The sumo deadlift high pull (SDHP) is an often overlooked movement in CrossFit programming. However, the movement pattern of the SDHP is invaluable for learning to transfer power from the hips and legs, through the upper body, and into the object being lifted with maximal efficiency. This skill is seen in many other sports applications such as rowing, throwing, and weightlifting. Additionally, with its large range of motion, significant contribution from most major muscle groups, and the potential for fast cycle time, the SDHP proves to be a very useful conditioning tool.
As we’ve seen previously (see push jerk and med-ball clean progressions), breaking down movements into a series of simple steps that build upon each other offers several benefits to both the athlete and trainer. The athlete gets the benefit of focusing on important elements without having to worry about successfully completing the entire movement. The trainer benefits by limiting the total number of faults that can happen during the full movement to just those that are most common at each stage. With the use of a progression, therefore, trainers are able to narrow their focus and simplify the corrective process.
The SUMO DEADLIFT HIGH PULL progression uses three introductory steps before the athlete experiences the full movement:
- SUMO DEADLIFT
- SUMO DEADLIFT + SHRUG (SLOW)
- SUMO DEADLIFT + SHRUG (FAST)
- SUMO DEADLIFT HIGH PULL
First, the primary points of performance used in the conventional deadlift are transposed to the wider stance and narrower grip of the sumo deadlift. The athlete should be able to maintain a neutral spine, keep the bar close to the body, set up with the shoulders over or in front of the bar, and have the heels down with weight balanced in the mid-foot. Additionally, the sumo deadlift requires a stance that is about shoulder-width or slightly wider (but not so wide that the athlete cannot keep the knees tracking over the toes) and a narrower grip inside the legs (but not so narrow that the pull becomes imbalanced).
Next, the athlete learns to elevate the bar beyond the finish position of the sumo deadlift by adding a shrug at the top. The slow speed of this second step in the progression is used to emphasize the timing and correct positions: The hips and legs should reach full extension before the shoulders elevate. The arms should remain straight throughout, and the bar should not drift away from the torso.
Once the timing between the lower and upper body is understood, the next step is to teach the athlete to accelerate while maintaining the quality of movement present in the slower version of the drill. Commonly, athletes will begin shrugging early and/or allow themselves to raise their heels prematurely, pulling them off balance.
Finally, the arms are allowed to bend once the positions, timing, and acceleration are understood. Athletes should focus on keeping the elbows “high and outside” so they can keep the bar close to the body. The arms should only be allowed to bend after the deadlift and shrug, following the correct sequence: DEADLIFT, SHRUG, PULL. The same steps should be followed in reverse to successfully lower the bar for the next rep.
The sumo deadlift high pull (or “SDHP”, as you’ll see it written on most whiteboards) is a foundational CrossFit movement.
You will find it listed as 1 of 9 movements taught at the CrossFit Level 1 certification, sandwiched in progression between the deadlift and medicine ball clean.
The SDHP develops strength in the posterior chain as well as explosiveness. It’s also a good teaching tool for learning heavier explosive exercises such as the clean or snatch, hence it’s inclusion in the CF L-1 certification.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the SDHP, how to perform it with good technique, the benefits, and what muscles are worked.
What Is A Sumo Deadlift High Pull?
Sumo deadlift high pulls are a explosive compound exercise used in CrossFit. Some of the same techniques used in the deadlift help new athletes learn the movement.
You will mostly find the SDHP in CrossFit metcon workouts. As the drive to pull the bar under the chin is a challenging position to reach, it’s not likely that you’ll do much strength training with this exercise.
Setting Up For The SDHP
The setup for an SDHP is similar to a deadlift, with a few major differences:
- Wider feet– you’ll notice the word “sumo” comes before deadlift. Sumo deadliftsare a popular way of lifting the bar in powerlifting. Though it’s much less weight on the bar, the stance is the same
- Narrow grip– Notice in the video that his hands are placed closer together than during a traditional deadlift. Depending on your arm length, you may (and probably will) need to put your hands inside the knurling on the bar.
From there, the same proper deadlift mechanics will work here too: tight back, “proud” chest, hips above knees, shoulders in front of the bar, and weight in the heels.
Drive through the floor when you begin the movement.
Sumo Deadlift High Pull Technique
When you begin the sumo deadlift high pull, your hips and shoulders should rise at the same time.
If you feel yourself leaning forward or trying to “muscle” the bar up with your hands, your timing is off.
The key to this exercise is the hip extension.
Driving your heels through the floor, your hips explode, which generates the power for the bar to move from your knees to chest.
Without a good hip drive, you will struggle to move even lighter bars to the top of the exercise.
Your elbows move high and to the outside, and the rep is concluded when the bar arrives under your chin.
Sumo Deadlift High Pull Benefits
Here are some of the benefits of performing sumo deadlift high pulls in CrossFit:
- Explosive power– a strong hip drive is crucial for CrossFit, as it helps with your cleans, snatches, kettlebell swings and more.
- Increased strength– performed correctly, the SDHP is another fantastic compound CrossFit movement that will develop muscles in your legs, back, and shoulders.
- Increased body coordination– especially bringing the bar off the floor requires your body to coordinate between the top half and lower half. This transfers well into learning other physical skills.
Sumo Deadlift High Pull VS Traditional Deadlift
Obviously with the pull to the chin, you won’t be able to lift the same amount of weight when performing an SDHP (at least compared to a deadlift).
If your goal is to increase overall or 1RM strength, you may want to stick with deadlifts.
If you’d like to work your upper body or train your fitness in a metcon CrossFit workout, the SDHP may be the way to go.
You can perform a higher amount of reps with good form compared to deadlifts because the weight will be lower.
What Muscles Are Worked Doing the Sumo Deadlift High Pull
These muscles are worked during the SDHP:
- Hamstrings and glutes – during the setup and drive phase, your leg muscles help drive the bar up
- Hips- explosive hip power translates to other “fast twitch” exercises in CrossFit
- Lower Back- like a deadlift, your lower back and core bears most of the load as you move the bar from point A to B.
- Traps/Shoulders- any exercise where you are shrugging or rowing will help add shoulder strength and mass. Though the SDHP is a bit of a unique combo of both shrugs and rows, it still has benefits.
The SDHP- sumo deadlift high pull- is a foundational CrossFit movement used as both a metcon exercise and as a teaching tool during the CrossFit L-1 Certification.
Adding them to your training will help promote increased power and explosiveness, muscle gains in your shoulders, legs and back.
They are also a good tool for increasing your fitness by throwing them into a “Chipper” workout or other protocol.
In this article we will discuss the sumo deadlift high pull, a compound total body exercise that builds posterior chain strength, muscle mass, and fitness. In the below sections we will go through the muscles worked by the sumo deadlift high pull, proper exercise technique, benefits, and potential risks of performing this movement.
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The sumo deadlift high pull is a compound total body exercise, meaning it stresses a wide array of muscle groups that function across numerous joints in the body. The below list of muscles are the primary muscle groups worked when performing the sumo deadlift high pull, in no specific order.
- Spinal Erectors
- Posterior Shoulder
- Quadriceps (vastus medialis)
- Biceps and Forearms
Sumo High Pull Exercise Tutorial
In the below videos the sumo deadlift high pull is demonstrated, with a barbell.
4 Benefits of the Sumo High Pull
In the below section we will discuss four (4) benefits of performing the sumo deadlift high pull. Note, that this exercise can be done with a variety of equipment (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells).
Posterior Chain Development
The posterior chain is a term used to describe the muscle groups of the back of the body that are responsible for hip extension and most human locomotive and powerful movements. The sumo deadlift high pull targets that hamstrings, gluteals, and back; all of which can increase muscle hypertrophy and strength necessary for more explosive and strength based movements in sports, training, and life.
While the sumo deadlift high pull may not have the highest of power readings as snatches, cleans, jerks, and push presses, it can be a good option to help develop power output capacities in beginner athletes and/or those unable to perform more complex posterior chain power movements (snatch and clean).
Compound, Total Body Movement
Like the squat, thruster, snatch, clean, and push press (just to make a few), the sumo deadlift high pull is total body compound exercise. Constructing exercise programs and workouts around compound total body exercises is often a priority when looking to increase athleticism, functional strength, and caloric expenditure as it stresses a great deal of muscle mass per repetition.
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Metabolic fitness is key for sports that require cardiovascular fitness, anaerobic abilities, and muscle endurance. Movements like the sumo deadlift high pull can be placed into workouts and training cycles to stress large amounts of muscle tissue, done in a higher rep fashion that will drive heart rate up, and instill local and systemic muscular fatigue. In doing so, you enable athletes to adapt to more intense training to mentally physically become more adept at dealing with such stresses; many of which can be found in competitive fitness WODs and more intense activities of daily life (military, fighting, sports, etc)
Are Sumo Deadlift High Pulls Safe?
There has been some debates about whether or not sumo deadlift high pulls are in fact “worth” it given the shoulder positioning at the top of the pull, which can add some stress to the shoulder joint as the hand placement (narrow) and the loading may lead to increase shoulder injuries under high loads, volume, and fatigue. Like most exercises, their are some inherent risks to training, which coaches and athletes should be aware of and modify if needed (such as individuals with shoulder issues, flair-ups, or discomfort). Understanding the risk of forcing high rep, heavier load (since the lower body can really move some weight and build momentum for you in this one, allowing you to move heavier loads), and doing them under increasing amounts of stress lies on the coach and the athlete performing these.