The Sumo Deadlift is a fantastic alternative stance to the Conventional Deadlift, but some of the very best accessory movements for the Sumo Deadlift may differ slightly.
The wider stance of the Sumo Deadlifts is more hip dominant, upright, and requires slightly different cues than the Conventional stance.
This is why we recommend these five exercises to take your Sumo Deadlift to the stratosphere.
The Best Sumo Deadlift Accessory Movements
Assuming that you already have your technique dialed in and your cues down to a T, we will jump right into the best exercises you can do to take your Sumo Deadlift to the next level.
1. Wide-Stance Front Box Squat
Adopting a Front Squat stance similar to your Sumo Deadlift set up — but, the different here is, the weight is placed across your front deltoids instead of being pulled beneath you — you can mimic your pull as a Squat.
The spinal loading is a little gentler than on the Back Squat variations, plus the Front Squat activates all the muscles necessary to keep you upright. In fact, you HAVE to remain upright otherwise you’ll have a very tough time completing the lift.
In essence, this rare Box Squat variation forces you to maintain good form throughout the movement.
It also takes much of the upper back out of the equation — in comparison to pulling — and focuses much of the activation in the hips and quads to help you blast off from the floor.
The Box takes out the stretch-reflex portion of the Squat out of the hole to help you generate power throughout the movement.
Try doing this one for 3 sets of 3-5 reps at around 80-90% of your Front Squat 1RM.
2. Banded Sumo Stance Romanian Deadlift
Now, that is quite a mouthful to say, but it’ll take your Sumo Deadlift to the next level.
Set up as you would for a regular Sumo Deadlift, but tie bands or chains on either side to increase tension as the movement progresses.
The idea is to overload the movement throughout the lift and increase time under tension.
This will set your upper back and posterior chain on fire.
After every rep descend to an inch above the floor and come back up again.
Don’t use heavy weights for this one — 50-60% of your 1RM is more than enough. But, here’s the kicker: you will use extremely high rep ranges. Start with shooting for 3 sets of 20 reps, then try to hit the same weight for 3 sets of 25 the following week until you can do a set for 50 reps. I’m not kidding.
3. Barbell Row With Body English
This exercise is not for the fainthearted.
While I wouldn’t recommend this for anybody who hasn’t got at least a few years of lifting experience under their belt; the barbell row with body English — basically a kip from the mid shins to add momentum, similar to either a Romanian deadlift and powerclean turned into a barbell row — this exercise will pack on tons of size in your upper back and posterior chain.
I singlehandedly attribute the addition of this exercise in my program for being able to deadlift 6 plates for the first time.
I had been struggling to break the 6 plate barrier for 18 months, always coming up short.
This variation of the barbell row gave me the strength–and confidence–to make my first ever 6-plate deadlift look like a speed pull.
Apart from assisting with the deadlift, this row will carry over to the bench press in adding stability in the lats and size in the rhomboids to launch the barbell off your chest.
For your Sumo Deadlift, it’ll add slabs of muscle to your upper back and increased stability throughout the movement. You will also develop explosive power in your hamstrings for a confident Sumo Deadlift.
4. The Herculean Squat (The Herc Squat)
Ok, now this Sumo Deadlift — and Squat — builder is my own invention, but it added some serious mass to my backside and legs as well as taking my Sumo Deadlift and Squat to the next level.
This one is very simple to do; it’s basically a supramaximal Bulgarian Split Squat done on the Smith Machine to add a layer of safety and stability while lifting weights far beyond your max.
Set up as you would for a Bulgarian Split Squat on the Smith Machine and set pins to stop the bar about halfway through your natural range of motion.
You will be able to do way more than your max. If you can squat 400lb, try putting 250lb-300lb per leg for 3 sets of 5-7 reps. This is the equivalent resistance of squatting 500-600lb — which you cannot currently do.
This exercise is tough on the CNS and connective tissue because it’s far beyond your one rep max, so use on a month-on, month-off basis.
5. Reverse Hyper
This is a great finisher after a Deadlift Day as it helps decompress the spine and provides some massive impact while lowering the risk of injury.
What Does the Reverse Hyper Target?
The Reverse Hyper targets the entire posterior chain: glutes and hamstrings, directly; spinal erectors and calves, indirectly.
The strength curve of this exercise is exaggerated near peak contraction, meaning that the further along the movement you get, the harder it becomes.
Traditionally reserved as a workout finisher, the Reverse Hyper is best used for slightly hyper rep ranges — anywhere between 8-20 reps as the goal isn’t to lift as much weight as possible, but to get decent reps at a steady tempo.
The only problem with this exercise is that many gyms don’t have the right equipment, so you may need to use your imagination when it comes to setting up the exercise.
Spinal Decompression/Reducing Back Pain
Far too few lifters take spinal decompression seriously, but repeated spinal loading without decompression work or mobility work at a minimum can cut your lifting career short.
Imagine training week in, week out, loading up several plates a side for your Deadlifts, Squats, Barbell Rows, and Overhead Presses without doing any work to counteract that downward pressure… it could be a recipe for disaster.
And I know some people might skip over doing these exercises because they’re boring or they feel like a waste of time.
Now, there’s no excuse to avoid decompression work as you will feel like you are doing something.
As we mentioned in our article on Spinal Decompression:
Another very effective spinal decompression exercise is the reverse hyper. You’ll need a reverse hyper machine to perform it, however.
Louie Simmons, the famous father of Westside Barbell, fractured one of his lumbar vertebrae as a young man and was told he would never lift again. Of course Louie being Louie, he had other ideas, and through a programme of rehabilitation that included using reverse hypers, he was able to get back to lifting absurd poundages – something he continues to do to this day.
Spinal decompression tool and potent posterior chain builder
If you don’t have access to a reverse hyper machine, there is a spinal decompression bodyweight alternative that you can try.
Bodyweight version of spinal decompression exercise
Whichever of these exercises you choose to do, we recommend you perform them after every session that includes heavy spinal loading, so especially after deadlifts and squats. Even a small amount of spinal decompression training will help you protect your spine and bulletproof it against injury.
Remember: you want to be in this for the long run.
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