The sumo deadlift high pull (SDLHP) is an explosive compound movement that develops tremendous power in the posterior chain. It primarily strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and upper traps. The SDLHP is a great assistance exercise to improve your pull during the clean, along with full-body co-ordination and explosive power.
The SDLHP begins in a similar position to the deadlift, with two minor differences. First, the SDLHP uses a sumo stance, which means the feet are placed wide apart. How wide? As wide as you can get them without having the knees cave inwards. The knees should always be stable during this exercise.
The grip is the other main difference. The hands are placed near the middle of the bar, which allows more flexibility to pull the bar all the way up to the chin. A good way to figure out where to place your hands is to centre them on the bar with approximately two thumb distances between them (touch the tips of your thumbs together and then grip the bar with an overhand grip).
Otherwise, everything else is the same as in the deadlift – the hips are above the knees, weight is in the heels, the bar is in close to the shins, the shins are vertical or near-vertical, and the shoulders are slightly in front of the bar, placing it directly underneath the scapular spines (under the tops of your shoulder blades). Finally, the shoulder blades are retracted and the back is held tightly with the chest up, maintaining the lumbar arch.
Before lifting the bar, a deep breath should be taken and held to help support the torso. The abs, glutes, hamstrings and shoulder blades should be contracted tightly. The body should be tensioned against the bar beforehand to prevent jerking the bar off of the floor and to pre-activate the muscles.
The lift begins by driving the heels into the ground and explosively opening the hips. The hips must reach full extension before anything else happens. This means that you reach a full standing position. Thinking of making yourself tall can help. The arms must stay absolutely straight, without any pull. Bending the arms early will decrease your ability to transmit force to the bar.
Once the hips are fully extended, the shrug begins. The shoulders need to begin shrugging up fluidly with the end of the hip extension, so there is no decrease in bar speed. You should try to think about including the shrug to make sure you don’t forget it and to help make it more automatic. Again, the arms must stay absolutely straight, without any pull.
After the shoulders shrug, the arms can finally begin to bend. The pull is continued with the biceps, bringing the bar up as close to the chin as you can. The goal is to pull the bar as high as possible, so you should think about trying to toss the bar to the ceiling. Of course, this won’t happen because of the weight on the bar.
During the lift, the feet should maintain contact with the ground the entire time. At the top of the pull you should be at triple extension – the hips, knees and ankles should all be straight.
The weight should just fall back down to the ground, rather than trying to slowly lower it. You should keep your grip on the bar however, so that you can control it and prevent it from bouncing away dangerously. Be careful not to round your back on the way down, and don’t let the bar land on your knees.
Between reps, make sure you pull your chest up high and set your back. It’s very easy to get lazy about form during the SDLHP and let the back round, so you must be vigilent.