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Traditional Deadlifts vs. Sumo Deadlifts

Traditional Deadlifts vs. Sumo Deadlifts
Posted on: 2013-11-23 10:07:05 Ft.

Does one exercise hit the hamstrings harder than the other? Nope. Just like with stiff-legged deadlifts vs. traditional deadlifts, which we spoke about last week, there’s no difference between either exercise when it comes to the hamstring activation. However, there are differences. Keep reading to find out what they are.

Before we get into the intricacies of the research, we want to make sure everyone knows the difference between the exercises. That being said, the primary difference are that the feet are placed further apart and pointed out, while the arms are positioned inside the knees, for the sumo deadlift. While during the traditional deadlift, the feet are generally closer together and pointed straight with the arms to the outside of the knees.  Ok, now that everyone is on the same page let’s go over the research.

A research team at Duke University had 13 collegiate football players perform sumo and traditional deadlifts. They used a weight they could lift for 8-12 reps. Each player had electrodes attached to 16 different muscle in the quads, hamstrings, lower legs (tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius), hip adductors, glutes, traps and paraspinals (muscles near the spine).

What they found, as mentioned, was that there was no difference in hamstring activity. Additionally, there was no difference in hip adductors, glutes, traps and paraspinals. However, sumo deadlifts caused greater activation in vastus medialis and vastus lateralis, which are muscles in the quads. They also caused greater activation in the tibialis anterior, which is the muscle that runs in front of the “shin” bone (tibialis). On the other hand, traditional deadlifts showed greater activity in the medial gastrocnemius (inside calf muscle).1

With the above in mind, our advice is similar to that given on our post on traditional deadlifts vs. stiff-legged deadlifts. That is, if you’re looking to build your hamstrings then either will do. However, if you want to put more emphasis on your quads then try sumo deadlifts. If not, stick to traditional deadlifts. Just keep in mind that traditional deadlifts were shown to cause greater activity in the vastus lateralis than stiff-legged deadlifts. Therefore, choose between the three accordingly.

All of the content on this website is only for informational purposes. The information contained here should not be construed as medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a medical professional before starting any supplement, exercise or nutritional program.

1. Escamilla RF, et al. (2002) An electromyographic analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Apr,34(4):682-8