T Nation


Hey guys,

Theres a lot of debate latley about squats and deadlifts, and if you NEED them to build legs and back to full potentional.

First, squats. For sports, squats are the one exercise I would recomend to anyone, in any sport. But bodybuilding? In my case anyway, squats didnt do that much for my legs. I use to play football for my high school, and I squatted the most on the team. However, I haven’t been squatting much latley, and my quads are making bigger gains than ever. I did legs yesterday with NO squats. Today, my quads are sore, but there is only a little soreness in my glutes and other areas. I dont view this to be a bad thing, as my quads apparently did most of the work yesterday.

Now for deads. I know a lot of huge guys at my gym with big backs that say deads are good for sports and stuff, but not the best for gaining mass. I have to agree with him from my experience. Again, with football I did deads and saw some good gains in back. However, my back is gaing more with t-bar rows and the likes.

I think personal preference with prevail in this situation. What do you think?

I think it depends on more than just the exercise selection. Things such as tempo, reps, sets, rest, etc. also have a determining factor in how much progress one makes in terms of muscle size and strength. Were you controlling all of the other variables such as the ones I listed above or were you changing other things along with the choice of exercise?

Debate? Not so sure. What would you do for legs if not squats and deads? Isolation exercises only? I suppose presses could be a reasonably legitimate substitute. But an inferior one, I think, for most people if used soley to replace and not complement.

[quote]mike1212ms wrote:

Theres a lot of debate latley about squats and deadlifts, and if you NEED them to build legs and back to full potentional. [/quote]

Squats and deads are as much of a full body exercise as almost anything out there. Back squats are hip/ham dominant near and below parallel, and quad dominant above parallel. One of the reasons that squats may not provide the same amount of quad stimulation as something like leg press is weakness in the hips and hamstrings. If you can’t get out of the hole, you can’t squat the weight. The quads have much better leverage in the top half of the squat then the hips have in the bottom. Bring your hips up to par and you will squat more; and grow more. I get more lower body strength from squats than anything else.

Change in any routine is good. When you change from one exercise to another there is a learning curve for your muscles and you will make quick gains in the beginning. You might try front squats for a while. They are more quad dominant than back squats. Go with higher reps: 4/5x8 or so. Make sure that the last rep is the LAST one you can do. Follow that with SLDL and let me know how that works.

DOMS isn’t a real indicator of growth or growth potential. It is a sign that you beat up your muscles, and it is easy to use soreness as an indicator (I do it, too), but being REALLY sore doesn’t mean you’re going to get REALLY big. When I do a true powerlifting workout, I gain strentgh faster than with any other workout, but I get nowhere near as sore. DOMS can be controlled (to a point) with things like fish oil, prehab and rehab practices, and some people even say that glutamine helps reduce it. Mostly, some people get it and some people don’t.

Full deadlifts are hip and back dominant. You don’t pull as much of your quads into deadlifting unless you lift deep (off pads or blocks). I hate deadlifts. They are brutal. If you aren’t getting anything out of deadlifts, then you aren’t doing them heavy enough. This isn’t a high rep exercise. After 10x3@385, I am dead. Exhausted. I am famished all day long. I can’t eat enough. I get sore from the back of my knees to the back of my neck. I would say that there isn’t a more effective exercise for full body work than deadlifts.

I do deadlifts, t-bar, bent rows, good mornings, pullups and downs…all of it. Not all on the same say, mind you. I may be crazy, but I’m not insane.

I think that big, heavy exercises really suck. They are hard and they make me sweat and breathe heavy. Sometimes I get nauseous. Also, they make me bigger and stronger.

If you don’t do squats and deads, will you wither away and be weak your whole life? No. Can you get bigger and stronger without them? Yes. But you’re going to get bigger and stronger faster if you use them in your routine. They can be two of the most useful exercises in your arsenal.



Good post folly… just a few things

You mentioned squats are the best for leg STRENGTH. A agree 100%. But what about for mass? And I’m not saying this b/c I cant squat alot, I have the highest squat at my school. My hams are better than my quads (proportion wise)

Thanks for everyones input.

Forgot to put this in my last post, here’s my current leg workout…

Leg press 4 sets
Hack Squats 4 sets
Smith machine front squats 3 sets
Leg extensions 3 sets

If all you are looking to do is get BIG and not care about functional strength, I would vouch for doing loads of leg press over squats (I am not sure what you would do in place of deadlift, reverse hypers? Which hurts like bad mofo…).

Like what’s been said here, when you do squats and deadlifts, because they both involve sooo many muscles that your weakest link may NOT be (and probably isn’t) your quads hence you never fully recruit your quads. But what has also been said, to make up for that, you might change the angle of your exercise, i.e. do quarter squats at the end of your squat workout.

Don’t forget the big lifts mean big weight. That kind of stress on your body will result in mass and strength gains. Not to mention the positive hormonal changes you get the benefit of. Hence the old axiom: “If you want big arms… Squat!”

The way you have your workout scheduled isn’t bad, although I would switch the leg press and front squats around. Remember that the more muscles you use, the better the exercise.

You might try alternating back and front squats week to week for the first exercise of the workout. On the says your do front squats, drop the leg extensions and add some SLDL. Oh, and lose the smith machine. It changes your angles and can be bad for your back and knees.

You might look up the “Super Squats” book at ironmind. Ironmind is a great resource for all things heavy.

Xen has posted the basic workout here before, but I can send you the schedule if you want it. WARNING: It is not for half-ass lifters. You are either in or out on this one.


For squats, like somebody mentioned earlier, if you are not benefiting in your quads, it is due to another weak point (ex. hip flexors, hams) that are maxed out before your quads are fully recruited. Or, as I have found in myself, I have weak quads, but can lift decently by shifting the load making it more hip and lower back dominant, making the movement more like a deadlift and less like a squats. Obviously, I don’t do this intentionally and looking at me squatting (not a pretty picture), my form looks ok even to others. It is the subtle stuff I found making the profound difference. My ass sticking out a little more than it should for instance.

Deads, Man do I love deads. Nothing, and I mean no single exercise has profoundly altered my physique more than deads. My back is genetically flawed in the growth dept. and deads added some serious meat to my back where I was deficient.

Most people say this is not a high rep exercise. It is not known to be, but I found, especially in the beginning, that doing high rep deads did help. Granted, I haven’t done high reps in a while. Maybe I’ll do them today. My joints are shot from lifting heavy. Shutting up…