Monday, June 27, 2011

Squats or Deadlifts?

Does it matter?

Regardless of which one you choose, it is better than doing chest and arms 5 times a week.

So, you know you should be doing them both, but in what ratio? Let me make some suggestions.

I teach both lifts to all my clients, in some form or another. However, I deadlift them much more often and with much  more intensity than I squat them. Why? Correcting imbalances. We are a nation of quad dominant people. When someone "does legs", it usually means they spent some time on the leg press trying to give themselves a hernia. Afterwards they went to the leg extension and, if they actually did a free weight exercise, did some lunges. They may have spent some time on the hamstring curl machine, but who knows. Assuming they did ham curls, their leg workout was a 3:1 quad:hamstring ratio...which isn't very good. Add to that running on the treadmill (quad dominant) walking up and down stairs (if someone actually does it) and spending time in shoes with big heel lifts and you have a recipe for quad dominance.

By deadlifting my clients more often, I look to equal out this imbalance. We certainly don't ignore the quads, however. I program in lots of lunge variations, goblet squats, overhead squats and single leg squat variations. These are all exercises that use a sub-maximal load when compared to back squats.

Another positive about deadlifting more often is that it goes a long way to help correct kyphosis caused by spending lots of time at a desk or computer. Although, as recently pointed out, it is not the end all and be all of postural corrections (Eric Cressey is smart). It does go a long way in putting loads of muscle on someones posterior chain, which is a place ignored by most Average Joes. The deadlift also strengthens one of the weakest point on most peoples bodies: the lower back. People tend to stay away from low back exercises because they "don't want to hurt themselves". Well, NOT doing low back exercises is just  as damaging in the long run. You are much better off doing safe and worthwhile exercises.

What an attractive, smart and humble guy.
The last big reason I deadlift my clients more than squat them, is that it is just a touch safer. I recently heard someone say "train the deadlift, perfect the squat". Suggesting that you can work around slight mistakes in form with a deadlift; worse comes to worst and you will really only injure soft tissue. A mistake in form with the squat can result in ligamentous or cartilaginous aspects of your body.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a free pass to go deadlift with shitty form, you still need to work with perfect form as much as possible. But in a max effort, a little bit of leeway is allowed in the deadlift.

People like to say that squats are bad for your knees. Those people are stupid and should be mocked. Correctly executed squats should not be detrimental to your knees. However, some of us have a pre-existing condition in our knees called "beat the shit out of them for a long time playing sports". For those of with said condition, squatting often leaves us feeling pretty beat up. For those people, deadlifting is the answer. It will allow you to keep lifting heavy with minimal stress on your knees, or you can even choose variations that will allow for a little more quad recruitment (snatch grip deadlift, trap bar deadlift). 

So, in my opinion, the average joe would probably get a little more benefit out of deadlifting than squatting. This is not to be taken as an infallible truth, simply as an opinion. 

Whether you want to squat or pull, go do it...and make it heavy!!

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