11 Sumo Deadlift Cues To Improve Strength & Technique

the main sumo deadlift cues to improve your set-up, technique and strength

When training the sumo deadlift, it’s a good idea to have a technique goal that includes one or two main cues. This will give your training session focus and help you get the most out of each rep you lift. 

Cues can help you get into a better position, increase muscle activation and tightness, improve the speed of your lift, and more. 

The best sumo deadlift cues are: 

It is best to focus on one or two cues at a time because it can be difficult to initially learn or subsequently change a movement pattern. 

Thinking of too many cues at once can be confusing. It also makes it difficult to know what has been effective in improving your lift if you are changing too many things at once. 

This article will explain the most useful sumo cues in depth, so you can pick the ones which are most applicable to you, to improve your sump deadlift. 

I’m focusing on sumo deadlift cues in this article.  If you want cues for the conventional deadlift, then check out my other article HERE

Sumo Deadlift Cue #1: Set Up Symmetrically

The goal of setting up symmetrically will ensure you have an even grip on the bar and balanced push off the ground to complete the lift with even force production and an even barbell.

How to Implement:

Use the markings on the bar to set your feet up symmetrically behind the bar, with your toes turned out towards the edge of the plates. You can also use the markings on the bar to optimally place your hands on the bar, approximately in line with your shoulders.  

Use the markings on the bar to set your feet up symmetrically behind the bar

The main take home message is to have a repeatable system, using clear reference points so that you are setting up symmetrically and consistently for every rep and set.  

setting up symmetrically and consistently the sumo deadlift

When to Use This Cue:

  • If your bar rises unevenly
  • If every set feels different
  • If you are losing balance

Sumo Deadlift Cue #2: Push Your Knees Out

the goal of cuing ‘push your knees out’ is to give you a solid foundation from which to create pressure and push with your legs from

The goal of cuing ‘push your knees out’ is to give you a solid foundation from which to create pressure and push with your legs from, as well as to bring your hips as close to the bar as possible. 

How to Implement:

Cue ‘push your knees out’ so far as they stack over your ankles and keep pushing out during the lift so that your knees don’t cave inwards. 

Cueing pushing your knees out will not only stack your joints, but enable you to get your hips closer to the bar.  This can reduce the force required to complete the lift by shortening the moment arm or distance of your body relative to the bar. 

This cue can be used both in the set up and when executing the lift. 

When to Use This Cue:

Sumo Deadlift Cue #3: Pull The Slack Out of the Bar

There is a small amount of space between the bar and plates loaded onto it. Pulling the slack involves closing this space for a more efficient energy transfer from your body to the bar. 

How to Implement:

Follow these steps to learn how to effectively pull the slack out of the bar;

  1. Set up with a small space between your shins and the bar. 
  1. Breath in and brace. 
  1. Grip onto and pull on the bar with straight arms until you hear a click.
  1. Lower your hips into position, while maintain the tension you have already created on the bar
  1. To prevent losing tension, aim to add tension to the bar as you lower your hips into position. 
  1. As your shins meet the bar, initiate the lift. 

While you are learning this process, stop between each step and pause. As you become more rehearsed and proficient, smooth the transition from each step into one fluid motion. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you feel or see yourself in a video playback starting to deadlift with bent arms.
  • If you hear a click as you lift and it pulls your upper body somewhat out of position or affects the smoothness of your lift.
  • If your lift looks more like a pull with your upper body than a push off the ground with your legs.

Sumo Deadlift Cue #4: Anti-Shrug

cueing an anti-shrug movement will add tension to the set up and reduce unnecessary movement during the lift

Cueing an anti-shrug movement can be a great addition to pulling the slack out of the bar as it will add tension to the set up and reduce unnecessary movement during the lift. 

How to Implement:

Pull the shoulders down. Think about creating a long neck and long arms. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you notice movement in your shoulders at the start or during the lift

Sumo Deadlift Cue #5: Close Your ArmPits

cueing ‘close your armpits’ is a great way to engage the lats and create upper body tightness

Cueing ‘close your armpits’ is a great way to engage the lats and create upper body tightness. Engaging the lats will help to pull the slack out of the bar, keeping them engaged will keep the bar close to the body for a straighter bar path and more efficient lift. 

How to Implement:

If you struggle to feel this cue, have someone try to get their hand under your armpit and aim to stop them from doing so by squeezing down to close any gap and engage the lats. 

have someone try to get their hand under your armpit
Hand under armpit

This cue can also feel like “pulling your lats down” or “breaking the bar in half”. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you have trouble pulling the slack out of the bar
  • If your back moves as you start the sumo deadlift
  • If the bar moves away from your shins as you lift

Sumo Deadlift Cue #6: Chest Up

cueing ‘chest up’ can help a lifter maintain their torso angle and prevent their hips rising first

Cueing ‘chest up’ can help a lifter maintain their torso angle and prevent their hips rising first as they initiate the lift. 

How to Implement:

Some sumo deadlifts like to reach down for the bar with their chest up, lowering themselves into their exact start position having already taken their breath and bracing. Other lifters lower their hips into position and then lift their chest. 

Either way, cueing chest up will maintain this torso angle and prevent the hips from rising first. Hips rising typically results in the bar moving forwards away from the body making it more difficult to control and lift or at heavier weights resulting in a failed lift. 

hips rising typically results in the bar moving forwards away from the body making it more difficult to control and lift

When to Use This Cue:

  • If your hips rise first when you lift
  • If the bar moves away from your body
  • If your shoulders are too far forward of the bar

Sumo Deadlift Cue #7: Patience Off The Floor

patience off the floor is intended to help lifters who rush their lift before they have achieved maximum whole body tension

This cue is intended to help lifters who rush their lift before they have achieved maximum whole body tension and pulled the slack out of the bar.  

How to Implement:

Cueing ‘patience off the floor’ will remind you or your lifter to take their time and follow each step in their set up process for optimal muscle activation and recruitment. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you are still learning how to create whole body tension for initiating the sumo deadlift
  • If you tend to rush the start of the lift
  • If you have trouble starting the sumo deadlift
  • In competition if you tend to get anxious

Sumo Deadlift Cue #8: Push The Floor Away

The aim of this cue is to conceptualise the sumo deadlift as a pushing rather than pulling movement in order to generate more force and pressure from the legs and maintain rigidity in the upper body. 

How to Implement:

Drive your feet hard into the floor and use your quad muscles to forcefully push the floor away to initiate the upward movement. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you have a tendency to pull on the bar leading to a loss of tightness and movement in your back
  • If your hips start to rise in the early stage of the movement

Sumo Deadlift Cue #9: Snap The Quads

the aim of cueing ‘snap the quads’ is to get a lifter to lock out their knees and hips as quickly as possible

The aim of cueing ‘snap the quads’ is to get a lifter to lock out their knees and hips as quickly as possible, maximising potential acceleration into the lock out of the lift

How to Implement:

As the bar comes up to just under the kneecap, think about snapping the quads to generate speed. Take care not to lock out your knees before your hips.

When to Use This Cue:

  • If your sumo deadlift is slow to lock out
  • If you struggle to lock out the lift

Sumo Deadlift Cue #10: Squeeze the Bar

The aim of this cue is to increase the chance of holding on to the bar at heavier or max weights and minimise the perception of the weight in the bar. 

How to Implement:

Squeeze the bar as tight as you can to increase your grip force and over all tension in the body. 

When to Use This Cue:

  • If your grip fails at any point during the lift or lock out
  • If you struggle mentally with heavier loads

Sumo Deadlift Cue #11: Hips Through

hips through is to help a lifter lock out their lift as quickly as possible

The final part of the sumo deadlift is of course the lock out. The aim of this cue is to help a lifter lock out their lift as quickly as possible, reminding them to forcefully get their hips through. 

How to Implement:

As the barbell passes the knee, forcefully bring the hips through by squeezing the glutes, at the same time as your quads snap back. 

This cue can also feel like hip thrusting the bar and ‘standing tall’ or ‘squeeze the glutes’.  

When to Use This Cue:

  • If you are slow to lock out your sumo deadlift
  • If you struggling to fully lock out your sumo deadlift
  • If there is a timing issue between your knees and hips and you need to get your hips through faster e.g if your knees lock before your hips

Final Thoughts

For more focused and effective training, select the cue that is the most applicable to where your sumo deadlift needs the most work right now. Practice that cue to improve your lifting until it becomes automatic. 

As your sumo deadlift progresses technically or the loads you lift increase, you will discover new areas to work on and can select and move onto training the next applicable cue. 

For more technique cues to improve your powerlifting movements, check out:

For more sumo deadlift resources, check out:


About The Author

CARLI DILLEN, BSc Hons

Carli Dillen has been a Strength and Conditioning Coach since 2007 after earning her degree in Sport and Exercise Science and Human Physiology. She completed further post graduate studies in Movement Neuroscience in 2010 and opened her first gym in 2011.  Her sporting achievements include winning 3 World Championship Gold medals in Taekwon-Do, as well as representing New Zealand at 4 IPF Powerlifting World Championships, winning a bronze medal in deadlift in 2017. You can connect with Carli on Instagram