Squats and Deadlifts are popular strength exercises used by novice and experienced ”weightlifters” to develop the hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
While performing both exercises in the same workout (or on the same day) is possible, it’s essential to consider your fitness goals, past and current injuries, and the demands it has on your body.
Combining squats and deadlifts can increase max strength, but it’s best to split them into separate workouts for building muscle, improving technique, and reducing the risk of injury.
This guide explores the advantages and disadvantages of squatting and deadlifting in the same workout. It provides insights on when and how to safely and effectively incorporate both exercises into your routine.
The Difference Between Squat & Deadlift
Although these activities are compound motions involving multiple muscle groups, such as your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core, they differ in how they are performed.
As demonstrated in the image below, the angle varies with each exercise, thus providing a distinct range of motion for the hips and knees.
Furthermore, the sequence of which muscles are firing is also altered. A low squat may require more effort from the glutes, while deadlifting with a more parallel torso to the ground (with higher hips) may require more effort from the lower back.
Squats have more knee movement (knee flexion) with a more upright torso (the torso angle highly depends on the type of squat you perform!)
- Frontal squats
- Box squats
- Barbell back squats
- Goblet squats
- Split squats
While deadlifting is a hip dominant (hip hinge movement), with your shin more vertical and less motion on the knees. It has many variations:
- Trap bar deadlift
- Romanian deadlift
- Single leg deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlift
Knowing this information above can help you adjust your routine in a way that you can complete them on the same workout! How?
When Is It Okay To Squat and Deadlift on the Same Day?
Choose one as your primary movement.
Rather than doing both with a heavy weight, select one as the Primary movement for 5×5 (heavy 5 sets of 5 reps) and try the second exercise to a more manageable version like a Romanian deadlift or Goblet squats which focuses on proper form and controlled movements with lighter weight.
There is no definite rule as to which version of squats or deadlifts should be used, as the most crucial factor is to pick the variation that works best for your goal!
This way, you can still do squats and deadlifts in the same session, minimizing the possibility of injury and improving your form. This periodization can also be helpful if the goal is to build muscle mass, aiming for localized muscle fatigue.
If you’d like to combine two exercises in one workout, there are some modifications you can make:
- Altering the angle of your torso can take pressure off your lower back and hips, allowing for both exercises to be done
- Switching to using dumbbells or kettlebells to provide resistance but in a more controlled manner.
- Decrease the weight you’re using.
Another case is okay to squat and deadlift on the same workout:
If you are a powerlifter/ experienced athlete
Squats and deadlifts are frequently performed together by powerlifters, although with the correct form and adequate recovery between sets and workouts.
But most of the time, they do each lift separately, dedicating the entire session to one exercise, which allows them to give their full attention and strength to each lift and reduce the risk of fatigue or injury.
This approach may suit advanced athletes who have adapted to handling heavy weights and performing compound lifts back-to-back. Yet it can be suitable for one athlete, may not for another.
Therefore, it’s essential to consult with a certified strength and conditioning coach to guarantee that you are following a secure and effective workout plan.
The Risks of Squatting and Deadlifting HEAVY on the Same Day
1. Risk of Strains and Overtraining
When you are exposed to physical activity, your body adapts and repairs the damaged tissue, improving strength, muscle mass, and endurance.
However, if the stress is too great or too frequent, it can affect the body’s ability to recover, leading to overtraining and fatigue.
Additionally, performing squats and deadlifts on the same day can increase the risk of muscle strains and injuries, especially if proper technique is not maintained. It is wise to spread these exercises throughout your week and workout routine.
2. CNS Fatigue (Systemic Fatigue)
These challenging exercises require significant effort from multiple muscle groups like the back, core, arms, and legs, making them very demanding on the central nervous system (CNS). This can cause systemic fatigue, making it difficult to perform other physical activities, even those that are not as intense.
When attempting to identify CNS fatigue, look out for the following indicators:
- Decreased strength
- Reduced power output
- Impaired coordination
- Reduced performance in other exercises or activities
- Decline in muscle activation
- Decrease in muscle endurance
It is vital to manage CNS fatigue with adequate rest and recovery, such as taking days off, adjusting the volume or intensity of your workout sessions, and incorporating active recovery techniques like foam rolling or massage into your routine.
Moreover, listening to your body and adjusting your training is essential, especially if you feel exhausted. You can keep track of your workouts and note the changes in your performance.
3. High Risk of Injury / Poor form
The risk of injury and poor form is higher when performing heavy squats and deadlifts on the same workout. Both exercises overload the hips and the lumbar spine, with the lower back being the weak link between them.
Deadlifts, in particular, put extra strain on the lower back, making it more prone to injury.
They require a lot of support from the core and spinal stabilizing muscles. When these muscles become fatigued, there is a greater likelihood of rounding the back, which can lead to injury.
Therefore, considering the risk and reward, doing both exercises in one workout is not worth it.
4. Risk of Developing Imbalances
Squats and deadlifts involve movements in the sagittal plane, primarily targeting the front and back muscles (splitting the body into left and right).
This can result in the over-development of certain muscle groups and neglect of others, leading to muscle imbalances. These can result in movement compensation and affect proper body alignment, posture, and mechanics, putting extra stress on certain joints and tissues.
To reduce the risk of such issues, spread the exercises into different workouts with different movement patterns (transverse and frontal plane) and muscle groups.
- Lateral movements: lateral lunges, Side Planks, side bends, KB lateral swing.
- Rotational exercises: Russian Twist, Barbell Twist, Twist ball pass, Lunge with rotation.
- Bracing exercises: Pallof press, Rocking plank.
- Balance drills: Bosu or wobble ball exercises.
- Single leg and arm exercises: Single leg Deadlift, Pistol squats.
Incorporating a variety of movements into your workout can help reduce the risk of muscle imbalances and injuries, improve overall fitness, and increase performance.
Disadvantages of Squatting and Deadlifting in the Same Workout
1. It might not suit your training goal.
The primary goal of bodybuilding is to build muscle through progressive resistance training (localized muscle fatigue) and improve aesthetic appearance (being stage ready).
Bodybuilders may benefit less from heavy deadlifting and squatting on the same workout than powerlifters because their primary goal is NOT maximal strength. You won’t aim for your one rep max.
So squatting and deadlifting heavy on the same workout might not suit your training goal.
2. Longer rest periods
As I mentioned above, Squats and deadlifts significantly stress the musculoskeletal system. Hence, it is necessary to take extended rest periods. This will increase the overall duration of the workout, which can be a throwback for those who are short of time.
It can also hinder bodybuilders as they aim to reach a high level of muscle stimulation and exhaustion in a brief period, and long rest periods can make this difficult!
How Can You Structure Your Program To Make It Safe & Effective?
R: Raise your HR with a 5-10 minute light cardiovascular activity (cross trainer, incline walk, stepper, bike)
A: Activate the key muscles you will use in the workout ahead (for deadlifting and squats: Bridge, Supermans, Banded dead bug with abduction, Side to side banded walks)
M: Mobilize the joints, gain more range of movement (hip CARs, Lat mobilizations, foam rolling, single leg deadlift, airplane)
P: Potentiate by doing a series of progressively heavier lifts (deadlifts, squats) before the max weight you are going to lift (start with a bar, then add load until you reach the weight you want to work with)
FURTHER READING: RAMP Warm-Up For Strength Training (with Examples)
Start with squats, using a variation appropriate for your goal and fitness level. For example, you can start with a goblet, front, or box squat. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with a lighter weight. Aim for 60-90 seconds of rest.
After completing squats, move on to deadlifts, like trap bar deadlifts (athletic performance) and conventional DL (max strength aim).
Aim for 4-6 sets of 5-6 reps and up to 3-5 minutes of recovery.
You can do the other way around, starting with a lighter deadlift if the aim of your session is heavy squats and choosing a deadlift alternative. This example is NOT for a powerlifting-focused session.
4. Accessory exercises
Following squats and deadlifts, perform 2-3 accessory exercises that target the muscles involved in the movement. For example, you can perform lunges, glute bridges, or calf raises. Aim for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise.
Finish the workout with a 5–10-minute cool-down that includes stretching and foam rolling.
Getting guidance from an expert who can arrange your workouts is essential to guarantee a secure and successful exercise. It is also important to consult a doctor or medical specialist if you experience pain or have a previous injury history.
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