Are you a sumo deadlifter? Have you ever pulled a PR attempt to your knees and stalled completely?

If you answered yes to one or both of the above questions, I have a sure-fire way to add pounds to your deadlift and help you blow past your current PR.

There was a time in my lifting career when I was stuck at a 620-pound deadlift for over a year. I pulled against bands, chains, and combos of both. I pulled triples, double, singles, changed suits, etc. Still, no matter what I did, I couldn’t crack that barrier. The bar would break the floor and stop dead at my knees. That was, however, until my good friend Brian Carroll suggested that I incorporate conventional pulling into my training. After just a few months, I pulled 711 pounds in a meet. That’s right—over a 90-pound PR in just a few months.

The sumo deadlift is a funny thing—it's as hard as hell to learn, but once you do, it’s so easy to use that you never want to go back to the harder conventional style again. It’s a very technical lift, but it’s a shorter, more efficient stroke executed in a much stronger position (for most people). This makes many of us sumo deadlifters steer clear of the harder work...but this couldn’t be a bigger mistake.

As I said above, just like most sumo deadlifters, I would stall out as the bar reached my knees. I never attributed it to the fact that my lower back just wasn’t strong enough to hold the position—but that’s exactly what it was. I continued having the same problem until I finally listened to Brian Carroll and added in the conventional pulling. I say pulling and not deadlifting because I was doing several variations of the pull.

The main variation was block pulls with the weights elevated to four and six inches. I established rep PRs on these lifts in the conventional stance while wearing a belt and gym shorts. These became part of my rotation, and I would shoot for a new PR every time I did them. Since I was so weak at them, my strength built very fast and I was able to PR in a very short time-frame. For instance, the first time I pulled off of the six-inch blocks, I hit a top double of 525 pounds. Within two months, I was in the high 500s. This wasn’t bad considering I was only trying for a PR on that height/rep range every four to six weeks.

During this period in time, I was also pulling sumo from the floor for sets of two to five reps. So, a training session would include both styles. (Usually, the sumo pulls were my main movement and the conventional block pulls were a secondary movement). As time went on, I began pulling conventional from the floor. It even became my main movement at one point, with sumo pulls being done for form/speed every three to four weeks. The more progress I made on the conventional pulls, the more my sumo pull rose. My first meet after switching to this style was the 2010 APF MI State meet where I pulled 711 pounds at 220. This was the same weight class that I had missed 650 pounds so many times before.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that conventional pulling for a sumo guy who has developed a weakness is no fun. I hated it at first—absolutely dreaded it. But over time, and after experiencing the rewards that came with it, I grew to love it. I promise you that if you give this a run, you won’t be disappointed. Just keep in mind that you need to start slow and you need to stick with it. The only way this won’t work is if you push it too hard too fast and hurt yourself, or if you give up on it because it sucks to use 100 pounds less than you do in the other stance. And trust me, it sucks, but the reward is the opposite of suck.

Let me know how it goes!

Zane Geeting’s Training Log

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