Blog Fitness Workouts Deadlift vs. Squat: Pinning Down The Real Winner Of This Long-Standing Debate

Deadlift vs. Squat: Pinning Down The Real Winner Of This Long-Standing Debate

deadlift vs squat

Deadlift vs. squat has been a debate for a long while. There are good reasons as to why each of the two is better than the other. Since the two exercises are different in their own ways, it is best to look at what you want to achieve when comparing them. That is a much better and personalized way of looking at these two fundamental exercises.


Deadlift And Squats 

Both deadlift and squats are compound movements. What this means is that they both work multiple muscles. The deadlift is more of a pulling workout, whereas the squat is more of a pushing workout. Both of these exercises are effective when it comes to gaining lower body strength. This is from the fact that they both strengthen the muscles of the legs and glutes. A big difference between the two is that even though they work the legs and the glutes’ muscles, they work different muscles. 

Both of these exercises are functional movements. Function movements are movements that you would find yourself doing in your everyday activities like bending down to lie in your shoelaces, climbing a flight of stairs, the motion from the standing position to the seated position, and so on. 

Deadlift vs. Squat: How To Perform These Exercises?

It is vital to know how to perform these exercises correctly. If you do any of these exercises wrongly, you risk getting injured. Before you do any of these exercises, you should first warm-up. Warm muscles are loose, which makes it easier to exercise and lower the risks of injuries. If you are new to any of these two exercises, you should ease yourself into them or start with their simple variations. It is also recommended to consult an expert before you perform any of the two workouts. With that out of the way, here is how you do these two compound exercises.

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The deadlift is a weight training workout and is among the three canonical powerlifting exercises together with the squat and the bench press (1). 

How to perform deadlifts (3)?

  1. First, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. While bending your knees, reach down and grab your dumbbells or barbell, whichever you are using. 
  2. Keep the dumbbell or barbell lifted with your hands slightly closer together than shoulder-width. This is your original starting position.
  3. The next thing to do is raise the dumbbells or barbell slowly until they get to the hip level and then bring them back to your shin.
  4. Do 10 to 12 reps and rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set. Do up to three sets of this.

Read More: Benefits Of Deadlifts: A Triple Threat For Your Back, Booty, And Legs

deadlift vs. squat


A squat is a compound, full-body workout for strengthening training and is among the three canonical powerlifting exercises together with the deadlift and the bench press. 

How to perform squats (4)?

  1. First, stand with your feet wide apart. Make sure your legs are as straight and parallel to each other as they can be. To make it easier, you can turn your feet slightly outwards, not more than fifteen degrees. 
  2. Then with your arms straight out, lower yourself. While lowering yourself, you should make sure your knees are well bent, your bottom is pointing outwards, and you are leaning forward at your waist. A position is almost similar to the one you make while seated. 
  3. You should lower yourself until your hips are parallel to the floor, then return to the original starting position. 
  4. You should do 20 reps of 3 sets. While doing squats, it is important to always look ahead and try as much as possible to align your knees to your ankles. 
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deadlift vs. squat

Squats vs. Deadlift: Muscles Worked 

There are common muscles that are worked by both these workouts since both these workouts focus on the lower body. There are still muscles that are worked by squats and are not worked by deadlifts, and vice versa. 

The squat works the calves, glutes, thighs, hips, core, quadriceps, and shins (6).

The deadlift works the hamstrings, glutes, back, hips, core, and trapezius muscles (6). 

Deadlift vs. Squat: Which One Is Best In Terms Of Building Strength?

When you think about building strength, both these exercises excel in different situations. Therefore, it is important to look at what you are trying to strengthen, choosing which is the best for you. 

The squat is more effective if you want to strengthen your knee extension. The deadlift, on the other hand, is essential if you want to strengthen your hip extension. All this is determined by the range of motion of these two lower body exercises (5). 

The quad is responsible for extending the knee, and it so happens to be the primary mover in the squat, hence resulting in a stronger knee extension. The glutes and the hamstrings are the primary movers on the deadlift and play a hip extension role. 

If you want to build a stronger back, deadlifts are definitely the way to go. If you want to build stronger legs, squats are what you should focus on. If you want to build stronger glutes, both the squats and deadlifts can be used in this case (5). 

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deadlift vs. squat

Squat vs. Deadlift: Equipment Used 

We all know the basic squat can be performed without any equipment. For matters of comparison, we shall not look at the basic squat but other squat variations that require different equipment. 

The deadlift can be performed using many different tools. If you are into pro-weight lifting, then you know that those who are athletes use barbells with weights. One can use a barbell without the weights or the trap bar as a replacement for the barbell (1). 

In terms of the squat, one can lift small amounts of weights while performing them. If you require more challenge and think hand weights are not doing it for you, you can use a barbell or a trap bar (1). 

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deadlift vs. squat

Deadlift vs. Squat: People With Knee Injury 

As mentioned earlier, squats have a lot more to do with the knees compared to deadlift. Therefore, if you have a knee injury, you should steer away from squats. When performing a deadlift, your knees usually remain in a constant position. This means they won’t irritate your knees easily and hence a better option for people with knee problems (6). 

In case you don’t have any knee problems and feel pain when you do squats, you should check on your form. Most knee pain from squats is usually a result of you doing the exercise all wrong. You should make sure you are not pushing your glutes down but back. You should also not push your knees in front of you as you bend, but should let your knees push out. 

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Deadlift vs. Squats: People With Lower Back Pain 

There are so many people who suffer from lower back pains or injuries. If you fall on this group of people, deadlifts are the way to go. Why? This is from the fact that deadlifts help strengthen lower back muscles (6). Strengthening your lower back muscles might help when it comes to dealing with lower back pain. But in case of deadlifts still making you feel pain, you should avoid them and go consult an expert. Remember, exercises are not supposed to be painful. Pain is your body’s way of telling that you’ve gone too far or you are doing the exercise all wrong. Always listen to your body. 

deadlift vs. squat

Deadlift vs. Squat: Where Should The Weight Sit?

When performing these two exercises, the weight is usually exerted differently. During squats, the weight usually sits on the back of your shoulders. This is different from the deadlift where the barbell sits on the ground, and you need to lift it from there (2). 

Deadlift vs. Squat: Which Is Best For Mass?

To compare the two, you first need to make sure that the different factors that may affect mass are accounted for. This is diet, volume, and intensity. With that out of the way, the best way to decide which is the best for mass will all depend on where you want to build the mass (5). For these two exercises, they will build mass for the areas they most workout. Therefore, if you want to build mass in your back, you obviously know deadlift is the way to go. If you want to build mass in your legs, then squats are the right choice. If you want bigger glutes, do both of them (5). 

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The Bottom Line

The deadlift vs. squat debate is here to stay. While choosing, look at the different factors we have highlighted to know which works best for you. Look at where you want to build strength, where you want to build mass, do you have a knee injury or a back injury? Which muscles do you want to work on? From that, it is easier to choose the better one for you as none of the two is superior to the other by all standards.BetterMe


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Deadlift vs. Squat (n.d.,
  2. Deadlift vs. Squat Muscles (2019,
  3. How To Deadlift Like You Know What You’re Doing (2019,
  4. How to Do the Squat (2019,
  5. Squat Vs Deadlift: Which Is Better For Strength, Mass, And Power? (2019,
  6. What’s the Difference Between Deadlifts and Squats, and Which Is Better for Building Lower Body Strength? (2019,
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