Deadlifting Basics with Dr. Graham : The Proper Stance

by Dr. Graham

Published: Fri, 06 Feb 2015

What is the best stance to use when performing the dead lift? Is one stance safer than another? Is there a specific stance that is used to lift heavy? Dr. Doug Graham demonstrates the varied stances available when deadlifting.


Hi, Dr. Doug Graham here with another deadlifting tip. Today we're going to look at the stance, how do you hold your feet when you approach the bar. There are two standard stances, one's just called regular and one is called sumo. I'm going to show you both, but in reality, there's everything in between as well.

If you want to have the ideal deadlift stance, it's the one that feels most comfortable to you and gets you the best results. Different stances will result in slightly different lifting mechanics and we're going to have to pay attention to how do you wish to lift.

A standard deadlift would be with legs set about shoulder width apart. If they're shoulder width apart, we're just about where most people do their deadlifting. They might be just slightly larger apart, farther apart than shoulder width, or we like to think we have bigger shoulders than we really do.

If we're just about there, we can come close to the bar, feet facing forward. We're going to put our grip on the outside of our legs and that's about what we're going to see.

In a sumo stance, the feet turn out as the legs go out. The further apart they go, the more they turn out. Most people don't go super wide but it is certainly legal. By the time we're out even this far apart, where about the heels are a little wider than shoulder width, the feet are already turned out.

This stance creates some challenging mechanics because at this point it's not so easy to balance with your feet turned way out, so we have to be a little more aware of the fact that your balance isn't as good but you do get a slightly different usage of the hamstring and adductor muscles when we're in the sumo position as opposed as to when we're in a standard stance.

What you'll find typically is that the people who use a standard stance find it easier to get the weight off the ground, but a little harder to finish the lift because they're coming up so high and they had to bend over so low, a little tougher to finish and they're a tendency to jimmy up the legs.

Whereas with the sumo stance, the beginning of the lift tends to be the most difficult. The hardest thing is to overcome the momentum of the bar or the inertia of the bar on the ground and to get that first inch or two off the ground. Once you get that beginning part of the lift, then the finishing of the lift, the erect stance holding the bar high, that part tends to be quite easy and is usually a predictable finish if you can get the start.

Two possible lifts, legs relatively close together, arms on the outside of the legs. In the sumo position with the feet apart and angled out, at that point the arms go inside the legs and you have your choice of style.

Do the style of lifting that works best for you. This is Dr. Doug Graham with another deadlifting tip.