Differences in deadlift variations: Conventional versus Semi-sumo deadlift

Woman semi-sumo deadlift

An online coaching client of mine asked an awesome question about their training program. They wanted to know the differences between conventional versus semi-sumo deadlift.

Why “semi-sumo” deadlift instead of regular? What are the differences between the three (traditional, semi, and sumo)? What different things should I be getting out of that motion? Different things to focus on as compared to other deadlifts. Also, pull-up vs chin-up, the difference in muscle groups being hit? Reasons to do both? Things to focus on for each?

To that, I replied…

Short version: They hit the muscles in subtly different ways and add variety so things don’t get stale.

The longer version below. But don’t worry. Not too long.

Differences in deadlift variations: Conventional versus semi-sumo

Semi-sumo deadlifts may be more back-friendly. Compared to a conventional deadlift, the wider stance provides a more upright torso, reducing lower back strain.


Semi-sumo deadlift. Photo credit: Glute lab

They’re also less demanding in terms of mobility. Unlike the full sumo stance, which requires significant hip mobility, semi-sumo is accessible to most lifters without needing extreme flexibility.


Sumo deadlift: Photo credit: EliteFTS

Lastly, since we’re doing traditional deads on one day switching adds variety and asks to activate the quads more.

The stance engages the quadriceps more than a conventional deadlift, building leg strength and potentially boosting overall lift weight.

In terms of the three main versions (traditional, conventional, and semi-sumo each stance emphasizes different muscle groups and requires slightly different focus points:

  • Conventional: Focus on proper hip hinge, keeping the back flat, and engaging the hamstrings and glutes.
  • Semi-Sumo: Maintain an upright torso, utilize quads in the lift, and keep good knee and ankle alignment.
  • Full Sumo: Prioritize hip mobility, activate quads and adductors, and maintain a stable, wide base.

Difference in pull-ups and chin-ups



Both work major back muscles like the latissimus dorsi and they engage different secondary muscles due to the grip variations:

Pull-Ups: Overhand grip with palms facing away from you primarily targets the lats, biceps, and forearms.

Chin-Ups: Underhand grip with palms facing you emphasizes the biceps, brachialis, and upper back muscles along with the lats.

We’re doing both for the same reasons as mentioned above with the deads: Variety and the differences in what the grips prioritize.

Pull-Ups: Build overall pulling strength and back thickness.

Chin-Ups: Strengthen biceps and forearms, improving grip and overall pulling power.

Thank you for reading. You are appreciated.


Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash