Ahh, the sumo squat — staple of the HIIT session, opener of hips, the wide-stance wonder, the leg and bum burner… it’s one of the most effective no-equipment moves in the book, so it really pays to thread a few sets into your workout sessions.
However, if you’re working on targeted routines that isolate different areas of your body, you’ll probably want to know what the benefits of sumo squats are and which muscles they activate.
That way, you can add them to the appropriate area of your exercise regime and see the biggest gains!
What Is A Sumo Squat?
Before we get into the anatomical side of this article, let’s briefly discuss what sumo squats are.
For the uninitiated, the general principles of a sumo squat are the same as the standard squat.
The idea is that you use your body weight to activate muscle groups in your lower body, but instead of having your feet roughly hip-width apart, your stance should be significantly wider, with your feet pointing outwards like a sumo wrestler (hence the name).
What Muscle Groups Do Sumo Squats Activate?
Sumo squats are a fantastic variation because they work a lot of the same muscles as standard squats, whilst putting additional focus on the inner thigh.
The primary muscle groups you’ll be feeling the burn in after a challenging set of sumos include…
The quadriceps are large muscle groups on the front of your thighs. Composed of four discrete parts known as the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, they’re mostly responsible for leg extension but play a pivotal role in almost any kind of leg movement.
If you’re looking to tone the front of your thighs and build up some serious leg stamina, sumo squats are an amazing way to go about it!
Weak quads can put a lot of pressure on the knees which can lead to the breaking down of cartilage in the joints, which may cause severe mobility issues, so get squattin’ pard!
Your hip abductors are stationed along your inner thigh, and they’re composed of five different muscles that connect at the pelvis and femur (large upper leg bone).
It’s the hip abductor's job to stabilize your knees, hips, lower back, and your core, so if you spend a little time each week doing squats sumo style, you should notice improvements, not just in your leg strength, but across the board.
Weakness in this area of the body will often lead to repetitive strains and overuse injuries, and, in some cases, may destabilize the knee and hip, causing pain when walking downstairs or when standing after sitting for a while.
The hamstrings are sort of like the quads of your posterior leg. They’re made up of three large muscles, the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris, which, together, are responsible for a wide range of essential movements, from tilting your pelvis to bending your knees.
Hamstring injuries are by far the most common sporting injury, so it certainly pays to give them the TLC they both need and deserve with a few sumo squats.
The key to healthy hamstrings is an even power balance with the quads. Should your hamstrings fall behind in this power struggle, it can lead to lower back pain and possible tears in one or more of the three hamstring muscles.
As you might have guessed from the name, your hip flexor muscles can be found just below your hips on the front of your legs. They allow you to swivel your hips, Elvis-style, but also play a key role in kicking, jumping, walking, and bending.
So, whether you like to impersonate the King after one too many G&Ts or you simply like to stay limber, you can prioritize these muscles by incorporating a few sumo squats into your workout.
Neglecting your hip flexors can lead to some pretty gnarly hip and lower back pain, so do yourself a favor, and sumo squat your way to a more supple form!
The glutes are another set of three muscles (three on each side), and I’m sure you’re already aware of their location… the bum.
Not only do these muscles determine the shape of your derrière, they stabilize your hips, keep you balanced and upright, and help you to propel yourself forward.
A set of weak glutes will cause trouble for every joint from the hip down, and you’ll notice a distinct lack of “peachiness” in the cheek zone.
If you’re trying to cultivate buns of steel, sumo squats will get you where you want to be, especially if you throw in a cheeky glute squeeze each time you rise up from a squat.
Your calves run from the back of your knee down towards your Achilles tendon, enabling you to rotate your ankle, flex your foot, and lock your knee. They’re pivotal for all things walking, running, and jumping.
Weak calves can really limit the range of movement in your ankle, which, in turn, can lead to odd walking habits that can leave you with trapped nerves or bursitis.
Blast your calves with a few sumo squats every other day, however, and they’ll be as strong as the day is long.
Lower Back Muscles
Whereas hamstring mishaps are the most common sporting injury, back injuries are perhaps the most common in day-to-day life, especially as we get a bit older.
Sumo squats activate and strengthen our lower back muscles (namely the erector spinae) in a gentle fashion and help to keep back pain at bay — hooray!
You know what they say… a few sumo squats a day keeps the chiropractor away!
There you have it, folks — sumo squats work the majority of muscles from your lower back, all the way down to your heels, which means when you fire a few off, you’re killing a lot of birds with one sumo stone… like alot-alot!
As they work so many muscle groups, you should start to feel the benefits of leg day bleed into other aspects of your training, such as your core and even some of your upper body workouts. So, what are you waiting for? Make like a sumo and squat!