Fitness Post – Exercise Comparison – Squat versus Deadlift 

Firstly, I thought that I would move away from the term ‘Exercises I Love to Hate’ because quite honestly I don’t hate any exercise and I don’t like the word hate because these days I don’t hate anything or anyone…as to whether the thing or person is positive or negative is a matter of perspective. But whether I like what they do, particularly to other people is a different matter…but I won’t dwell on that here because it’s not the topic for discussion.

The Squat (or Back Squat as we termed it in Olympic Weightlifting) and the Deadlift movements are two of the three competitive lifts in the Strength Set (or Powerlifting) sport but as pure strength-gaining exercises they are reputed to be the best. They both have positives and negatives if you wish to choose between them and I have have stated before that I consider that the Pistol Squat is a safer exercise to do but in this exercise there is more stress on the knees. So comparatively speaking, if you have any knee issues, either keep away from the Pistol Squat or at least don’t go to a depth in the movement that causes you problems.

So what are the comparisons between these two other movements (and not just talking about the positive and negative aspects)?

  • As far as your knees go, the Deadlift is a better exercise to do than the Squat because your knees don’t bend as much.
  • In the Squat the resistance sits over your shoulders behind your neck where in the Deadlift the weight is at arms length and under your centre of gravity…but there is a tendency to place more stress on your lower back in the Deadlift because exercisers pull the weight in front of them without ensuring that throughout the pull the weight should be felt over their heels (rather than the toes). Mind you, exercisers tend to do that in the Squat as well.
  • Having the weight placed over the shoulders tends to put stress over the whole spine, so in the Squat you should ensure that you place the bar slightly lower on your back than on top of your trapezius muscles. This not only shortens the lever length, which makes the exercise easier, but also places less stress on the spine. But in both movements you should ensure that you spine stays in an anatomically straight position (all the bones of the spine are taking even stress over their whole structure). 
  • Deadlift requires greater Grip strength as you have to have a grip secure enough to handle the weights you may be required to do, particularly effective if your sport requires Grip strength. 
  • If you are looking for a whole body  strength exercise you can’t go passed the Deadlift because it brings the arms into play as compared with the Squat. 

Both exercises have their value, they place different stresses on various areas of the body but if you want my opinion (and you may not) I would choose the Deadlift over the Squat: not only for the last fact in the comparisons above, but also you don’t need a rack to exercise within as you do with the Squat. With both exercises you always should ensure that you create whole body tension before and during the whole of the exercise sequence so that you don’t put your spine (in particular) in a compromised position…this will obviously place you at risk of injury. 

Just as an aside I was better at the Squat as compared to the Deadlift because of the lever length ratio between my legs and my back…mentioned here to gain an understanding why some people are better doing one exercise when compared with the other.

Muscles aren’t strong…it’s the mind that leads the body…


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