How to Do Sumo Squats

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Targets: Lower body

Equipment Needed: Barbell, Dumbbells, Kettlebells

Level: Intermediate

Squats are already an integral part of many people’s gym routine. As one of the “big three” powerlifts, they’re a surefire way to strengthen your lower body and core, including the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But to further challenge yourself, try widening your stance to perform a sumo squat instead. This variety of squat places added resistance to your adductors and psoas, strengthening the inner thighs and hip flexors.

Benefits

In general, squats are an excellent way to build lower body muscle, increase stability, and improve balance. Because squatting is a compound movement, it strengthens muscles that are used in everyday activity, such as walking, running, jumping, and climbing the stairs. 

Sumo squats in particular increase activation of the adductors, which are the muscles that run down your inner thighs. It also poses a challenge to your core muscles, which are activated in different ways than during a conventional squat.   

Step-by-Step Instructions

While a traditional sumo squat requires a barbell, you can also perform the exercise using dumbbells or kettlebells. Just be sure to keep the weight centered with your arms slack or held securely at your shoulders.

Sumo squat
Verywell / Ben Goldstein 
  1. Hold dumbbells securely at your shoulders. 
  2. With toes pointing about 45 degrees outward, stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Your hips should be rotated outward, too.
  3. Take a deep breath in, then push your hips backward, lowering into a squat. Keep your core tight, back straight, and knees forward.
  4. Exhale while pressing back to a standing position. Focus on keeping your weight evenly distributed throughout your heel and midfoot.
  5. Repeat for eight to 10 reps.

Common Mistakes

Much like regular squats, there are many common mistakes you can make while performing a sumo squat.

Knees Caving In

One of the most common mistakes when squatting is the knees caving inward—and it’s no different for sumo squats. This is often the result of weak glutes or tight hips. Focus on mobility and stretching your hips before each lifting session, and only lift a weight you can manage while keeping good form. 

Back Rounding

If you’re not used to doing compound exercises like squats or deadlifts, you may find yourself with a weak core, which results in hunching your back to accommodate the weight you’re lifting. Focus on form over weight, and only increase weight when you’re able to keep a neutral spine while squatting. 

Leaning Forward

Tight hips and calves are often the culprits of an excessive forward lean. Solving the issue takes time and involves stretching the hip flexors, foam rolling the gastrocnemius (calves), and strengthening the glutes and erector spinae (back). Again, it’s important to only lift what you can lift with good form, and increase weight as you gain strength. 

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If they’re not a regular part of your routine, squats can be a challenge. If you’re feeling unstable, try performing the exercise without dumbbells. Instead, clasp your hands in front of your chest or hold them straight in front of your shoulders to help yourself stay balanced. 

Up for a Challenge?

Ready to take it to the next level? One easy way to challenge yourself while squatting is to increase the amount of weight you’re holding. If you’re using heavier dumbbells already, you may want to progress to a barbell (if you have access to one). If you’ve never used a barbell before, work with a personal trainer or coach to ensure proper form.  

If you don’t have access to heavier weights, there are still plenty of ways to progress the exercise: 

  1. Pause. At the bottom of your squat, pause for a second or two before pressing back up.
  2. Change your tempo. Complete the entire exercise at half-speed. This increases the tension in your muscle, resulting in larger muscle size. 
  3. Increase reps. If your goal is endurance or power, perform more repetitions before taking a rest. 

Safety and Precautions

Sumo squats are generally a safe move for all populations, but if you’ve recently endured a lower-body or back injury, talk to your doctor before performing this exercise.

To prevent injury, focus on slow, deliberate movement, keeping your core tight, knees softly outward, and chest up to prevent rounding in the back. If you experience pain, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. 

Try It Out

Incorporate this move into one of these popular workouts:

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