Which is Better – Deadlift or Squat?

In Strongman Mastery by Admin4 Comments

Which exercise is better – the Deadlift or the Squat? Some will claim one over the other, and you can find my answer in the video below.

It all depends on you personally and a few other factors including:

  1. What you are built for
  2. Your personal preference
  3. Your goals

For example, I focus more on the deadlift simply because I am better built for it and, consequently, enjoy it more than the squat. Thus I have succeeded in taking it to a higher level as I’ve trained on it more.

Generally speaking, the squat and the deadlift are both whole body exercises, but with a couple of differences. For instance, the squat is slightly better for adding muscle mass and it works your legs to a higher degree than the deadlift.

However, what you don’t want to do is to avoid one of these completely, as they are both extremely beneficial exercises and should be done on a regular basis, whether you are built for them or not. In fact, working on your squat could be the missing key to driving your deadlift up (for instance if you don’t use much leg drive). Or your deadlift could help your squat (by strengthening your lower back from another angle for instance). That being said certain people find that one exercise may not work well for their body, but of course there are many variations of each exercise.

If you’re looking for more information on deadlift training check out this resource.

If you’re looking for more on squat training check out this resource.


  1. Nice little article, Logan. How would you say the pistol squat plays into this? As someone who trains almost exclusively with bodyweight, pistol and shrimp squats are the primary exercises I do for my legs. I find weighted pistols to be very difficult, even with a relatively small weight. Seeing as I don’t have a barbell at home, and just for the fact that I think it’s a more succinct ‘holistic’ exercise than the traditional squat, I am more than content with the pistol. Deadlifting though…that interests me more since there isn’t much of a bodyweight alternative. I do like back levers, but that doesn’t really replace the deadlift outright .

    So I’d say for me pistol squats reign supreme, but if I ever get the opportunity to squat/deadlift with a barbell I’d probably be more keen to try the deadlift.

    I’m kind of surprised you didn’t mentioned ‘hybrid’ exercises here, such as the Jefferson deadlift

  2. I’d like to know which muscle groups are more involved between the DL and the SQ. For example, holding grip strength is far more of a challenge with the DL. What about shoulders? What about arms? The SQ is more of a leg exercise and the lower body is where most of our muscle mass is located, correct? If that’s the case, sure the SQ is more of a mass building exercise. And then there’s the butt which is really worked by the SQ but the sumo DL works that too. So, to repeat, I’d like to know which muscle groups and stabilizers are worked to a greater degree between the back squat and the conventional DL. If you care to take this a step further, you can do the same analysis for the major SQ and DL variants.

    1. In your question you really answered this from the most part. I just pulled this from wikipedia but it gives a more complete picture.

      Primary Muscles – Gluteus Maximus (glutes), Quadriceps (quads), Hamstrings
      Secondary Muscles (Synergists/Stabilizers) – Erector Spinae, Transverse Abdominus, Gluteus medius/minimus (Abductors), Adductors, Soleus, Gastrocnemius

      The deadlift list is a bit longer


      The grip strength (finger flexors) and the lower back (erector spinae) work isometrically to keep the bar held in the hands and to keep the spine from rounding.
      The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work to extend the hip joint.
      The quadriceps work to extend the knee joint.
      The adductor magnus works to stabilize the legs.

      The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:

      Rectus abdominis (under aponeurosis)
      Abdominal external oblique muscle
      Abdominal internal oblique muscle
      Intertransversarii laterales lumborum
      Latissimus dorsi
      Levator scapulae
      Quadratus lumborum
      Rhomboideus major
      Serratus posterior superior
      Serratus posterior inferior
      Splenius cervicis
      Teres Major
      Trapezius muscle
      Rectus femoris
      Vastus lateralis
      Vastus intermedius
      Vastus medialis
      Biceps femoris muscle
      long head
      short head
      Gluteal muscles
      Gluteus maximus
      Gluteus minimus
      Superior gemellus
      Flexor digitorum profundus

  3. Thanks for replying quickly. Yeah, I’ve read that kind of information.
    I’m trying to find out which exercise is relatively better for one thing or another. Like if you were to give a rating from 1-10 on the effectiveness of the conventional deadlift (and its variants, if possible) VS the back squat (and its variants) for accomplishing one effect or another, e.g. extending, stabilizing, building muscle mass in a particular area, etc.

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