Head Position In The Sumo Deadlift
Where the head leads the body will follow, and this may be most apparent in the sumo deadlift. Unless someone can show me an example otherwise, I honestly don’t know if there is a single highly proficient sumo deadlifter that doesn’t at minimum have their head and gaze at eye level, with most having a slight upward gaze. With conventional deadlift, you’ll see more variation with where someone looks, with some having a slight downward gaze. But with sumo deadlift head position is fairly consistent across the board and this is for good reason.
Maybe even more so than with conventional, sumo deadlift really relies on keeping very strict positions to help transfer force efficiently. Rounded lower backs, tucked pelvis, and hip shoot movement deficiencies are going to have a greater negative impact on a sumo pull than a conventional pull. Sumo tends to require more leverage into the bar where we are using are hip extensors to counter balance that forward weight bias of the bar being in front of us. So if lifters are not leading their torso with their head, they tend to get stuck out over the bar.
You can see in the videos (CLICK HERE) how Lorenzo and Abbee use their heads to create tightness and the feeling of extension in their upper backs to leverage themselves against the bar. While their backs aren’t actually pulling into extension, I’ll use this term and feeling to cue lifters to try to use their head position to try to pull their thoracic spine into extension. With the weight of the bar trying to pull you into thoracic flexion though, what occurs is more so a neutral back position, which is exactly what we want. The other key here is that their head position rises as they tension and bring their hips down. Too often lifters pull into to position and then raise their head, which defeats a lot of the purpose. When you wait until the last second to raise the head position, you are missing out on the extension based tension you want to create during the setup.
In the 2nd video (CLICK HERE), you can see the one week difference in Joe’s sumo deadlift. I simply had him put a chalk mark on the rack in front of him at just above eye level and told him to look directly at that the whole time. Without any other cues, he completely changed how his sumo deadlift looked. The head is a powerful tool and as I first mentioned, where the head leads the body follows, and this is very apparent in the change in Joe’s deadlift.