If you want to get a group of bodybuilders, powerlifters, or gymgoers, in general, engaging in a heated debate, just go ahead and bring up the topic of the squat vs deadlift.
Everybody hits the gym to work out for different reasons because everybody is different and we all have unique goals and objectives in mind.
Somebody looking to improve their 100-meter sprint, for example, would not eat in the same way and lift in the same way as somebody aiming to break a new raw total powerlifting record.
One thing that all lifters can agree upon, though, is the fact that as far as compound lifts go, two of the most effective exercises are squats and deadlifts.
So beneficial is each of these lifts that it often results in debates based upon squat or deadlift.
Because we’re so unbiased we like to hear both sides of the story so we’re going to look at both lifts objectively.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at what each lift is, different variants, tips, and tweaks, and finally, comparing the two to figure out which, if any, is best.
What Are Deadlifts?
To begin with, we’ll start by looking at what deadlifts are.
In the world of strength and power, deadlifts are very much in fashion at the moment.
In fact, deadlifts are probably the most popular exercise amongst fans of strongman and powerlifting, and rightfully so.
Deadlifts are the ultimate show of strength and power as they are literally an exercise requiring you to go from A to B, meaning that the weight is on the floor, to begin with, and to complete the lift you pick it up.
The deadlift is a compound exercise which means that it works several muscles at once.
Primarily, a conventional deadlift will work the lower back muscles and your hamstrings, though by adjusting your grip and your stance you can work different parts of the anatomy and work different muscles.
How Deadlifts Are Performed?
We mentioned that the objective of a deadlift is to go from A to B, but in reality, how you pick the bar up off the ground is very important.
Not only is it important for getting the most from the lift, but it is also important to ensure that you avoid injury.
To ensure that you get more from your deadlifts and to ensure that you stay safe, we’ll now take a look at how deadlifts are performed correctly.
- Begin by setting up a barbell on the floor and standing behind it with feet shoulder-width apart, with your shins as close to the bar as you can get them.
- Next, bring up your chest and sink your hips back while keeping your back straight, making sure not to round it at all. Now, slowly hunch down and grip the barbell in the most comfortable way possible.
- When gripping the bar, sink your hips back and plant your feet firmly into the ground.
- Now, push your hips up so that you make the transition into a standing position, making sure to keep your chest up and your back straight as you stand up with the barbell.
- Finish the lift by standing up straight, locking out your knees, arms, and your hips, with the bar fully off the ground, just below your hips.
- Slowly lower the bar by repeating the movement in reverse and repeat for as many reps as required.
- If using bumper plates, after locking out the weight, you can drop the bar.
Deadlifts In The Headlines:
Many pure strongmen and athletes consider the deadlift to be the ultimate show of strength because it is literally a lift that determines just how much weight you can pick up from the floor.
A few years back, when he was competing in Strongman, former World’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall claimed that, after breaking the world record deadlift at the time in front of his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger, he could lift 500kg.
At the time, the record he held was 462kg, so to jump nearly 40kg with that amount of weight was unheard of.
People wrote off The Beast and claimed that it couldn’t be done.
In 2016, less than two years later, Eddie became the first man in history to deadlift 500kgs, doing it in front of an arena of screaming fans.
Since that lift, more and more strongman fans and powerlifters began focussing on the deadlift, and more and more lifters claimed that they would break his record.
Earlier in 2020, Thor Bjornsson, who was also a former World’s Strongest Man winner became the second man in history to break the record, pulling 501kg in front of Magnus Ver Magnusson.
The lift was controversial because, thanks to a pandemic, competitions were stopped so he pulled the weight at his private gym.
In either event, the record stands and has not yet been beaten.
Recently, in Colorado at the first Shaw Classic event hosted by Brian Shaw, pro strongmen engaged in a hummer tire deadlift which had fans of the sport going wild as it was so competitive.
The footage featured JF Caron and Jerry Pritchett going head-to-head for an all-time world record.
We won’t spoil the outcome for those of you who haven’t seen it, but if you get a chance, head over to Brian Shaw’s YouTube channel to check it out, it really is that awesome.
Deadlift Variants To Try:
As we’re looking at the differences, we’ll now look at some different variants of the deadlift for you to try.
1. Rack Pulls:
Rack pulls are great for working on your pulling power as they are basically just a standard conventional deadlift with the bar lifted off the floor so that it is roughly knee height.
Rack pulls are great for people who have limited mobility because obviously, the bar has less distance to travel, so the lift is challenging, but not as tough as a conventional deadlift.
Rack pulls also work the traps and upper back more efficiently.
2. Sumo Deadlifts:
Sumo deadlifts are very polarizing in the world of strength training, as people either seem to love them or hate them, with no middle ground.
Sumo deadlifts get their name because in order to do them you adopt a wider stance with your legs like a sumo wrestler while gripping the bar narrower with your hands.
This again means the bar has less distance to travel, plus it is also great for the hamstrings and the upper lats.
3. Trap Bar Deadlifts
Trap bar deadlifts are performed using a trap bar (bar designed to work your traps).
With a trap bar, the legs do more of the work and less pressure and strain is placed upon the back.
In fact, this is very apt as we’re looking at the differences because when using a trap bar to perform deadlifts the exercise itself almost becomes a hybrid between squats and deads.
What Are Squats?
Okay, so, now that we’ve looked at what deadlifts are, it is now time for us to take a look at what squats are.
If you train legs, you’ll know exactly what squats are and you will know exactly just how awful they can make you feel (in a good way) after doing them.
Squats are the ultimate leg day exercise and are a must for anybody that trains legs and wants to put up big lifts in the gym.
Squats are a compound exercise that can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or machines in a whole variety of different ways.
The most common variant of the humble squat is a barbell back squat.
Squats are a compound exercise that works the hamstrings, the glutes, the quads, and the calves, making them fantastic for anybody looking to build up their legs.
How To Perform Squats?
If you’re looking for ways of improving your legs and increasing your overall strength and power in the process, squats are the perfect compound exercise for you to perform.
In order to get the most from your training, and also to again keep yourself safe when performing the lift, it’s vital that you master your form and get the lift just right.
Here’s a look at how to safely and effectively perform squats.
- Begin by finding yourself a squat rack or a power rack and loading the bar with a weight that you know you are comfortable with.
- Next, position yourself under the bar so that it is resting in a comfortable position upon your traps. Make sure that you rest it on your traps, rather than on your neck, as this could b dangerous and painful.
- Now, position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, pointing your toes at a 10 and 2 angle on an imaginary clock face.
- Now, brace your core, keep your back straight and your head up, slowly step backward to remove the bar from the rack, and slowly squat down with the bar until your knees form at least a 90-degree angle, though the deeper the squat the more muscle fibers you will recruit.
- If you struggle with the movement, just imagine that there is a bench behind you and you’re sitting down on it.
- Once you squat down, drive upwards with your heels to stand back up, making sure to keep your core braced, your back straight, and your head up.
- That is one complete rep so repeat for as many reps as required and you’re good to go.
Different Squat Variations To Try:
Okay, now that we know what a basic barbell back squat is and how it’s done, as we’re looking at the differences, we’ll now look at some different variants of the squat for you to try.
1. Front Squats:
Front squats are a very common variant of squats and they’re ideal because they force the individual performing them into an upright position of Thoracic extension.
If you suffer from joint issues, front squats are perfect because they put less strain and pressure upon the joints, so you can save your knees, ankles, and your other joints for that matter.
With front squats, you rest the bar across your front deltoids rather than your traps and perform the squat that way instead.
2. Goblet Squats
With goblet squats, this exercise is very similar to a front squat, except for the fact that, rather than do it with a barbell, you instead perform it using a dumbbell.
3. Zombie Squats
Zombie squats are unusual, and should only be performed by very strong and very experienced lifters.
With zombie squats, you carefully balance the bar across your traps and you hold both arms out in front of you, similar to how fictional zombies are sometimes depicted in cartoons and in satire (minus the barbell of course).
This is a wonderful exercise for strengthening your core because you’re forced to brace it so much and use your core stabilizer muscles during the movement.
Squat Vs Deadlift – Which Is Better?
Okay, so, the moment of truth has arrived, because now we need to take a look at which is better, a squat or a deadlift.
To be perfectly honest, there is no right or wrong answer because both exercises are so very different and unique to one another.
On the one hand, you have deadlifts which are fantastic for the back, grip strength, and power in general, then on the other hand you have squats which are the ultimate leg exercise and function as a fantastic accessory exercise for other lifts too.
To really get the most from your training, we recommend that you simply go ahead and incorporate both squats and deadlifts into your routine.