Squats vs. Deadlifts – Which is better?

I’m going to answer a couple of questions I got from readers here today…

The first question I got was about Squats and Deadlifts and which exercise is better.

I can’t remember who asked me this question. Perhaps I’m still a little foggy from my birthday weekend. I just turned 32.

I’m guessing the question was really, “If I had to choose, would I rather do Squats or Deadlifts?”

First of all, these questions aren’t very useful because they assume you can only do 1 exercise, which is obviously not the case.

You can and should do both, as they are both key exercises to develop your strength.

But I’d like to share some of the different benefits of each exercise, some of which I’m betting you’ve never considered before…

Squats give you better overall development of your your legs and hips, hitting your glutes, hamstrings and quads. While both work your torso stabilizers. the Deadlift puts more emphasis on your posterior chain, which includes your hamstrings, glutes and back muscles.

With respect to Squats, one big thing that’s not talked about as a benefit is that there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of confidence of having a shitload of weight on your shoulders, getting down low and successfully making it back up.

Sure, getting your chest crushed from a Bench Press failure sucks, but as an inexperienced bench presser, you’re probably not pushing enough weight to do much damage.

Like me, you’ve probably had this happen to you when Bench Pressing at some point in your life:

You’re on your last set of Bench. You don’t have a spotter and you want that last rep to really build up your pectorals so the girls will notice (and hopefully try to cop a feel).

You get to the last rep, think you got it, lower the bar, make it about 1/4 of the way back up then think, “Uh. Oh.”

You rest the bar on your chest, hoping to recover, but the elimination of the stretch-shortening cycle combined with your fatigue makes it impossible to get it off your chest.

So you roll it down your torso, being extra careful as it approaches your naughty bits, sit up and lift the bar off of you, trying to avoid eye contact with those who noticed your epic failure.

Trust me, I’ve been there. Done that.

Now that I’ve got more experience, I don’t fail on the Bench Press, or if there’s a chance I might, I have a spotter.

Failing on the Bench Press sucks, but it wouldn’t suck nearly as much as being crushed underneath a barbell from a failed squat. So many more things can go wrong…

Thus, the element of fear, and more so, the resulting confidence of overcoming that fear to successfully Squat a serious weight is a real benefit unparalleled by any other exercise.

You come out of a heavy Squat set feeling like a real MAN.

With the Deadlift, there’s no fear of getting crushed. You can simply drop the bar.

So this is one reason why you definitely want to Squat – to build confidence, which is your ability to take action in the face of fear.

In the Deadlift, because you’re grabbing the bar with your hands, obviously grip strength is required, which the Squat doesn’t require much of (gripping the bar a bit tight does help with keeping your upper back tight).

One unique Deadlift benefit occurs only when you learn really good technique and understand what it’s supposed to feel like.

How could I not use this picture?

When you do a good Deadlift, you can feel the integration and ‘tightness’ starting from your feet, moving up through the legs, between your shoulder blades, up through your arms and into your hands.

You really get to feel how every muscle in your body is linked and can work together.

This total body integration and ability to feel your the muscles from toes to fingers work together is a unique feature of the Deadlift that benefits all athletes.

Good form is key though, because if you’re loose at any point up the chain, you’ll lose this feeling and you won’t get this benefit.

Hope that gives you some new insights into 2 of the most important strength exercises you can do.

If you’re a fighter or you train MMA, you’ll see these exercises in my Ultimate MMA S&C program and exactly during what phase of training to do them and how many reps and sets to perform for maximum benefits.

I also got a question about the MMA Ripped program from Dan Mercorelli asking me how long the workouts are.

There are 4 workouts per week in MMA Ripped: 2 x Strength + Cardio workouts, which, including the warmup, would probably take around 55-75 mins, depending on the week.

Then there are 2 x Bodyweight workouts, ranging from 30-40 mins including warmup.

The program is periodized so the # of sets and reps and stuff goes up and down throughout the program, ensuring that you avoid overtraining and plateaus.

Oh and the difference between Ultimate MMA and MMA Ripped is that Ultimate MMA is designed for guys training for an MMA fight or who train MMA at least a couple times a week. It only requires 2 days/week so it can be fit into a busy schedule.

MMA Ripped is designed more for guys who don’t train MMA, or don’t train it too seriously, as It takes a bit more time.

That’s it for now.

Talk soon,

P.S. If you’ve got a question about anything I’ve talked about here or any other training/nutrition topic, the best place to ask is either in the powerDOJO forum if you’re a member, or on my Ask EricWongMMA page here.

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7 years ago

It’s not actually a comment but … does bench press can improve my punch power ?? .

7 years ago
Reply to  Hussein

It can help but not a ton and is very specific on how you do the Bench Press.

7 years ago

“With respect to Squats, one big thing that’s not talked about as a benefit is that there’s nothing that can replace the feeling of confidence of having a shitload of weight on your shoulders, getting down low and successfully making it back up.”

^^ THIS!

I’m at a stage where I’m squatting what to me is seriously substantial weight and I can tell you that the confidence you get from squatting a weight you never thought was possible is HUGE.

As or squats vs deads.. I’d choose squats all the way. Don’t get me wrong, deads are immense but I had a back injury where I went for 2 years without doing them. My lower back development didn’t suffer one bit.

That’s just my $0.02.

Stay safe,