BREAK IT DOWN: The Sumo Squat

By Maggie Fazeli Fard |

While it’s tempting to pursue the goal of the “perfect” squat, squatting is as unstandardized as the human body. The sumo squat is a popular, body-friendly variation.

Also known as a wide-stance or wide-legged squat, the sumo squat calls for a broader-than-standard setup: feet 3 to 4 feet apart and toes pointed out about 45 degrees. This has several advantages:

  1. The sumo stance can be applied to any other squat variation — such as body-weight, back, front, or goblet — and is a sanctioned setup for powerlifters.

Avoid taking a too-big or too-small stance, and practice patience: growing accustomed to and building strength in this position may take time.

The following tips and cues can help you safely attempt this squat alternative.

1. Stand with your feet wide and turn your toes out 45 degrees.

2. Brace your core and, with control, bend your knees and hips to squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the ground. Don’t let your knees cave inward.

Tip: Engage your inner thighs and hips to track your knees over your feet.

Tip: Keep your chest up and maintain a neutral spine, neither overly arched nor overly curved.

3. Press through your feet to stand up. Think about spreading the floor with your feet and externally rotating at the hips as you rise.

Tip: Keep your heels on the floor.

Perform a sumo-stance squat without any additional weight.Perform a sumo-stance squat with apositioned on your back.Perform a sumo-stance squat while supporting a barbell in a front rack position across the front of your . Remember that in a front squat, your shoulders and core will do the bulk of the work to keep the barbell up — your hands play a secondary support position. To find a comfortable hand position that suits your , shoulder, and lat mobility, try the following:Throughout the move, focus on keeping your elbows up and ribs down.Perform a sumo-stance squat while supporting a barbell across the front of your shoulders with your arms extended straight in front of you.Perform a sumo-stance squat while holding a singleby the horns at chest height. Keep your elbows close to the body and don’t let your ribs flare out.Perform a sumo-stance squat with a sandbag (or a barbell or axle bar wrapped in a pad) positioned in the crooks of your elbows.This functional squat variation is also an advanced move for many gym-goers. Start practicing with awhile improving your overall back-squat mechanics and strength, and only then progress to a using a barbell. Historically the Steinborn squat was used to lift a barbell onto one’s back when a rack wasn’t available and the weight was too heavy to clean-and-press overhead. Don’t worry about building up to a heavy weight, though; focus on controlled, deliberate movements to improve your mobility and midline stability.

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