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Barbell Sumo Squat – A potent exercise for targeting your lower body muscles
The barbell sumo squat is a variation of the traditional squat exercise that targets the lower body muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs. The pose resembles the wide-legged stance of sumo wrestlers, hence the name.
Sumo Squat vs. Barbell Sumo Squat
The terms “sumo squat” and “barbell sumo squat” are often used in place of one another, but it is worth noting there can be a slight difference in execution.
The sumo squat is a squat variation where you position your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out at an angle, similar to the stance of a sumo wrestler.
You perform the exercise using your body weight or hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of you to add resistance.
On the other hand, the barbell sumo squat refers to performing the sumo squat exercise using a loaded barbell. The variation involves placing a barbell while performing the sumo squat.
Thus the main difference between the two is the use of a barbell and the potential for heavier resistance in the barbell sumo squat compared to the sumo squat with other forms of resistance.
You have the added benefit of progressively overloading the exercise by gradually increasing the weight on the barbell when performing the barbell sumo squat. That can effectively help build lower body strength and muscle mass.
Aside from the above, the sumo squat and the barbell sumo squat target similar muscles, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.
Barbell Sumo Squat – The exercise
Steps to follow
To perform the barbell sumo squat with proper form, follow these steps:
- Place the barbell on the floor and load it with an appropriate weight.
- Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing at about 45 degrees.
- Step under the bar, lift it, and position it across your upper back, resting it on your trapezius muscles. You can use an overhand grip and ensure your palms are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Draw your belly button towards your spine to engage your core muscles. Keep your chest up and shoulders back, and maintain an upright posture throughout. Look straight ahead and ensure your head is in a neutral position.
- Bend your knees, push your hips back, and simultaneously flex your knees and hips to lower your body.
- Continue lowering your body until your thighs are parallel to or slightly below the floor. Keep your knees tracking in line with your toes throughout the movement and avoid letting them collapse inward.
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat to ensure you have reached an appropriate depth.
- Drive through your heels, push your hips forward, and extend your knees to return to your starting position. Keep your chest up, maintain an upright posture, and exhale as you rise.
- Keep your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed out.
- Maintain an upright posture with your chest up and shoulders back.
- Engage your core muscles throughout the movement.
- Control the descent and avoid bouncing at the bottom.
- Drive through your heels and push your hips forward to rise.
- Keep your knees tracking in line with your toes.
- Start with lighter weights to master the form, and gradually increase the load as you become comfortable and confident.
- Consider seeking guidance from a fitness professional if necessary.
Barbell Sumo Squat – Common Mistakes
The barbell sumo squat can be an effective exercise for targeting the lower body muscles. But it is vital to do the exercise with proper form. That will help maximize the benefits.
Below are some common mistakes to look out for and avoid when performing the barbell sumo squat.
Being mindful of these common mistakes can ensure you perform barbell sumo squats safely and effectively and maximize the returns for your lower body strength and muscle development. Seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional if necessary.
- Foot placement
One common mistake is placing the feet close to each other or being too far apart.
Ensure you position your feet at more than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing out at a 45-degree angle when performing the barbell sumo squat.
The wider stance is crucial for effectively targeting and working the inner thighs and glutes.
- Rounding your back
Round your back during the squat can put extra stress on your spine and increase the risk of injury.
Instead, maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and core engaged. Imagine a straight line running from your head to your tailbone.
- Collapsing your knees
Allowing your knees to collapse inward is a common mistake during the barbell sumo squat. That can put undue stress on the knee joints, leading to imbalances and potential injury. Instead, focus on pushing your knees out in line with your toes throughout the movement to maintain proper alignment and engage the correct muscles.
- Getting the depth correct
Not reaching an appropriate depth during the squat can limit the engagement of the targeted muscles.
Aim to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to or slightly below the floor.
- Core engagement.
Not engaging your core muscles can compromise stability and proper form.
Draw your belly button in and toward your spine to engage and keep your core tight throughout the exercise.
- Using momentum
Using excessive momentum or bouncing at the bottom of the squat can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and increase the risk of injury.
Instead, focus on controlled movements throughout the entire range of motion. Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat before driving upward.
- Starting with excessive weight
Newbies should always start with an appropriate weight and gradually increase the load over time. Starting with too much weight can compromise your technique and increase the risk of injury.
Barbell sumo squat – Targeted muscles
The main focus of the barbell sumo squat is the lower body muscles.
The quadriceps or quads, at the front of the thighs, are the principal muscles the barbell sumo squat targets. They are responsible for extending the knee joint.
The hamstrings, at the back of the thigh, work as knee flexors, and hip extensors are also engaged during the exercise.
The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are heavily involved in the barbell sumo squat.
The glutes are responsible for hip extension, stabilization, and lower body strength.
The wide stance of the barbell sumo squat allows you to target the inner thigh muscles or adductors.
The adductors assist in hip adduction or bringing the legs closer together.
The calf muscles help with ankle stability and plantar flexion.
Aside from the above main muscles, the barbell sumo squat engages several other muscles for stability and support. These include the core muscles, erector spine, and stabilizer muscles in the hips and lower body.
By targeting these muscle groups, the barbell sumo squat can help develop overall lower body strength, improve muscle tone and definition, enhance functional movement patterns, and contribute to a well-rounded lower body workout routine.
Benefits of barbell sumo squat
The barbell sumo squat offers several benefits for exercisers looking to improve their lower body strength, muscle development, and general fitness levels. Incorporating the exercises into your training regimen can give you many benefits, including:
- Lower body strength
Barbell sumo squats target multiple muscle groups in the lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs. The exercise can help build strength and power in those areas, enhancing performance in various activities, including running, jumping, and lifting.
- Development of muscles
The wide stance and emphasis on the inner thighs and glutes in the barbell sumo squat can help to develop and tone those muscle groups. That can help increase muscle definition and shape in the lower body, leading to a more sculpted and balanced physique.
- Functional capacity
Squats mimic many daily movements, such as sitting down, standing up, and lifting objects from the floor.
Incorporating barbell sumo squats into your training can help improve your overall functional capacity.
You’ll develop the strength, stability, and mobility to perform those movements and reduce the risk of injury.
- Core strength and stability
The wider stance in the barbell sumo squat requires greater core engagement and stability to maintain proper form and balance.
That can help strengthen the core muscles, improve posture, stabilize the spine, and prevent injury.
- Progression and overload
Using a barbell allows for progressive overload. That means you can gradually increase your weight as you get stronger.
The progression stimulates muscle growth and strength gains, ensuring you continue challenging your muscles and avoid plateauing.
The barbell sumo squat will benefit exercisers who have advanced beyond bodyweight squats and are looking for ways to continue challenging themselves.
- Variety and better muscle activation
Adding barbell sumo squats to your lower body workout regimen adds variety and can help activate different muscle fibers.
The wider stance and emphasis on the inner thighs and glutes provide a unique stimulus to the muscles, helping to promote further muscle development.
- Opportunity to burn more calories
The barbell sumo squat is a compound exercise that simultaneously engages multiple large muscle groups. That leads to a higher calorie burn during and after your workout, making it an effective movement to help you lose and manage your weight.
Barbell sumo squat variations
There are variations of the barbell sumo squat that you can incorporate into your workout regimen, allowing you to add variety and target your muscles in different ways.
Below are some sumo squat variations worth considering for your training regimen
Dumbbell Sumo Squat
You can perform the sumo squat with dumbbells instead of using a barbell.
It involves holding a dumbbell in each hand, allowing your arms to hang down by your sides, and performing the squat movement.
The variation can provide a different challenge to the muscles and will be a good option for exercisers without access to a barbell.
Goblet Sumo Squat
You will hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell with both hands at chest level for the goblet sumo squat and keep it close to your body as you perform the movement.
Aside from targeting the lower body, the variation puts additional emphasis on the upper body muscles, particularly the core and anterior deltoids.
Sumo Squat with a Resistance Band
Adding resistance bands to the sumo squat can increase the intensity of the exercise.
You can either place the band around your thighs, just above the knees or attach it to an anchor point behind you and hold the ends of the band in your hands.
The resistance bands can provide additional resistance throughout the movement, challenging the muscles differently.
Elevated Sumo Squat
The variation involves elevating your heels by standing on small weight plates or an elevated surface, such as weightlifting shoes or a wedge.
The elevation allows for greater emphasis on the quadriceps and can help exercisers with limited ankle mobility.
Single-Leg Sumo Squat
You can perform the sumo squat on a single leg, making the movement more challenging and allowing you to focus on stability and balance.
The variation requires more core and stabilizer muscle engagement and can help identify and correct any muscle imbalances.
Barbell sumo squat alternatives
Below are some of the best barbell sumo squat alternatives to consider if you find the movement challenging.
Dumbbell or Kettlebell Sumo Squat
You can perform sumo squats with dumbbells or kettlebells.
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and allow your arms to hang down by your sides as you perform the squat.
The alternative allows for a broader range of motion and can be a good option for those without a barbell.
The goblet squat is another effective lower body exercise that targets similar muscle groups as the sumo squat.
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell vertically at your chest with both hands and perform a squat with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width away from each other.
The goblet squat also emphasizes the quads and engages the core muscles.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is a single-leg exercise that targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
It involves standing a few feet from a weight bench or elevated surface and placing one foot behind you on the weight bench.
You then lower your body into a lunge position, with the front knee bending and the back knee hovering just above the floor.
The exercise emphasizes unilateral leg strength and stability.
Barbell Front Squat
The barbell front squat is another alternative that targets the lower body muscles.
You perform the front squat with a narrower stance, with the barbell resting on the front of your shoulders.
The exercise emphasizes the quads and core muscles while engaging the glutes and hamstrings.
Smith Machine Sumo Squat
You can perform sumo squats using a Smith machine.
The Smith machine provides stability and control, allowing you to focus on your form and target the desired muscles.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Squats are some of the most effective exercises for targeting and strengthening your lower body muscles.
But instead of traditional squats, you can opt for barbell sumo squats, where the wider stance allows you to target your inner thigh muscles in addition.
Incorporate barbell sumo squat into your training regimen to help spice up your workout, take your leg day training up another notch, and help you achieve your lower body muscle-building goals.
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- DelVecchio L, Daewoud H, Green S. The health and performance benefits of the squat, deadlift, and bench press. MOJ Yoga Phys Therapy. 2018;3(2):40-47. doi:10.15406/mojypt.2018.03.00042