positions and above average hip mobility. In this article, I’ll be discussing how you can achieve a better starting position, as well as improve your mobility to consistently improve your Sumo Deadlift over time.
Emphasis on Starting Position
I led off with this point because I believe it is the most difficult aspect of the Sumo Deadlift to master, but it’s also very simple to improve. The starting position is a key to the success of the Deadlift, and if you have a poor start then you will have a poor lockout- or you won’t lock it out at all. Developing the starting position through mobility and practice will be long-term keys to overall success, but in the short-term, you are able to improve the start position by being meticulous in your set-up and focusing on the eccentric portion of the lift.
I’ve heard Ed Coan discuss this in detail and I’ve utilized it with myself, as well as my athletes. I’ve found it to be a very effective tool in developing both the start position, as well as the Deadlift as a whole. When performing the Deadlift, try to control the eccentric portion of the lift and allow the bar to pull yourself into a good position. In theory, this will act as a technical reminder and as a “loaded stretch”.
If you want to become proficient at the Sumo Deadlift, then you are going to have to perform it- a lot. Constant repetition over weeks, months and years will help you dial in the technique required to pull huge weights in the most technically proficient manner possible. Constant practice, fine-tuning and technical analysis are key to developing any lift. If you don’t have a coach, try to film your Deadlifts from multiple angles and in multiple rep ranges. Compare training videos and do honest breakdowns. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a highly technically proficient Deadlift.
Supplementary Mobility Drills
Although I’m a firm believer that MOST mobility work is overrated, I understand that not everyone will have the adequate hip mobility required to get into a proper sumo starting position, so therefore supplementary mobility drills may be necessary to bring up the “weak points”. In my experience, I’ve found that adding in filler mobility drills during the training session are superior to doing an hour of “mobility and activation drills” before training. For example, if you are working to improve your hip mobility in the Sumo Deadlift, I’d recommend something similar to this:
1A) Sumo Deadlift 5x6
1B) Lying Hip, Abductor Stretch/”Goalie Stretch” 2x30s
As you can see, I programmed a filler mobility drill specific to improving hip mobility in the Sumo Deadlift in a superset fashion. The athlete would complete a set of 6 on the Deadlift, then immediately proceed to perform 2 sets of 30 seconds of the Lying Hip, Abductor Stretch. The athlete would repeat this for every set. This also creates less “sitting around time” during the workout- more time efficient training sessions.