T Nation

Deadlifts Over Squats?


I know the immediate reaction to a post like this will be to "do both!" and this may be the wrong place to ask this, but I'll give it a shot.

I was wondering if there were any long-limbed, short-torsoed folks like me who have a devil of a time benching or squatting like the favorably proportioned folk and who have instead thrived on a diet of overhead presses or dips and deadlifts. I gave up trying to move more weight on the bench press years ago because my build is not suited to bench pressing safely and efficiently (i.e. getting stronger quickly). I have made much better gains in chest/tricep strength when doing weighted dips.

In a similar manner, squats have always been a bit awkward for me and I could never progress very quickly with them while my deadlift numbers just keep climbing. Despite this, I've favored the squat, but after a decade of poor returns I've decided to work solely on the deadlift and make my glutes/hams/erectors all they can be and screw having bulbous quads.

I know a lot of people consider the back squat the key to performance for ALL athletes, but there is a small minority who believe that the deadlift may be more widely suited to accomodate increasing hip/knee muscle strength for the typical person without ideal bench/squat proportions (barrel chest, long spine, short limbs).

Has anyone built a nice set of powerful legs and hips by favoring the deadlift? I know many of you reading this will feel compelled to write in to tell me stop being lazy and to do both. What I really want to know is how effective favoring the deadlift can be. I deadlift frequently and I'm "just" 100 lbs away from a triple-bodyweight deadlift and at my rate of progress I'll have that well before the end of the year, so I'm not being lazy; I train the lift intensely and with passion. I wonder if there will be a carryover to my squat strength and if I'd be short-changing myself in terms of athletic performance.


Yes, you can substitute squats w/ deads. But I think you should include a direct quad movement(such as leg press) into your regimen. Deadlifts just don't build quads as well as the squat.


Work on your weak links, it will pay off in the long run.


Thanks for the reply!

I've stopped caring about having big pecs, bis or quads and am more interested in building the "go" muscles that tend to be on the back of the body--erectors, glutes, hammies, etc--as well as very powerful shoulders and lats. From what I read from Louie Simmons, one shouldn't squat to improve quad strength and indeed powerlifting is about "good morning" squatting or using the much stronger glutes/hams to get the weight up from a position that is far from ATG. I guess I'm looking for that sort of strength, but I since I have no interest in performing competitive powerlifts, I'm happy to focus on the old-fashioned deadlift as my hip strength builder (and back builder and grip builder).


I agree, but "weak links" is one of those terms like "functional strength." Functional for what? Weak for what? If I plan to compete in PL, then I'd better bench. If I plan to Oly-lift, then I'd better deep squat front and back. But if I'm just looking to get really, really strong in a very general way, do I subject myself to a movement for which my body is not suited?

The bench press enjoyed decades of popularity, but over the last few years it's been "outed" as a movement that may not be suitable for every body type. The dip has been much better for me and my pecs and tris. Even more satisfying for me than the dip or bench has been increasing the amount of weight I can put overhead with a strict press.

So now is my inability to make gains on the squat a "weak link" or a sign that I should focus on what does work for me and my goals? I was a bit nervous about dropping the dip to focus on the press, but I was finding out that I couldn't improve quickly on BOTH, that I'd have to choose one over the other. I decided that it was more important to me to press 4 45's overhead on the Olympic bar than to be able to dip with 4 45's hanging off of me.

I really want to be able to deadlift much more than triple bodyweight. I feel I'm "built" to do it and including squats seems to be interfering with my ability to recover from frequent heavy deadlifting. When I ignore the squat, I can add an average of 5 lbs every few days to my DL. When I squat, my rate of improvement on the DL slows (I have meticulous records of this in my journal). So is the squat acting as my "weak link" then?

I do understand what you're saying though. If I ignore the squat, I miss out on working my lower body musculature through a great deal of range of motion. Of course, outside of Oly-lifting I can't think of a sport that generally requires hip strength below parallel like that and even then a really proficient Oly-lifter bounces out of that position and doesn't waste energy trying to grind her way out of the hole.


Squats hate me as well.

Since I love the deadlift, I quickly fell in love with barbell hack squats as a quad exercise. You get the satisfaction of it being like a pull, but you're putting more emphasis on your quads. Sounds like win-win to me.


SCJ, I recently came to a similar conclusion.

I have recently started training again after a long lay-off.

I decided to make Trap Bar Deadlifts my main lower body movement.


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Not to take away from Agent Orange's suggestion, but that is an excellent idea. I used to be a huge supporter of the trap bar deadlift. What a perfect compromise. It allows us "deadlift-built" guys to deadlift/squat like the short-leg, long-torso mesomorphs who popularized benching and squatting in the first place.

To be honest, I'm a supporter of trap bar deads in the abstract. When I belonged to a gym that actually had trap bars (and a little lifting platform and an ol' skewl crush grip loading machine and thick bars!), I never could get the hang of it. Part of it is that I'm just a very narrow guy with narrow shoulders and the trap bar grips were just an inch too wide for me to lift efficiently. If I'd have been able to have my arms hanging completely straight down, the lift would have been a lot more comfortable for me.

What I've noticed is that I tend to get uneven leg/hip involvement with the ATG squat. Deadlifts force both hips/legs to get equally involved. I have another thread about my leg imbalances and I wonder if my years of dedicated squatting exacerbated this condition. As I sit here typing this after a day of heavy deadlifting (and a new PR!), all the muscles in both legs/hips, including both quads, are feeling full and thoroughly worked. Compare this to how my lower body felt after a couple sessions of heavy squatting; my left leg felt fatigued and twitchy far more than did my right.This happens despite my extreme awareness of the fact. The huge range of motion just seems to force my body to do what it has to get through it and the mechanics of the movement simply call for the stronger leg to take over to get through the sticking point. It's probably something I could fix, but the quick answer is to do a movement with similar benefits that doesn't have this complication.


I feel you on the squats. I'm 6'5" and long-limbed too, and have a hard time increasing squat numbers, but deads improve quite nicely. I don't think I have that hard a time increasing my bench though. I don't bench a lot, but if I focus on it, it'll improve. Doing more rows has helped me at least. I actually think it might be easier for me to increase my bench than overhead press. I don't do dips.
To continue about squats, I can squat atg, without pain or anything, but can't keep an arched back at the very bottom position, usually lose the arch around parallel.

I think what you could do or try is some unilateral work. Have you tried bulgarian squats?


PDA will custom make a Shrug Bar. (their version of a "Trap Bar")


Am enjoying this discussion.
Have recently been playing with the idea of deads vs. squats. The reason being back pain while squating vs. no pain deadlifting. Of course I would never throw out legpress. Come to think of it I will still keep the squat in my program but with higher reps and lower weight.
As for bench...that is a core movement for me and even though it's not my best lift I enjoy it. I also have long arms and have had to increase tricep strength in order to get my bench to respectable numbers.
I use a narrower grip than most and am having pretty good success.
It seems that the longer limbs the more difficult the road to large lifts and large muscles but when you finally do arrive it's well worth it.


Yeah whatever, just fucking squat.


That arched back thing has driven me crazy. The butt turns down and in and there goes the arch. There are those who swear up and down that increasing flexibility in the hams and adductors will get rid of that posterior rotation or "butt nod" that happens toward the bottom of the ATG squat. There are those who insist it's natural and not to worry too much about it (a less vocal minority). After ATG squatting for half my life I still have the posterior rotation, though I think it begins much lower than it used to. When I started weightlifting, I was a flexible little adolescent who could do nearly full splits, but I guess that sort of flexibility just doesn't carry over well...

I haven't tried Bulgarian squats, but I am a fan of the Pistol. Also, I like keeping my training simple so I tend to avoid variations on movements or at least stick to the basic version of the movements that work for most people; I like sticking to movements with a lot of bang for the buck. I've made the point more times than I care to admit that my only bis/lats movement is the weighted chin and adding weight to just this full range movement over the last year has allowed me to curl and row more than I ever thought I could (I test my ability to curl and row every two months or so). The overhead press is trickier, and I've only just started to see my numbers moving up on this one, but I expect the same sort of returns. I've already seen overhead pressing ability has a lot of carryover to weighted dips while the reverse is NOT true.


Fair enough. Can we agree that not everyone is equally suited to squat? I think everyone who trains should be able to do double bodyweight chin-ups, despite structural differences, but they don't. I think everyone who trains should be able to strict press bodyweight overhead for at least 5 reps, but they don't. So why MUST everyone who trains squat when this is definitely a movement that is clearly not suitable to all body types, in the same manner that the bench is not suitable to all body types? Should I just "fucking" bench too even though I get better results from the weighted dip, even though the dip gets my bench up faster than actually benching (if there were a PL competition variation that featured chins and dips, I'd definitely train for it)?

We aint all built to excel at the same sport, nor or we all built to benefit from the same gross weighted movements. I don't want come across as argumentative and I hope I'm making my argument clear. Thanks again for hashing this out with me, all of you.


If all you want is basic fitness and strength, a program of overhead presses and DLs will take you far. The custom-made trap bar suggestion was a good idea, but a custom-made shrug bar from PDA will cost you a bit of cash. Just the basic bar will cost you around $300. Customizing is extra. Another alternative is to do regular DLs and supplement your leg work with hip belt squats. The Ironmind hip belt at $100 is lots cheaper than a PDA shrug bar and you can use it for other stuff, like adding weight to dips. I recently bought a hip belt from Ironmind and think it's great. Contrary to what some people have said, there was no learning curve to it. Of course, I'm more of a natural squatter. If you're not a natural squatter, it may take some time to get adjusted, but I don't that for sure.


[quote]pushharder wrote:
I hope more guys weigh in on this topic. quote]

I second that.


I can also bench more with a narrower grip than with a wide grip. Funny, since people usually advocate a wider grip for more weight. Right now, even though I don't put a lot of focus on the bench, I use a wider grip and do a lot of rows, since I'm weaker with that grip.


I know. Sometimes I wonder what kind of squats I should be doing.. I was thinking about starting thread about it too.. it's like, I actually want to go atg because that'd recruit the vmo more and possibly be better for tendinosis. Yes it does recruit the posterior chain better too, but there are also other way to do that, so the primary reason I want to go atg is for vmo development.

I hear you about keeping it simple. I try to avoid overcomplicating things too because it's a problem for me. But with bulgarian squats, there's really nothing special about them. Grab a pair of dbs or a barbell, put your rear leg on a bench and go up and down. I think they're among the hardest lifts I do.

Now I don't know how much knowledge you have, or if you follow the work of Robertson and Cressey, but chins strengthen the lats, which are, like front delts and pecs, internal rotators of the shoulder. What one need to do is strengthen the external rotators such as rhomboids and rear delts, through rows and similar lifts. This would help keep the shoulders back, giving a more stable base to bench off of.
You're stronger than I am so I'm not trying to diss you, this is just what I've learned, tried and found out to work.
Oh yeah, regarding OH pressing, I remember many moons ago I did a program called SSSF (super strong super fast, anyone remeber or seen that?, I think I increased my push press by 20kg (bout 45lbs.) in 6 weeks. But I was a young'n so maybe they were newbie gains..


No disrespect taken at all.

I have to say though, I don't think that adducting the humerus from in front of the body while bending over does anything much different for the various adducting muscles of the shoulder (lats, pecs, p.delts, etc) as adducting the humerus while hanging from a bar. Whether rowing or chinning, you're just bringing elbow from in front of you to your sides. The big difference is the ROM (and here I don't help my deadlift v. squat argument, but I think it may be a little different for the lower body). Maybe rows would give me some specific strength development that chins won't. I do know that after years of doing no pulls aside from chins, my posterior delt is plenty developed.

As far as developing the external rotators, I always thought deadlifting would help a great deal with that. Maybe you could clear that up for me.