What Deadlift Stance Is Best For Your Short Legs?

April 7th 2020

While scrolling through Instagram or YouTube fitness channels, you might have seen the wide variation in the way people perform deadlifts.

Some people prefer having a wider stance, known as the sumo style, while some like to deadlift with a shoulder-width stance, known as the conventional style.

You might be wondering why a lifter would choose one style over the other and the answer is based on body type.

To put it simply, people with certain body types and proportions have different leverages they can take advantage of when their goal is to lift as much weight as possible.

Most of the lifters you may encounter who choose the sumo stance have longer legs or a shorter torso.

Whereas, lifters with shorter legs or a longer torso will more often than not, deadlift with the conventional stance.

There are of course outliers and a variety of other factors that play into why someone would choose one stance over the other, but the main one, as mentioned before, is body shape and that will be our main point of discussion today.

In this article, we will go over the different types of deadlift stances, what leverage is, what the arm-torso ratio is, some examples of deadlifters with shorter legs, and whether or not at the end of the day it matters if your goal is not to be able to lift as much weight as possible.

Different types of deadlift stances

The two most widely accepted deadlift stances are either conventional or sumo.

In the conventional stance, your legs are positioned shoulder-width apart throughout the entirety of the lift.

In the conventional stance, your back should be near horizontal when you are fully braced.

The conventional stance puts more emphasis on the lower back and hamstring musculature because of the required hip hinge position.



Meanwhile, in the sumo stance, your legs are positioned much wider than shoulder-width apart.

When you are in the fully braced position, your back will be near vertical.

The sumo stance puts more emphasis on the glutes because of how wide you must stand, and because of the more vertical torso position.

Whichever stance you choose to use is based on your goals and should be on what you find the most comfortable.

However, if you are a competitive powerlifter or are someone who just wants to be able to lift as much weight as possible, you might want to look into what your leverages are to determine what is the most suitable stance for you.

What is leverage

In an effort to put it into simple, easy to understand terms, leverage is simply how much more of an advantage you have for lifting the weight.

Leverage depends on a variety of factors such as torso length, arm length, leg length, etc. and for those with certain leverages, they will be able to lift heavier weights in different positions.

When we discuss the deadlift, whichever stance you choose will be impacted by your leverages.

You might have been training conventional ever since you started but find sumo stance a lot easier to lift heavier weights and can break your previous PRs.



This is why it is important for you to know your leverages so that you can best optimize your deadlift to lift the maximum amount of weight as possible.

Leverage also plays a key role in determining whether or not you will be good at the squat or bench press.

To give an example, those with longer arms will have trouble benching heavy weight because of how much longer range of motion they are required in order to get the bar to touch their chest.

The main determinant for leverages is looking at what’s called the arm-torso ratio.

Arm-torso ratio

The arm-torso ratio looks at how long your arms, torso, and legs are for finding the most optimal deadlift stance.

If you have short arms or a combination of long legs and a short torso, your back will naturally be more vertical to the floor making the sumo deadlift more suited for you.

Whereas, if you have long arms, or a combination of short legs and a long torso, your back angle will be more horizontal, making the conventional deadlift more suitable for you.

You can perform these measurements yourself at home with a tape recorder.

You should follow these guidelines when trying to measure:

  • Torso length: Start at the hip bone and measure to the top of the head
  • Arm length: Start at the shoulder to the middle finger.
  • Leg length: Start at the hip bone and measure to the floor.

Simply take these measurements and compare them to your overall height and use this article to see what deadlift stance you should use.

This begs the question, what is the best stance for lifters with shorter legs?

If you read the article or even watch the video posted above, you will notice that what really determines your stance is your arm and torso ratios.

What you will also notice is that people with short arms will have short legs. The same goes for people with long arms and long legs.

With this observation, you will notice this trend…

Lifters with shorter arms have a leverage advantage in pulling the sumo deadlift while lifters with longer arms have an advantage pulling the conventional deadlift.

If you have average length arms, you have a choice to pull either.
Also, do not neglect your torso length as well because this can significantly affect your leverages.

Examples of lifters with shorter legs

Lifters with short legs and arms, but a long torso will naturally be good at the squat, and bench press, but poor deadlifters.

One example of a famous weightlifter with a long torso but short limbs is 3x national champion James Tatum.

Although he is an Olympic weightlifter, you can see that he sticks to the conventional deadlift stance while he trains the deadlift.

Another perfect example of a lifter with long torso and short legs is Liu Hao.

With the perfect proportions, this guy was built to squat, being able to squat over 600 lbs for 5 reps.

Overall, those with long torsos and shorter legs tend to lean to becoming stronger squatters and bench pressers rather than strong deadlifters.

In addition, they tend to stick to the conventional deadlift.

At the end of the day, do leverages matter?

Leverages do matter but only for those who are primarily interested in optimizing their training and looking to lift as much weight as they possibly can.

But for those who are just getting started with lifting, or for those who want to keep it as a hobby or a way to stay fit, don’t sweat it.

Simply find the position that you feel most comfortable in and work from there.

See what position feels more natural, feels least painful, or feels like you can lift more weight. 

It’s that simple.

By paying too much attention to what the literature says and not what your body is saying, you are wasting time and ignoring a variety of other different factors that might impact your deadlift stance.

For example, if you had a history of back issues that prohibits you from assuming one stance over the other. Or maybe you have super tight adductors making it hard for you to assume the sumo stance. Maybe you are lacking the joint mobility.

There are a plethora of other factors that might impact what stance you decide to choose and there is nothing wrong with that.

We don’t live in a contained world where all the science is perfect and applicable to us. There are a bunch of other factors that impact our decisions that don’t need to be backed up by science and what deadlift stance you choose is one of them.




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