This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
Sumo wrestlers aren’t typically the first that come to mind when people think of the world’s fittest athletes. Yet their iconic stance—feet spread wider than shoulder-width, toes turned 45-degrees outward, body lowered until the thighs are at least parallel to the floor—is the defining characteristic of one the most popular variations of two of the most iconic exercises: the squat and deadlift.
Assuming that stance affects which muscles are emphasized. With the deadlift, a sumo stance allows for a more upright posture, reducing the activation of your erector spinae muscles (which run along your spine) and the stress on your lower back. The position also increases the engagement of your quads in what is typically a hamstring and glute-dominant exercise.
With the sumo squat, spreading your feet wide forces your inner thigh muscles (i.e., your adductors) to do more work. But here’s the real reason you should add sumo variations to your routine: Switching up how you perform the squat and deadlift will present new challenges to your lower half, helping you build muscle and become stronger faster.
Your move: If you’ve been performing the deadlift and squat with the traditional hip-to-shoulder-width stance for a while, and your gains have started to slow, switch to a sumo stance. You might even find that you naturally gravitate to the position—especially if you have longer legs, shorter arms, or shallower hip sockets with more of a lateral orientation.
But in order to perform either sumo variation safely and effectively, you also need to have excellent hip mobility. If you can’t get your thighs parallel to the floor without your form falling apart (e.g., knees caving inward), work on improving your hip range of motion before you start lifting sumo-style.
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