Sumo Squat

How to do Sumo Squats or Plie Squats

How to do Sumo Squats, also called Plie Squats, for Defined Glutes & Inner Thighs!

Sumo Squat
Whether you call it a sumo squat or a plie squat, this glute and inner thigh exercise is going to take your legs to the next level!

What is a Sumo Squat?
What muscles do Sumo Squats or Plie Squats work?
How To Do Sumo Squats
Sumo Squat Variations
Weighted Sumo Squats
Plie Squat Pulses | Sumo Squat Pulses
Sumo Squat Pulses with Stability Ball
Advanced Sumo Squat Hold with Heel Raise
What are the benefits of Sumo Squats or Plie Squats versus Traditional Squats?

What is a Sumo Squat?

Have you ever watched a ballet and marveled at the dancers’ grace and strength, particularly in their lower body? There’s a secret in their training that can benefit women looking to tone and strengthen their glutes: the plié squat exercise. This elegant yet powerful butt and inner thigh exercise isn’t just for ballerinas. I include this movement for most women that want to sculpt and defined their thighs and glutes. One of my favorite things about the plié squat is that it really challenges the glutes, thighs, and core in a way that few other exercises can without the needs for too much equipment.

If you are looking to lean out and define your glutes, sumo squats or plie squats with bodyweight, dumbbells, or a plate are a great butt exercise you can do at home!

Simple but effective, plié squats engage your lower body in a different way from traditional squats. The secret is in the foot placement and angle which subtly shifts the way the glute and thigh muscles are recruited to execute this glute exercise. Turning your toes outward and positioning your feet wider than your shoulders seems like a small adjustment from the regular squat, but it makes a significant impact that makes the glutes work harder. As a bonus, the plie squat not only does it help in building strength, but it also improves flexibility, range of motion, and balance. Let’s dive into why the plié squat is a staple for the women that I work with in my online fitness and nutrition coaching program.

Gluteus Maximus, Hamstring, and Adductor Magnes Anatomy
In the Sumo Squat, the Gluteus Maximus, hamstring, and the inner thigh Adductor Magnes muscles work together.

What muscles do Sumo Squats or Plie Squats work?

Sumo squats, or plie squats, are a variation of the traditional squat exercise, characterized by a wider stance and toes pointing outwards, resembling the stance of a sumo wrestler. This variation in stance alters the biomechanics of the exercise, thereby targeting different muscle groups and offering distinct benefits compared to traditional squats.

  1. Gluteus Maximus: The primary muscle worked in sumoGluteus Maximus: squats is the gluteus maximus. The wider stance increases the activation of this muscle compared to traditional squats.
  2. Adductor Magnus: This is a major muscle in the inner thigh. Sumo squats place significant stress on the adductors due to the wide stance and outward toe position, leading to increased activation.
  3. Quadriceps: The quadriceps, specifically the vastus medialis (inner quad), are engaged during sumo squats. However, the activation might be slightly less compared to traditional squats because of the wider stance.
  4. Hamstrings: These muscles are involved in the movement, but to a lesser extent compared to traditional squats, as the biomechanics of sumo squats put less stress on the hamstrings.
  5. Erector Spinae: The muscles of the lower back are engaged to maintain an upright posture during the exercise.

When learning how to do the Plié Squat, otherwise sometimes referred to as a sumo squat, the toes are turned outwards in a wide stance position. This lower body move targets the thighs (toning the inner thighs,) hamstrings, and the glutes (the strongest and most powerful muscles in your butt.)

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

How To Do Plié Squats or Sumo Squats

Performing a sumo squat involves a specific stance and movement pattern to effectively target the intended muscle groups. Here is a step-by-step guide to correctly execute a sumo squat:

  1. Starting Position:
    • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Depending on your flexibility and comfort, this can be significantly wider.
    • Point your toes outward, in line with your knees. The angle can vary but is typically around 45 degrees.
    • Stand tall, keeping your spine neutral. Engage your core muscles to provide stability to your lower back.
  2. Hand Position:
    • You can either extend your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height, clasp your hands together in front of your chest, or place them on your hips if you are doing the sumo squat without weight. Choose a position that helps you maintain balance. Beginners might find it helpful to hold on to a chair for a supported or assisted sumo squat.
  3. Descending into the Squat:
    • Begin by bending your knees and hips simultaneously.
    • Push your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair, keeping your chest upright and your spine neutral.
    • Ensure your knees stay aligned with your toes and don’t cave inward. This alignment is crucial for knee safety.
  4. Depth of the Squat:
    • Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or as low as your flexibility allows without compromising your form.
    • In the lowest position, your hips should be lower than your knees, and your thighs should be parallel or slightly past parallel to the ground.
  5. Engaging the Correct Muscles:
    • Focus on keeping the weight in your heels and the outside of your feet. This emphasis helps engage the glutes and inner thighs.
    • Keep your core engaged throughout the movement for stability.
  6. Ascending Back to Starting Position:
    • Drive through your heels to push yourself back up to the starting position.
    • As you rise, focus on drawing together your glutes and inner thighs to power the movement.
  7. Breathing:
    • Inhale as you lower down into the squat.
    • Exhale as you push back up to the starting position.
  8. Repetition:
    • Perform the desired number of repetitions, maintaining good form throughout.

Sumo Squat Variations

Weighted Sumo Squats

If you are ready to up your game and make the bodyweight sumo squat harder, grab a plate, kettlebell, or dumbbells. Adding weight to a sumo squat significantly enhances the exercise’s effectiveness by increasing resistance, thereby providing more challenge to the targeted muscle groups. This additional weight intensifies the workout, leading to greater muscle activation and development, particularly in the glutes, quadriceps, and inner thigh muscles. The increased load also stimulates bone density improvements, which is crucial for overall skeletal health. Moreover, weighted sumo squats can lead to improved overall strength, which is beneficial for performing daily activities and other athletic movements. Additionally, the added weight elevates the metabolic rate both during and after the workout, aiding in more efficient fat burning and muscle toning. For those looking to build lower body strength and power, incorporating weights into sumo squats is an effective strategy. However, it’s important to ensure proper form and gradually increase the weight to avoid injury.

Plie Squat with Plate
The sumo squat or plie squat can be done without any resistance or you can use a weight to make it more challenging. Here, I am holding a weight plate but you could also use dumbbells or kettlebells.

Plie Squat Pulses | Sumo Squat Pulses

If you want to increase the time under tension to create more muscle fatigue and stimulate growth, the sumo squat pulses or plie squat pulse is the way to go!

Plié squat pulses and sumo squat pulses are dynamic variations of the traditional plié and sumo squats, involving a small, continuous up-and-down movement (or “pulse”) at the lowest point of the squat. These pulsing movements are often included in lower-body workout routines to intensify the exercise and target specific muscle groups more effectively. When performing these pulses, you maintain the tension in the muscles for a prolonged period, which can lead to increased muscle endurance and strength, particularly in the glutes, quadriceps, and inner thighs. Additionally, these exercises enhance stability and balance by constantly engaging the core and lower back muscles to maintain proper posture throughout the pulsing movement.

The benefits of pulsing a movement like plié or sumo squat pulses are multifaceted. Firstly, pulsing increases the time under tension for the targeted muscles, which is a key factor in muscle growth and strengthening. This constant tension can lead to more effective muscle fatigue, stimulating growth and endurance. Secondly, pulsing movements can improve muscular control and stability, as the small, controlled movements require precise muscle activation and balance. This can be especially beneficial for athletes or individuals looking to enhance their functional fitness and coordination. Furthermore, these exercises can increase the metabolic rate and calorie burn due to the continuous movement, making them an excellent addition to fat-burning or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. Lastly, plié and sumo squat pulses can be a lower-impact alternative to jumping or explosive movements, making them suitable for a wider range of fitness levels, including those with joint concerns or beginners looking to build foundational strength.

Wall Plie Squats or Sumo Squat against a wall with Ball
Using a stability ball against a wall is a great way to work form for your sumo squats or plie squats.

Plie Squats with Stability Ball | Sumo Squat Pulses with Stability Ball

For those that want to really work on form first with sumo squats, I have a trick. If you do the plie squats with a stability ball placed behind your back and against a wall there are several unique benefits that can improve your form and the overall effectiveness.

Firstly, the stability ball reduces the strain on your lower back by providing support and encouraging proper spinal alignment throughout the squat. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with lower back issues or those new to strength training. Secondly, the ball allows for a smoother range of motion and can help in maintaining balance, which is especially useful for beginners or those with balance challenges. This supported movement ensures that the focus remains on properly engaging the target muscle groups – primarily the glutes, quadriceps, and inner thighs – without the risk of losing form. Additionally, the ball introduces an element of instability, which requires the core muscles to engage more actively to maintain balance, thereby enhancing core strength and stability. This slight instability also encourages more muscle activation throughout the lower body as you work to maintain your position against the ball. Overall, using a stability ball for sumo squats can lead to a safer, more controlled, and effective workout, making it a valuable variation for people of all fitness levels.

Plie Squat Heel Raises
To take the plie squat to the next level and make it even harder, hold the sumo squat at the bottom and elevate your heels.

Advanced Sumo Squat Hold with Heel Raise

An advanced sumo squat hold with a heel raise is a more challenging variation of the traditional sumo squat. This exercise combines the wide stance of a sumo squat with an isometric hold and an added calf-activating heel raise. Here’s how it differs and increases the challenge compared to a regular sumo squat:

  1. Position and Movement: In this variation, you adopt the wide stance of a sumo squat, lower down into the squat position, and then perform a heel raise by lifting your heels off the ground. You hold this position for a set duration.
  2. Increased Muscle Engagement: The heel raise adds an extra dimension to the exercise by engaging the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) in addition to the glutes, quads, inner thighs (adductors), and hamstrings. This multi-muscle engagement makes the exercise more comprehensive and challenging.
  3. Balance and Stability: Lifting the heels off the ground significantly challenges your balance and stability. This requires greater engagement of the core muscles to maintain an upright posture, and the smaller stabilizing muscles in the legs and feet are also more actively involved.
  4. Isometric Strength: Holding the squat position, especially with raised heels, turns the movement into an isometric exercise where muscles are contracted without movement. This hold increases time under tension, significantly enhancing muscle endurance and strength in the lower body.
  5. Joint and Tendon Strength: The heel raise in the squat position also works the ankle joints and Achilles tendons, improving their strength and flexibility, which is beneficial for overall lower limb health and performance in various sports and physical activities.

Due to its complexity and the balance required, the advanced sumo squat hold with a heel raise is more challenging than a regular sumo squat. It not only targets a broader range of muscles but also enhances balance, stability, and isometric strength, making it a highly effective exercise for those looking to advance their lower body training

Sumo Squat Versus Traditional Squat
Sumo Squat versus Traditional Squats… One of the biggest differences between a traditional squat and a sumo squat is in the foot position.

What are the benefits of Sumo Squats or Plie Squats versus Traditional Squats?

  1. Glute Activation: Sumo squats tend to have greater glute activation due to the wider stance and outward foot position, making them beneficial for those targeting glute development.
  2. Inner Thigh Engagement: The adductor magnus is more significantly engaged in sumo squats, which can lead to stronger and more toned inner thighs.
  3. Lower Back Stress: Sumo squats may place less stress on the lower back compared to traditional squats, due to the upright torso position, which can be beneficial for individuals with lower back issues.
  4. Hip Mobility: Performing sumo squats can improve hip mobility because of the requirement to maintain a wider stance, which stretches and strengthens the hip adductors.
  5. Variation for Joint Stress: For individuals who experience knee discomfort during traditional squats, sumo squats can offer a beneficial variation. The different angle of the legs can reduce knee stress while still providing a lower body workout.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness and safety of these exercises depend on proper form and technique. Each variation targets the muscles slightly differently and I often use both complementarily for a well-rounded strength training program.

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