When it comes to lower body development, the squat reigns supreme for hitting all the large muscles at once, and adding squat variations to your program will not only keep things interesting but will help to hit those big muscles from different angles and with varying intensities.

This variation of a squat is not one that comes up readily if you google it. In fact, I only found one video for it that called it something slightly different. I was first introduced to the movement through my barefoot training certification workshop held by Dr. Emily Splichal. She commented that this exercise was shown on a myograph to have strong recruitment of all the gluteal muscles.

Rotational Sumo Squat

What Does a Sumo Squat with Hip Rotation Engage ?

A squat with a lateral hip rotation challenges all the gluteal muscles simultaneously plus the quads and adductors, the latter to a much greater degree than a standard squat stance.

The lateral step and external rotation recruits the gluteus medius and deep external rotators in both hips.

Landing in the sumo squat position with knees aligned over toes fires up the posterior fibers of gluteus medius slightly more than the standard width squat because of the wider, turned-out stance.

The adductors are in a stretched position, placing more tension on them at the bottom squat position. Pushing off the ground and returning to the start position engages the gluteus maximus and the quads, and hamstrings to a lesser degree.

The stabilizing leg is working just as hard on the return to start. The internal rotators– TFL and glute minimus–along with the adductors are bringing the legs back together. The deep rotators are stabilizing the joint, too. But because the start position is a semi-squat, the glute maximus remains under tension throughout the exercise with little reprieve.

This makes it an excellent endurance or higher rep/lighter weight hypertrophy endeavor.

The Execution

  • Hold a set of dumbbells on the shoulders or, alternatively, they can be held down at sides with straight arms.
  • Start in a close, semi-squat position with a neutral spine and weight back in heels.
  • Take a lateral step with one foot while rotating the hips open, landing with feet at a 45 degree angle to the body as wide as possible while still maintaining the knee position over the ankles.
  • The knees should track in the same direction as the 2nd and 3rd toes.
  • Drop as low into the squat as possible while keeping the torso upright.
  • Return to the start remembering to stay low in a semi-squat position.
  • Repeat on same leg for completion of set before switching sides.


  • For weight loss or beginner clients this exercise can certainly be performed with just bodyweight.
  • To decrease intensity, the start position can be more upright (as below).
  • To handle heavier weight or give one side more relief from tension, alternate sides.
  • To intensify tension on glute medius, attach working ankle to cable resistance.
  • To intensify internal rotation contractions and increase external rotation ROM, on the return to start step over the stabilizing leg slightly as in a curtsy.
  • To work glute maximus through a great range of motion, start on an elevated surface like a step riser, and step open and down to the ground.

What other ways can you think of to vary this sumo squat variation?


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Michele Rogers

NFPT Publisher Michele G Rogers, MA, NFPT-CPT and EBFA Barefoot Training Specialist manages and coordinates educational blogs and social media content for NFPT, as well as NFPT exam development. She’s been a personal trainer and health coach for over 20 years fueled by a lifetime passion for all things health and fitness. Her mission is to raise kinesthetic awareness and nurture a mind-body connection, helping people achieve a higher state of health and wellness. After battling and conquering chronic back pain and becoming a parent, Michele aims her training approach to emphasize fluidity of movement, corrective exercise, and pain resolution. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Health Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Follow Michele on Instagram.