Sumo squat with kettlebells headerShare on Pinterest
Lumina/Stocksy

Leg day is arguably one of the most important workouts in a well-rounded fitness routine. But sometimes, we rely too much on a traditional squat for strengthening the powerful muscles of the lower body.

While a front or back squat is an excellent move for boosting glute and quad strength, it’s not as effective as a sumo squat for targeting the adductor, or inner thigh, muscles.

Here, we take a closer look at the sumo squat, how to do it, benefits, muscles worked, variations, and tips.

Learning the sumo squat is not much of a stretch if you know how to squat. That said, there are some differences to be aware of, including the width of your stance and how you position your toes.

To start off on the right foot, take a few minutes to read through the step-by-step instructions below. Then, when you’re ready to give it a go, perform the move in front of a mirror so you can keep an eye on your form.

Equipment needed: You can perform a sumo squat without any added weight or use a dumbbell or kettlebell for extra resistance.

Muscles worked: quadriceps, gluteal muscles, hips, hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs

  1. Start in a traditional squat stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward. Clasp your hands together at your chest.
  2. Take a step to the side with your right foot until your stance is 3–4 feet wide, or wider than hip width. Wider is OK as long as you can perform the move correctly.
  3. Angle your toes out and away from the center of your body (about 45 degrees) by laterally rotating at the hip. Make sure your knees are still tracking over your toes.
  4. Move your hips back slightly and bend your knees as you lower your body into a squat position. Draw your tailbone straight down to the floor. Be mindful to keep your spine neutral, core engaged, and eyes forward throughout the movement.
  5. Lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You can go lower or shorten the squat if parallel is too low or if you can’t maintain your leg alignment.
  6. Pause in the squat position for a few seconds. Then, engaging your glutes, press up to standing, driving up through your heels.
  7. Start with 3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Adding resistance to a sumo squat

If you want to add resistance to a sumo squat, you can use a dumbbell or kettlebell.

To do a dumbbell sumo squat, either hold a light- to medium-weight dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders or hips or hold one heavier dumbbell with both hands while extending your arms long, letting the weight hang down in the center of your body.

To do a kettlebell sumo squat, grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands and hold it at the center of your chest. Keep it there throughout the movement.

Keep your back neutral and be careful not to let the kettlebell pull your upper body forward. If you find this happening, use a lighter weight.

Summary

A sumo squat is a variation of a traditional squat that focuses on a wider stance and different toe positioning. You can do a sumo squat with just your body weight or add resistance with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

A sumo squat is just a regular squat, right? No, not really, and here’s why.

While a traditional squat keeps your stance closer and feet pointing straight ahead or slightly angled out, a sumo squat requires a wider stance with your feet turned out. This creates a new challenge for your muscles because your foot position changes your support base.

While both types of squat work the powerhouse muscles of your lower body — quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and hip stabilizers — the sumo asks more of your adductors, or inner thigh muscles, which are smaller and harder to target when doing a traditional squat.

Some research shows that stance width affects muscle activity in the lower extremities, but varying the foot placement angles does not seem to play a major role in muscle activity (1).

What’s more, varying your stance width influences the motion and joint loading of your hip and knee, which explains why you feel your lower body muscles working differently depending on the type of squat.

Summary

Sumo squats and traditional squats target similar lower body muscles, but the sumo squat activates the adductor, or inner thigh, muscles more than a front or back squat.

As mentioned above, when performing a sumo squat, you can expect to feel it in your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, adductors (inner thighs), calves, and hip flexors.

When done with strict form, the move will also recruit the core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, erector spinae, obliques, and multifidus.

Additionally, a small study involving 10 male competitive bodybuilders found that, when coming up out of the sump squat, there was increased activation in the vastus lateralis (lateral quadriceps) and adductor longus (inner thigh) compared to a back or front squat (2).

Summary

The sumo squat recruits the adductors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and core muscles.

Sumo squats provide many of the same benefits as front or back squats, with the added perk of strengthening the adductor muscles.

Here are some additional advantages of adding the sumo squat to your workout routine:

  • You can really target the inner thigh muscles. The sumo squat increases the activation of the adductor, or inner thigh, muscles more than many other lower body exercises, including a traditional squat (3).
  • You can perform a sumo squat anywhere. Because the move is effective with just your body weight, you can do it anywhere. To add resistance, you can use a dumbbell or kettlebell. Or, for a different type of resistance, you can loop a mini band around both legs just above the knee. You don’t need a squat rack, barbell, or other costly equipment.
  • You will feel it in your core. Because of the extra-wide stance, you’re forced to keep your upper body — and especially your torso — in a very upright position. To help with stabilization, you’ll rely on engaging your core muscles throughout the movement.
Summary

Sumo squats come with a ton of benefits, including convenience and affordability since you can perform them anywhere, with or without weights. Plus, they’re one of the best lower body exercises for targeting the inner thigh muscles.

One reason squats are such a great exercise is that there are so many ways to vary the movement and resistance. The most common techniques for varying the exercise involve changing the stance, foot placement angle, hip depth, or load (1).

You have a few options for changing up the sumo squat, including the plié squat and goblet squat.

Plié squat with inner thigh pull-in

The plié squat is the same as the sumo squat, and the two names are often used interchangeably. This variation adds a little extra work for the adductors and glutes.

Equipment needed: No equipment is necessary, though you can use a glider or paper plate under your foot to help slide your feet together.

Muscles worked: This movement pattern strengthens your quadriceps, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and calves, with an extra focus on your inner thighs and abductors.

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Give yourself a few feet and stand wide without overextending your knees.
  2. Place a glider under your left foot if you choose.
  3. Angle your toes out and away from the center of your body by rotating from the hip in a natural turned-out position. Ensure that your knees are still tracking over your second toes.
  4. Bend your knees and hips to lower into a squat, contracting your glutes at the bottom of the move.
  5. Be mindful to keep your back neutral and long, drawing your tailbone straight down to the floor each time. Avoid allowing your knees to go beyond your toes or allowing your upper torso to lean forward.
  6. Once lowered, start to return to standing, but simultaneously drag your left heel in toward the center to bring your heels together. Finish standing tall and squeezing your thighs together.
  7. Slide the same leg back out and lower back into the plié squat position.
  8. Start with 3 sets of 8 reps on each leg.

Goblet squat

The goblet squat, like the sumo squat, focuses on the quadriceps, inner thighs, and muscles of the posterior chain. This squat variation is a great addition to a lower body routine to strengthen and tone your legs.

It does require some flexibility to perform correctly. Practicing this move without weight at first is recommended.

Equipment needed: None is necessary, although you can add a kettlebell or dumbbell later.

Muscles worked: This move works your quadriceps, glutes, hips, calves, and hamstrings.

  1. Stand with feet just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward or slightly turned out.
  2. As you lower into a squat position, keep your feet planted and bend your knees out and away from the midline.
  3. Keep the weight in your heels and keep your spine feeling tall and long. Aim to keep your shoulders back and down.
  4. Pausing at the bottom, squeeze your glute muscles and push back up to standing without leaning forward.
  5. Start with 3 sets of 8–12 reps.
Summary

The sumo squat is a variation of the traditional squat, but it also offers ways to change things up. The goblet squat and plié squat are just two variations of a sumo squat.

  • How wide you go depends on your strength and flexibility. In general, positioning your feet 3–4 feet apart is a good starting point for the sumo squat.
  • If you’re new to sumo squats, get the form down before adding resistance. You’ll be amazed at how challenging the move is with just your body weight.
  • Make sure your heels don’t lift and your knees don’t cave in toward your body.
  • Keep your torso upright and your spine neutral. If you’re using resistance, make sure you don’t let the weight pull you forward.
  • Start with a narrower stance and gradually increase the distance between your feet. It may take some time for your hips to be flexible enough to support an extra-wide stance.
Summary

If you’re new to the sumo squat, skip the resistance and use just your body weight. Also, start with a narrower stance and widen as you get more flexible and comfortable with the range of motion. Finally, keep your back flat, torso upright, and core engaged.

Compound movements like the sumo squat are an efficient way to strengthen your lower body and target muscles that are harder to work.

Adding exercises that recruit your inner thighs, specifically, will improve your overall balance and help protect your hips from injury during other intense or heavy physical activities.

If you have an injury or chronic health condition, check with your doctor before trying the sumo squat. If you’ve never done sumo squats or you’re new to exercise, consider working with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist to make sure you’re using correct form.

Once you get used to the sumo squat, you’ll notice that this exercise targets your lower body muscles differently than a traditional squat. Adding it to your regular routine will help you gain strength, power, and stability in your legs, making everyday movements easier.