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Deadlift question - hands narrow or wide?


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Okay, so today I asked to learn how to deadlift, and was shown...

but I was instructed to grab the bar with my hands inside my knees/feet.

 

Of course I had to check NF for tips/cues/etc. as soon as I got home, and now I'm left wondering:

1 - Was I just instructed in "sumo" instead of conventional?

2 - Is one better than the other for different goals?

3 - (in a slightly hysterical tone) AM I DOING IT WRONG????

 

Please can someone reassure me or enlighten me, whichever is appropriate?

 

(Also, too, I'm glad I came here, because I would have just assumed that 3x/week was normal, like any other weight stuff.)

 

-georges.

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2013 Running Tally: I lost track in July, at 148.925  ((plus 0.5)) but I finished a Very Slow marathon in October. Then I mostly stopped.
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Hands inside your legs on a deadlift is what is commonly referred to as a "sumo" - and probably a few other names I'm not familiar with.

 

This is one of the best basic videos for doing a deadlift.  In short, your hands should be just outside legs, close but not so close they brush your legs as you stand up.

 

Rippetoe shows the deadlift.  The whole video is worth watching, but the relevant portion starts around 01:45.  I chanted the sequence as a mental checklist before pulling.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfYez7-h55c#t=105

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The sumo form isn't wrong - it's definitely a legitimate technique.  I'll leave the pros and cons to the more experienced lifters.

 

Deadlifting x3 a week depends on your load.  If you're lifting heavy, you probably don't want to lift that much every other day because a deadlift is a full-body exercise and it will drain you and tax your muscles.  The "Strong Lifts" program advocates one set of 5 reps once a week (or once every three exercise periods).  

 

On the other hand, if you're deadlifting for reps, you can do it more often, but the same basic caveat applies - be careful about deadlifting in conjunction with, say, running, which tends to hit the same basic regions.

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Yep, you're doing sumo. Classic deadlifts have your hands outside your knees.

 

Sumo's more upright stance places less stress on your lower back compared to the classic, hitting your thighs much harder instead. The ROM is also much shorter, making it considerably less taxing than classic and doable for more volume.

 

With that said, they're different enough that you might wanna try doing both and seeing which one is better. Or maybe just work on both.

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As others have said, you've been taught the sumo deadlift. It's actually fairly common for instructors to teach sumo to women, rather than the classic deadlift, because the differences (outlined by Papa Raf) play to a woman's neurological and physiological strengths.

 

if you plan on competing in powerlifting, you will need to learn the classic deadlift. Otherwise, do which ever you prefer. Both are great exercises.

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Since I do such high frequency I'll often swap out sumo to try to hit things a little differently.  I've gone for a couple months where I alternated every workout.

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As others have said, you've been taught the sumo deadlift. It's actually fairly common for instructors to teach sumo to women, rather than the classic deadlift, because the differences (outlined by Papa Raf) play to a woman's neurological and physiological strengths.

 

if you plan on competing in powerlifting, you will need to learn the classic deadlift. Otherwise, do which ever you prefer. Both are great exercises.

Nope.

Sumo is a valid deadlift technique in powerlifting competitions, infact you'll see a lot of it at the IPF worlds.  It's much more hip and quad dominant than back, but most beginners will still be guilty of back pulls when they start lifting.

That part about sumo being better for women is some of the biggest bro nonsense I've heard in a while.  The decision about weather to switch to sumo is don't based on some airy fairy misconception about where a woman's strength lie.  You choose sumo based on levarages.  Short arm are generally the first indicator that you should pull sumo, short everything is the second.  You'll find sumo more often in the lighter weights (inlcuding women) because they tend to be stumpier.

Any one pushing sumo to be would be a numpty.  I'm too long and spindly for it.  I've got long arms, long legs and hella good ham strings.  All stuff made for pulling conventional.  Take a look at Kimberly Walford too, would you tell her to pull sumo?

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That part about sumo being better for women is some of the biggest bro nonsense I've heard in a while.  The decision about weather to switch to sumo is don't based on some airy fairy misconception about where a woman's strength lie.  You choose sumo based on levarages.  Short arm are generally the first indicator that you should pull sumo, short everything is the second.  You'll find sumo more often in the lighter weights (inlcuding women) because they tend to be stumpier.

 

Bro nonsense? It's pretty much universally accepted that (most) women have more lower body strength than upper body strength relative to a man of similar weight. I think the last study I saw put this at about 70% (of a man) lower body, 50% upper body. This is backed up by most people's real world experience.

 

So how does it not make sense that lift shifting more emphasis to the lower body would not work in favour of (your average) woman's strengths? And yes, leverages would be important. Perhaps they might fall under those 'physiological strengths' that I mentioned?

 

You will also note that I did not express any approval or disapproval of the practice. I simply pointed out that many trainers felt that way.

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Bro nonsense? It's pretty much universally accepted that (most) women have more lower body strength than upper body strength relative to a man of similar weight. I think the last study I saw put this at about 70% (of a man) lower body, 50% upper body. This is backed up by most people's real world experience.

 

So how does it not make sense that lift shifting more emphasis to the lower body would not work in favour of (your average) woman's strengths? And yes, leverages would be important. Perhaps they might fall under those 'physiological strengths' that I mentioned?

 

You will also note that I did not express any approval or disapproval of the practice. I simply pointed out that many trainers felt that way.

 

For a start, neither sumo or conventional should be an upper body dominant movement. 

The main focus of sumo is around the hips, glutes and quads.

The main focus of conventional is around the glutes, lower back and hamstrings.

Where upper body comes into it is that leeway conventional gives for upper back rounding, however this is countered by the sumo's necessity for a braced upper back through out the lift.  (Try pulling sumo rounded and see how horrible it feels.)  Both require different methods of training on the upper back for that little bit of activation.

 

I will restate,  look at the build of the IPF female conventional lifters.  Their levereges are much more in play than anything to do with disproportinate lower body strength.  Expecially look at the weight difference between their squat and deadlift as a good example of why it's a difference in leverage.  You'll find that a lot of sumo lifters are pretty close on that split.

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The main focus of sumo is around the hips, glutes and quads.

The main focus of conventional is around the glutes, lower back and hamstrings.

 

I think this is the main point we need tro look at for the purpose of this thread. If deadlifting for general fitness and strength, you;'re probably going to want to pull conventional to target the posterior chain (back and hamstrings) more since you're probably also squatting, which is all hips and quads. By doing this, you'll be working everything out more evenly.

 

Now, if you're just concerned about weight on the bar, or you want to add variation, then that's the point at which sumo needs to be considered. If you have to pick one in a standard barbell training program, I think you'll get better overall results from conventional.

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I actually have a question related to this topic as well. I was shown to deadlift sumo style as well (inside the shoulder, close grip)- but one hand facing the body and one hand away from the body (like you're twisting a washcloth). Is this the correct hand position? I've only tried it with very light weight, while being shown, to perfect the form, so I haven't done heavy weight at this stance. I have long legs, and a shorter torso- so inside the legs feels more comfortable; however, even with lower weight I noticed a more even muscle "pull" when my hands were conventionally placed at shoulder stance. Long story short, is there a strategic reason for positioning your hands opposite each other? Or is it a personal preference of my trainer?

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That's commonly called a "split grip" - and it's not wrong.  I don't know why, but using a split grip feels easier than keeping both hands in the same position.

 

Because it's easier, I think some of the more committed lifters prefer to work with both hands in the same position rather than using the easier split grip.  Honestly, I don't think the difference will be all that big of a deal for anyone not planning on a lift competition.

 

I imagine one of the more knowledgeable posters can shed more light on the biomechanical details if you're curious about the specifics.

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I actually have a question related to this topic as well. I was shown to deadlift sumo style as well (inside the shoulder, close grip)- but one hand facing the body and one hand away from the body (like you're twisting a washcloth). Is this the correct hand position? I've only tried it with very light weight, while being shown, to perfect the form, so I haven't done heavy weight at this stance. I have long legs, and a shorter torso- so inside the legs feels more comfortable; however, even with lower weight I noticed a more even muscle "pull" when my hands were conventionally placed at shoulder stance. Long story short, is there a strategic reason for positioning your hands opposite each other? Or is it a personal preference of my trainer?

 

Alternating, or split, grip is used to help keep the bar from rolling out of your hands. It is really only necessary once the weight you are pulling becomes too much for you to handle with a double overhand grip, both hands with knuckles away from the body. The double overhand grip helps to build your grip strength as you increase the weight of your working sets, so I would recommend using it as long as you can.

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Lots of good info waiting here for me when my internet "provider" started providing again!  Thanks all!

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This used to be where  my weight loss progress bar was. Maybe it will be here again when I'm ready to face the scale and work on my fat problem.
 NewBattleLog              OldBattleLog (between challenges)

Spoiler


Don't let what you cannot do
interfere with what you can do.

-John Wooden

2013 Running Tally: I lost track in July, at 148.925  ((plus 0.5)) but I finished a Very Slow marathon in October. Then I mostly stopped.
2014 Running Tally: 134.1 miles plus 5k (as of 17 September) lost track again, but I know I had at least 147.2 plus 5k for 2014.
2015 Running Tally: 41.2 treadmilled miles & 251.93 real world miles

2016 Running Tally: 0

 

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This sounds like nitpicking but it really isn't...

 

The difference between sumo and conventional deadlifts isn't the width of your hands. Your hands will still hang straight down from your shoulders in both styles. It's the stance width that differentiates the two styles. Don't think of the sumo dead as being hands inside your legs, think of it as being feet outside of your hands. 

 

Other than I agree that lifters should pick whichever one works better for them.

 

70's big has a good article for those who want to try out sumo style. 

http://70sbig.com/blog/2013/05/coaching-the-sumo-deadlift/

 

 

ETA: I wrote "both grips" at one point when I meant "both styles". Sorry for any confusion.

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BeamoftheTurtle was asking about hand positioning - specifically split grip and overhand grip.

 

OP was asking about sumo versus conventional DL, particularly about stance general grip placement (inside or outside the leg).

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Thank you for the clarifications!

 

I'm glad to know that either is acceptable, and that there is a reason behind it (my trainer does not compete, and lifts extremely heavy). I think, for myself and my goals, I'll lift in the competitve fashion simply because I do not know where I'll be in a year. I do not want to start off with a habit that will need to be changed should I decide to compete later down the line.

 

Again, thank you so much for the kind, and thoughtful responses! :)

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This sounds like nitpicking but it really isn't...

 

The difference between sumo and conventional deadlifts isn't the width of your hands. Your hands will still hang straight down from your shoulders in both styles. It's the stance width that differentiates the two styles. Don't think of the sumo dead as being hands inside your legs, think of it as being feet outside of your hands. 

 

Other than I agree that lifters should pick whichever one works better for them.

 

70's big has a good article for those who want to try out sumo style. 

http://70sbig.com/blog/2013/05/coaching-the-sumo-deadlift/

 

 

ETA: I wrote "both grips" at one point when I meant "both styles". Sorry for any confusion.

 

I'm going to nitpick too. Studies actually show that sumo lifts have a 17% narrower grip than conventional lifts in competitive powerlifters. This is because the conventional lifters need to make allowance for their legs/knees between their arms.

 

Clearly, the closer the arms are to 90 deg off the bar, the shorter the bar path. That said, I agree that this difference is not going to be the primary source of any advantage or disadvantage.

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I will do today what others won't, so that I can do tomorrow what others can't.

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