What Is the Purpose of Wide Stance Deadlifts?

Young woman lifting barbell, portrait

The deadlift is a strength-training exercise that affects multiple major muscle groups at once. You can change your foot positioning to a wider stance -- a sumo deadlift -- to take the focus away from your back. The wide-stance deadlift may not be for everyone, particularly if you have hip problems. Always speak to your physician before beginning any weightlifting program to ensure you do not have injuries or medical conditions that could affect your ability to lift weights.

The Exercise

Wide-stance deadlifts are performed from a standing position holding either a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be wider than shoulder-width apart and turned outward, much like the pose a sumo wrestler adopts. Keep your back straight and head looking forward as you squat down to grasp the bar. Keep your hands between your legs as you do and hold the bar with a mixed grip, in which one palm is facing toward your body while the other faces away from your body. Drive your hips forward and straighten your knees and back to stand straight with the weight in your hand, then squat back down to return the bar to the floor.

Muscles Worked

The wide-stance deadlift works a number of major muscle groups. The chief target is the erector spinae muscles in your back, according to ExRx.net, an anatomy and physical training website. Muscles that work with your body during the deadlift -- also known as synergists -- include the gluteus maximus or butt muscles, adductor magnus, quadriceps or your soleus, a part of your calf muscle. Other muscle groups worked in the sumo deadlift include the hamstrings, abdominals, obliques and upper back muscles including your trapezius and rhomboids.

Wide Stance vs. Standard Stance

Conventional deadlifts are performed with your feet shoulder-width apart, according to Muscle & Strength. The conventional foot positioning puts greater effort on strengthening your lower back and postural muscles. If you have a strong back, you might be able to lift more weight using the conventional stance than when using the sumo deadlift. If you have had lower back pain in the past, the sumo deadlift may serve a safer purpose for you. The wide-legged style puts greater emphasis on your buttocks, front and back of the thighs and hips and not your back.


Wide-legged deadlifts can place greater strain on the hips and knees, particularly if you are unaccustomed to the motion, reports Muscle & Strength. You may start with a light-weight dumbbell or no weight at all to become accustomed to the sumo deadlift motion. Stop performing the exercise if you experience pain during the widestance deadlift.