Squats vs Deadlifts; Is One Better Than The Other?

This argument is a good one in the fitness community because you often get conflicting information. 

Firstly, why either? Well, if you’re a serious gym user and want to take your physical appearance to the highest level possible, both of these exercises are a MUST! 

Ok, let’s analyse each movement before we go too far. 

Squats are a butt’s best friend. Your glutes (butt/peach/booty) are the main hip extensors, meaning, they are the main muscle group that lock out the hip joint. 

Both movements are a great lower body exercise that strengthens the whole lower half, from glutes to quads, all the way down to foot flexors and calves. Each muscle plays a pivotal role in each movement. 

101: Connecting With The Floor:
I always recommend clients remove their shoes and socks when doing these lifts on their own in a program to allow for greater connection with the floor, resulting in better balance and muscle recruitment. 

Always choose a weight that you can do with great form, but it still challenges you in the rep range you’re working in. 

As it goes with other exercises, it is best to incorporate other forms of the movement and also vary your reps and sets to challenge the muscles in a different way. 

Squats and deadlifts are different. Let’s get that bit straight. The body angle, the angle of the lower leg, and even the hip angle are all different between the 2 exercises. Squats use more knee bend, where a deadlift requires more posterior (back) chain recruitment (ie. hamstrings and glutes to assist the hips to lock out straight as you pull the weight from the floor). 

When performing a squat, it is important to maintain connection with your whole foot, with more emphasis on transferring weight into the heels/back half of the foot. This will ensure you’re not forward leaning and collapsing your upper body over your legs and bringing too much weight forward during the lift, giving you the sense of tipping forward. 

Squats use more of a pushing downwards movement, where your main goal is to try and push the floor down, driving through quads and glutes. 

When performing a deadlift, it is important to keep the weight close to your body, and never pick up the weight from too far in front of your shins, which will result in excessive lower back erector recruitment and minimal glute and hamstring use. 

The deadlift uses more of a “bowing” movement, hinging forward more from the hip and utilising hamstrings and glutes to help “pull” the weight from the ground. 

So in a nutshell, the deeper your squats, the greater the hip angle, therefore the greater the stretch and contraction on glutes, therefore the greater the work load on them causing a greater response and better strength increase and shape. 

With both movements, it is also important that you are performing both of them technically perfect, as with the slightest incorrect form can completely alter the chain of muscle contractions. From person to person you will also get a varied range of movement, which also needs to be taken into account, ie. some people will never be able to squat as deep as somebody else who has greater hip range, due to a structural design. Muscle tightness is a different story. For this reason, modifications will have to be made, or alternative equipment is the only way to progress. 

Such deadlifting equipment/variations include;
- trap bars
- kettlebells
- rack pulls (pulling barbell from an elevated height)

So for the above reasons, both exercises SHOULD be performed each and every week, making them the staple of a workout routine to ensure you’re progressing, strengthening and improving each lift. 

Play around with reps, sets, variations and other styles to help benefit each lift over all.