How to Do Sumo Squats: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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Targets: Lower body

Equipment Needed: Barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells (optional)

Level: Intermediate

As one of the “big three” powerlifts, squats are a surefire way to strengthen your lower body and core. To further challenge yourself, try widening your stance to perform a sumo squat instead. This variation can add variety to your lower body strength training routine.

How to Do a Sumo Squat

Sumo squat
Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, your toes pointing outward at about 45 degrees. Your hips should be rotated outward, too. This is the starting position.

  1. Inhale while pushing your hips back and lowering into a squat position. Keep your core tight, back straight, and knees forward during this movement.
  2. Exhale while returning to the starting position. Focus on keeping your weight evenly distributed throughout your heel and midfoot.

Benefits of the Sumo Squat

Squats, in general, are an excellent way to build lower body muscle. When performed with proper form, they work primarily the thigh muscles (the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, and biceps femoris) and the calf (gastrocnemius).

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

Because sumo squats target the lower body, they can help improve stability and balance. Squats are also an exercise that is often used in sports training and rehabilitation programs.  

Because squatting is a compound movement, it strengthens the muscles used in everyday activities such as walking, running, jumping, and climbing the stairs. It is also a functional movement, using the same motion as when picking up a heavy object.

Other Variations of a Sumo Squat

You can modify this exercise to better suit your fitness level and goals.

Basic Squat for Beginners

Since this is an intermediate exercise, beginners benefit from mastering a basic squat first. The series of steps is the same, except the feet are hip-width apart (instead of being a bit wider) with the toes pointing forward (versus pointing outward).

Squat

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Reduced Speed

Once you've mastered the sumo squat, complete the exercise at half speed. This increases the tension in your muscle, resulting in a larger muscle size. Another option is to pause for a second or two at the bottom of your squat before pressing back up.

Weighted Sumo Squat

Challenge yourself while doing a sumo squat by adding weights. A traditional sumo squat involves the use of a barbell. You can also use dumbbells or kettlebells. Just be sure to keep the weight centered with your arms slack or held securely at your shoulders.   

If you work your way up to heavier dumbbells and want to progress to a barbell, you may benefit from working with a personal trainer or coach to ensure that you use proper form.

Sumo Squat Rotation

Add a rotational movement to this exercise to boost core strength. After lowering into a sumo squat position, turn your torso to the right, pivoting your feet to assist with the turn, then return to the center. On the next squat, turn to the left before returning to the center.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes while performing a sumo squat to keep this movement safe and effective.

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. Stretch your hips before each strength training session and only lift a weight you can manage while keeping good form. 

Rounded Back

If you’re not used to doing compound exercises like squats or deadlifts, you may find yourself with a weak core. This results in hunching your back to accommodate the weight you’re lifting. Focus on form over weight and only increase the weight once 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).

It’s important to use a weight that you can lift with good form. You can always increase the weight you use as you gain strength. 

Safety and Precautions

Sumo squats are generally a safe move for people with an intermediate fitness level. However, 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 movements while keeping your core tight, knees softly outward, and chest up to prevent rounding in the back. If you experience pain, stop the exercise immediately. 

Try to complete eight to 10 reps. If your goal is endurance or power, perform more repetitions before taking a rest.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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4 Sources
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