How to Do a Sumo Squat: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a sumo squat to improve lower-body strength, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Mar 12, 2024
Table of Contents

Squats are a tried-and-true lower body exercise for good reason: They’re simple but highly effective. By working so many of the large muscle groups in the legs, butt, and core at the same time, you’re able to get a total lower body workout with one move. 

Sumo squats are a great way to switch things up and target the inner thighs (adductors) more. The wide stance of the sumo squat is what allows you to work inner thigh and hip muscles more deeply. Because squats make it easier to do everyday movements like walking and getting into and out of chairs and cars, it’s a good idea to keep this move a part of any strengthening program. 

And if you’re worried that sumo squats may hurt your knees or make any knee pain you have worse, know this: Sumo squats, like all squat variations, actually help knees get stronger, healthier, and ready to handle even more activity as you squat throughout the day, whether that’s to lower yourself into a chair or squat down to pick something up off the floor. 

Read on to learn more about the benefits of a sumo squat and how to do it, plus ways to make it easier or harder. 

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What Is a Sumo Squat?

A sumo squat is a variation of the traditional squat that involves squatting in a wider stance in order to engage the inner thigh muscles more as you squat down and stand up. Like a standard squat, it’s a simple-yet-powerful move that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. It’s a foundational exercise for building lower body strength, reducing pain, and improving overall functional fitness.

What Muscles Do Sumo Squats Work? 

While sumo squats are great for your entire lower body, they primarily target the following muscles:

  • Quadriceps. The quadriceps muscles, located on the front of the thigh, are the primary movers during sumo squats. They include the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Squats help to strengthen and develop these muscles, particularly during the upward phase of the movement. This helps increase knee stability and reduces pressure on your knees during activities like walking and going up stairs, which can help reduce pain. 

  • Hamstrings. Found on the back of the thigh, the hamstrings act as stabilizers during the sumo squat, helping to stabilize the knee and contributing to hip extension during the upward phase of the movement. By strengthening your hamstrings, you may notice that activities like brisk walking, running, climbing stairs, sitting down, and bending forward at the hips are easier and less painful. 

  • Glutes. The gluteal (“butt”) muscles, including the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus, are heavily engaged during sumo squats and play a significant role in generating power and force during the upward phase of the movement. Strong glutes help keep everything in your lower body in good order, including your knees, hips, and low back

  • Adductors. The adductor muscles, located on the inner thigh, help stabilize the hips during sumo squats. Strong adductors help with everything from walking and standing up to getting in and out of a car. 

  • Calves. The calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus, assist in maintaining balance and providing stability during the sumo squat.

  • Core muscles: The core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, are engaged to stabilize your torso during a sumo squat. These muscles are important for stability and balance during everyday activities — everything from lifting a laundry basket to reaching overhead to shifting your weight from one foot to the other involves your core. 

Benefits of Sumo Squats

Sumo squats are a great way to strengthen the large muscles in the lower body, such as the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Stepping out into a wide stance also activates the adductor muscles in your inner thighs, which provide stability for everyday movements such as walking.

Sumo Squats: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Sumo Squat

Sumo Squat

Sumo Squat

Sumo Squat

To do sumo squats:

  • Stand tall, and step your feet into a wide stance with your toes pointing out to 45-degree angles. 

  • Now send the hips back and down into a squat. 

  • Squeeze your leg and butt muscles to stand tall again. 

  • As you do each rep, you might feel your inner thighs, hips, and butt muscles working.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

Sumo Squat Modifications

Sumo Squat Modifications

Sumo Squat Modifications

Sumo Squat Modifications

To make sumo squats easier:  

  • Perform a quarter squat by decreasing how low you go.

To make sumo squats harder: 

  • Place a loop band around your ankles or knees.

  • Then step out into a wide stance for your sumo squat.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Rowden, A. (2021, March 31). What are the benefits of performing squats? Medical News Today. 

  2. Lorenzetti, S., Ostermann, M., Zeidler, F., Zimmer, P., Jentsch, L., List, R., Taylor, W. R., & Schellenberg, F. (2018). How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading. BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation, 10(1). doi:10.1186/s13102-018-0103-7

  3. Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Caccavale, F., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2021). The Activation of Gluteal, Thigh, and Lower Back Muscles in Different Squat Variations Performed by Competitive Bodybuilders: Implications for Resistance Training. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2). doi:10.3390/ijerph18020772