Deadlifts and squats are fundamental to strength training. Both are believed to build muscle mass and increase strength, but they use different muscle groups and are performed in different ways as well.
Both deadlifts and squat training use lower body muscles and are used interchangeably and in combination for training athletes. We will be discussing how these differ in their form and target muscle groups and which should be preferred by whom.
#1 Difference in Form
Deadlifts involve a straight spine and bringing the weight up to the midfoot to almost standing. When doing squats, one must hold the weight in front of the chest or on the shoulders, and bend the knees to lead the body to descend. Once sufficient depth has been reached, stand back up with the same motion around the knee joints.
Deadlifts are hence, hip hinges, while squats are knee hinges. In other words, deadlifts emphasize and strengthen the muscle groups that extend the hip joint, while squats emphasize the muscles that extend the knee joint.
#2 Differences in the Target Muscles
Target muscles in the deadlifts are the posterior back and leg muscles, mainly the glutes and hamstrings. While squats also use these muscle groups, they emphasize the glutes and the quadriceps muscles more.
So, squats are a better option if a strength trainer or an athlete aims to strengthen his legs. Deadlifts are a better choice for strengthening hip movement and back muscles.
#3 Differences in the Muscle Hypertrophy
Deadlifts help increase the muscle mass of the glutes and the hamstrings. Squats, on the other hand, are preferred for increasing the muscle mass of the legs, mainly the quadriceps and the adductors.
So, those aiming to build muscle mass can use a combination of squats and deadlifts for the hypertrophy of the muscle in various regions.
#4 Which is Better for Whom?
Squats promise improved strength of the legs, mainly extension on the knee. Hence, they are more suitable for improving vertical jump height and sprint speed. A study showed increased jump and sprint performance in young soccer players following eight weeks of squat training.
Not many studies have tested the effect of deadlift training on sprint speed. One small study, however, tested the difference in the effects of both on sprinting, and deadlifts were not very effective.
Another study compared squats and deadlifts for broad jumping. A group of 25 trained men was tested for six weeks each for squat and deadlifts training. Since broad jumping involves the hip motion, deadlifts showed a 5% improvement in the broad jump compared to only 2.1% in the group that performed squats for six weeks.
The Bottom Line
Both types of exercises are closely linked and are very popular in helping build muscle mass. Deadlifts focus on the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles more, while squats help strengthen and hypertrophy the quadriceps and adductors more.
Beginners should be careful, as these are meant for heavy strength training. We suggest you use adjustable dumbbells when exercising your lower body at home and carefully follow the exercise instructions for safety.