To Squat and Deadlift on the Same Day..or Not

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Have you ever found yourself wondering about the ideal way to increase your strength?

Of course you have…but c’mon; you know the answer:

Two fundamental exercises stand out as the pillars of strength training and general “getting big” training: the squat and the deadlift. Both are have hitters for developing lower body and core strength and (should!) make up significant portions of your lifting regimen.

…but can you “overdue” squat and deadlift training? I mean, if they’re so great, why not squat and deadlift in the same workout session?

It’s a reasonable question and the one that we’ll be focusing on in this article. We’ll look at the pros and cons of squatting and deadlifting in the same workout and, if you chose to go down this road, best practices to follow to ensure that you keep making strength and size gainz.

Introduction to Squatting and Deadlifting

If you’re an experienced lifter, you can skip to a later section of this article. For all the rest of you, prepare to enter the magical realm of two of the “big 5” compound lifts!

Let’s start with the squat. The “king of exercise” not only builds strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes but also engages your core and lower back. It’s a functional exercise (think about how many times throughout the day you have to squat down to do…something), adding extra utility (and urgency) to your performing it.

The deadlift is another powerhouse movement that works a lot of muscle groups, including your hamstrings, lower back, and glutes. Also like the squat, the deadlift is really functional (think about how many times throughout the day you pick up…something…heavy).

So, two of the a good thing can only mean exponential growth, gainz, etc….right?

To an extent

Incorporating squats and deadlifts into your workout regimen requires a balance of intensity and careful program planning in order to prevent burnout or, at worst, injury. Let’s take a look at how each lift operates to get a better idea of how they must operate together…if you decide to take this route.

Muscle Work and Activation of Deadlifts and Squats

Yeah, they’re both big compound lifts, but the deadlift and squat are still two very different exercises. 

squat and deadlift on the same day
@kingofthelifts

Comparing Squat and Deadlift Activation

Squats: For many (most?), the squat is a quadriceps-dominant exercise. The quads are heavily involved, but let’s not forget the secondary players:

  • Glutes: They work tirelessly to extend the hip joint.
  • Hamstrings: Less involved compared to deadlifts, but they still aid in hip extension.
  • Core: Including the abs and obliques, which stabilize the torso.
  • Posterior Chain: A catch-all term for the muscles on the backside of the body, but in the context of squats, we’re mostly talking about the lower back and glutes.

Deadlifts: Primarily known for hitting the posterior chain. It’s an all-out effort from the following muscle groups:

  • Hamstrings and Glutes: These are the superstars for hip hinge movements.
  • Lower Back: Works in overdrive to maintain a neutral spine.
  • Quads: Plays a supportive role, especially off the floor.
  • Core: Essential for a stable midsection throughout the lift.

Now, where does muscle activation really peak during these lifts? In squats, muscle work is at its highest when you’re coming out of the bottom position (“the hole”). I mean, you’re literally crouched a couple of feet above the ground with a bunch of weight on your back…most people need a bit of muscle activation to get themselves through.

In deadlifts, muscle activation in mainly in the initial movement of the bar off the floor and up to the point where the bar is passing the knees (don’t get too cocky, though; you can definitely still hit a “sticking point”  between here and your lockout).

Having an idea of the muscle activation “policies” of these lifts helps to ensure that there isn’t too much overlap when training both lifts in close proximity to one another. Managing fatigue between the movements is essential to ensure that neither is “suffers” for the sake of the other lift. This is a delicate balance that can take some actual time under the barbell and personal experience with this type of training to perfect.

Benefits to Consider When Performing the Squat and Deadlift on the Same Day

Now that we have an idea of the primary muscles activated and worked by each lift, we can look at how they can be further benefited by working “together”.

@sophiastrength

Here are some of the specific benefits:

  • Increased Strength: Squatting and deadlifting together could potentially increase the overall volume of your workout, which, when done properly, can greatly benefit strength and size gainz.
  • Muscle Growth: Both movements are compound exercises that target large muscle groups; doing them together may promote hypertrophy.
  • Peak Intensity Management: When you’re aiming for maximum intensity, it’s practical to perform them in a single session. However, keep in mind that this can mean serious intensity. 

Potential Downsides and Risks of Performing the Squat and Deadlift on the Same Day

To be honest, the plus sides of performing both on the same day are somewhat predictable. The downsides, though…some things to keep in mind.

@nohlsen

Fatigue – Both squats and deadlifts engage similar major muscle groups, which means doing them on the same day: could lead to:

Recovery – Proper recovery is essential, and overloading with both of these intense exercises might:

  • Decrease your body’s ability to heal
  • Extend recovery time between workouts and also between exercises within the same workout

Risk of injury – Overworking muscles can result in:

  • Higher susceptibility to strains
  • Potential long-term injuries due to poor form

Ideal Candidates for Combined Powerlifting Training

To be honest, some people are going to be able to handle the volume and intensity required to perform squats and deadlifts on the same day better than others. Depending on things you can control (like fitness goals) and things you can’t (like genetics) you might find yourself better (or worse) suited for this kind of training.

@lya_powerlift

Experienced Lifters: Straight up, those with more experience with heavy compound movements have a leg up on all others. Athletes who have spent a good amount of time under the barbell are likely better suited to manage the demands of squatting and deadlifting in the same session. Their developed musculature and neuromuscular pathways can handle complex workouts better than those new to resistance training.

Athletes with Recovery Knowledge: Making sure recovery is on point is non-negotiable. If you’re an athlete who prioritizes rest, proper nutrition, and the importance of sufficient hydration, you might be better-suited to do all of the things outside of your training sessions to set yourself up for success.

Structured Program Followers: The Starting Strength “Novice Program” is renowned for getting novice lifter strong…fast. However, the program’s creator and head honcho Mark Rippetoe regularly goes apoplectic because people don’t “follow the (dang) program!” As you might imagine, the program combines squats and deadlifts together in same session…don’t make Coach mad!

If you find yourself nodding along with these conditions, you might just be the ideal candidate for training squats and deadlifts on the same day. However, even beginner lifters can follow an appropriate program (like Starting Strength, mentioned above) and find success (as long as they follow the program, that is).

Frequently Asked Questions

When incorporating squats and deadlifts into the same day, you really gotta be dialed in and paying attention to detail. Let’s take a look at some straggler questions that will help shore up said details:

I'd recommend you squat first. Squats are generally more complex and require a greater amount of focus and energy to maintain proper form. Performing them first ensures you're at your freshest. Don't worry though; even as you second exercise of the day, you still should have plenty in the tank for deadlifts.

Including accessory exercises is key to a well-rounded routine. Consider integrating (weighted) lunges, leg presses, and possible even front squats for lower body strength. For the upper body and core stability, I find that exercises like bent-over rows, and pull-ups fit in nicely. However, be mindful of your total training volume. as the additional fatigue from accessory exercises can start to add up.

Squats and Deadlifts in the Same Workout – The Post-game

You don’t have to do it, you know…

Performing more than one compound lift, yet alone more than one of the big compound lifts in a single workout can be really fatiguing. Plus, I mean, there are 7 days in the week, after all…so…you’ll get your chance!

However, squatting and deadlifting on the same day can be quite beneficial and, if even “novice” lifters can handle it (albeit, with only 1 set of deadlifts after the warm-up sets) it might be worth looking into. 

Maybe take a look at our articles on squat standards and deadlift standards to get an idea of where you’re at and what you need to work on before taking the plunge. Ultimately, if you feel like it’s time to super-charge your squat/deadlift game…well…

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AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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