Sumo Deadlift High Pull Safety, Effectiveness, & Fixes - The Barbell Physio

Sumo Deadlift High Pull Safety, Effectiveness, & Fixes

Sumo Deadlift High Pull Safety, Effectiveness, & Fixes

Had the opportunity to speak with Dan Pope of recently to discuss the Sumo Deadlift High Pull safety and effectiveness . The Sumo Deadlift High Pull (SDHP) is an often controversial exercise as the internally rotated, high elbow position seen at the top of the movement is believed to be a shoulder impinging position that can possibly damage soft tissue structures.

Sumo Deadlift High Pull Safety

You can watch the entire video below but in summary we believe the following:

  1. You can’t call any one exercise bad for everyone!
  2. The Sumo deadlift high pull safety concerns are valid as the extreme internally rotated position of the shoulder joint resembles the Hawkins-Kennedy impingement test frequently used in the medical world but again, concerns are valid but the exercise isn’t bad for EVERYONE.
  3. If you have impingement problems, or the SDHP hurts your shoulders then STOP
  4. The SDHP does teach some athletes how to really work explosive hip extension but this can be performed with a variety of other exercises as well…so Dan highly questions the need to perform it.
  5. Shoulder internal rotation and thoracic spine extension are the two biggest mobility needs to safely perform SDHP (discussed below). Beyond that there is little lower body mobility needs.


If you do want to perform the SDHP we suggest that athletes really focus on having good shoulder internal rotation and thoracic spine extension.

To assess shoulder internal rotation I suggest watching the following video:

For those needing to improve internal rotation (this will help with a variety of fitness moves and shoulder health) read this article or try the following treatment program. Having good shoulder internal rotation is a key piece of sumo deadlift high pull safety.


To assess thoracic extension perform the following test and if limited, see my previous article on the Top Five Thoracic Mobility Drills to get that t-spine moving!