Sumo Squat – How To Do, Benefits, And Variations

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A woman performing sumo squat on a black yoga mat

How to do | Muscles worked | who should/should not | Add to routine | Safety tips | Benefits | Variations

Sumo squat, also known as a plié squat, is a compound exercise that works on multiple lower body muscle groups. It is a wide-leg squat variation that requires a wider-than-usual stance.

Generally, when you perform a sumo squat, your feet are set 3 to 4 feet apart, resembling the stance of sumo wrestlers at the beginning of a sumo match.

How to do a sumo squat?

There are many variations of sumo squats. However, if you are new to strength training, start with a basic body weight sumo squat.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do a sumo squat with perfect form.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and point the toes out at 45 degrees.
  2. Clasp your hands together at chest level.
  3. Inhale and engage your core and glutes.
  4. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees and lower your hips like you’re sitting back in a chair.
  5. Continue descending until your thighs are lower than parallel to the floor.
  6. Pause for a moment and then press through your heels to return to the starting position.
  7. Exhale as you return to the standing position.

Muscles worked

As mentioned above, sumo squats are a form of compound exercises. As such, the sumo squat works on multiple muscle groups. Here are the muscles that are targeted:

Primary muscles worked

Quadriceps (quads)rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis
Glute muscles (buttocks)gluteus maximus
Adductors (inner thigh muscles)adductor longus, adductor magnus, and pectineus

Secondary muscles activated

Hamstringsbiceps femoris
Hip flexorsiliacus, psoas, pectineus, rectus femoris, and sartorius
Calf musclessoleus and gastrocnemius
Core musclestransverse abdominis and obliques
Back muscleserector spinae and multifidus

Who should and should not do sumo squats?

Most individuals can perform sumo squats without any issues. However, since the sumo squat requires a wider stance than a standard squat, certain individuals should avoid this exercise.

Who should do sumo squats?

You should do sumo squats, if you want to:

  • strengthen your knees
  • increase the size of your glutes and inner thighs
  • lift more weights. This squat enables you to handle more weight than a traditional squat.

Who should avoid sumo squats?

  1. Sumo squats can put a lot of stress on the knees and hips. So, if you have an existing knee or hip injury, you should avoid this exercise.
  2. It’s best to skip sumo squats and opt for a different exercise if you have any history of lower back injuries.

Adding it to your routine

As you can do a sumo squat with or without weight, they are perfect for all levels of fitness enthusiasts. Here is how to add sumo squats to your squat workout routine to target lower body muscles.

Beginner level

If you are at a beginner level in your fitness journey, follow this workout routine 

Beginner Level ExercisesReps
Warm-up (Butt kicks)2-3 Minutes
Air squat2-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Pulse squat2-3 sets of 6-8 reps(3-5 pulses in each rep)
Jump squat2-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Bodyweight sumo squat2-3 sets 6-8 reps

Intermediate/ Advanced level

Here is a sample circuit for intermediate or advanced fitness enthusiasts to add sumo squats into their routine. 

Intermediate/Advanced Level ExercisesReps
Warm up (Butt kicks)2-3 Minutes
Goblet squat3-5 sets of 12-15 reps
Pistol squat3-4 sets of 8-10 reps
Overhead squat2-3 sets of 8-10 reps
Weighted sumo squat3-5 sets of 12-15 reps

Safety tips for doing sumo squats

Sumo squats are generally safe for most people. However, you should keep a few things in mind to maintain form and avoid injury.

  • Warm up before doing sumo squats. A light jog will increase your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the workout.
  • Do not arch your back when doing sumo squats. Keep your spine neutral throughout the exercise to avoid lower back pain.
  • Do not let your knees extend over your toes when doing sumo squats. This puts unnecessary pressure on the joints and can lead to injury.
  • Keep your weight in your heels when doing sumo squats. This will help you maintain balance and avoid knee pain.

Sumo squat benefits

A study claims that wider stance [1]National Library of Medicine: How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading during squatting positively affects muscle activity in the lower extremities. This makes sumo squats an ideal lower body exercise. Here are the top benefits of doing sumo squats:

1. Strengthens inner thighs

A 2021 study [2]PubMed: The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training analyzed muscle activation during the different phases of wide-stance, full squats. The study proves that performing wide-stance squats, like sumo squats, activates your inner thigh muscles.

During the descent phase of a sumo squat, the inner thigh muscles (adductors) work hard to stabilize your knees. This helps to tone and strengthen your inner thigh muscles.

2. Builds strong glutes

When performing a sumo squat, your glutes actively stabilize the hip movement and keep the knees aligned with the toes. This helps to build strength and definition in the glutes. Stronger glutes results in improved balance and coordination. 

3. Engages your core

The core muscles work to maintain a stable upright posture throughout the sumo squat movement. Additionally, a few sumo squat variations like sumo squat rotation, specifically target and engage oblique and abdominal muscles of the core.

Sumo squat variations

Once you master the basic sumo squat, you can try different variations to challenge your muscles in different ways. Here are some popular sumo squat variations:

1. Kettlebell sumo squat

To advance with the sumo squat, you can hold a kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands while doing the exercise. This sumo squat variation will help you place more emphasis on your adductor muscles.

2. Barbell sumo squat

If you want to increase the weight, you can hold a barbell across your shoulders while performing the sumo squat. This will help you work your quads more than a traditional barbell squat. 

3. Dumbbell sumo squat

Hold a dumbbell in each hand while performing the sumo squat to make this squat more challenging. This variation will help you work your arms, shoulders, and lower body muscles.

4. Sumo jump squat

Try the sumo jump squats if you don’t have weights handy but want to advance with sumo squats. This is a plyometric exercise that will help you improve your explosive power. This movement involves jumping as high as you can from the sumo squat position.

5. Sumo squat rotation

This advanced sumo squat variation will help you work your obliques along with lower body muscles. To do sumo squat rotation [3]American Council on Exercise: Sumo Rotational Squats, start in the sumo squat position and then rotate your torso to one side. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

6. Tempo sumo squat

To increase the difficulty of the sumo squat, you can try the tempo sumo squat. In this variation, you must lower yourself slowly and then return to the starting position quickly. This will help you emphasize the eccentric phase of the exercise more.

Conclusion

A sumo squat is an effective way to target the lower body muscle group. Once you get comfortable with basic sumo squat movement, consider adding weights. However, pay close attention to your body and stop immediately if you notice discomfort. Talk to a certified personal trainer or physical therapist to make sure you are squat form is correct.

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