Because of this belief amongst the fitness community, it is not uncommon for athletes to blame a less than optimal deadlift on poor genetics. Things like the length of your bones and muscle fiber composition are difficult and impossible to alter. However, each lifter should explore different styles to find the one that better suits their bio-mechanical characteristics.
We all know that If you have long arms and short torso, you should pull conventional. If you have long torso and short arms, you should pull sumo. That’s common sense. Or is it?
But how do you know whether your arms or torso are long or short?
Direct comparison of your arm length to the arm of someone who is 5’8 doesn’t mean anything unless you are also 5’8. Arm-torso length need to be expressed as PROPORTION to of your height.
Divide your arm length by your height, and your torso length by your height.
- Your torso should be measured from the bony prominence on the side of your thigh at the top (greater trochanter) to the top of your head.
- Your arm is measured from the top of your shoulder (head of the humerus) to the middle finger, holding your arm out straight.
- Take your height barefoot standing against a wall
So using that information if you have short arms relative to your torso, you’re better off pulling sumo. If you have long arms relative to your torso, pull conventional. If your arm length matches your torso length, you can pull both styles and experiment on which works better for you.
That being said, this is not a rule to end all discussion. We are not just made up of bones. Strength and mobility will also affect your deadlifting style.
People with strong glutes, hamstrings and lower back (posterior chain) favor conventional pulls. People with strong quads and adductors (and adductor flexibility) are better sumo pullers.
In conclusion, beginner lifters can benefit from the information presented above to decide which pulling style could suit them better. If you are an advanced lifter, and the recommendations above don’t match your pulling style, maybe you have already developed your strength and flexibility to counter the influence of your structure. Or maybe, just maybe you have an untapped potential in deadlifting in the style in which your bones are best suited for.