Training

Should You Train Both Squats and Deadlifts on the Same Day?

November 8th 2019

Many athletes incorporate strength training into their weekly schedule and find themselves lifting several sessions throughout the week. Some athletes may lift only once or twice a week for general strength and maintenance purposes, think cross country runners or athletes competing in aerobic sports, whereas others may lift almost every single day if their sport is more strength-focused, such as powerlifters or those who participate in anaerobic sports. When looking to gain strength athletes from all backgrounds will oftentimes look to incorporate the three major lifts of bench press, squats, and deadlifts into their routine. There have been heated debates on whether or not athletes can or should train both squats and deadlifts on the same day or if they should separate the two movements due to their physically demanding nature and the longer recovery period associated with them. 

Squats and deadlift the same day?

The short answer to this question is that yes, in several cases athletes should or can complete both lifts in the same day and still maximize strength for performance, however, the choice to do so is highly individual and athletes should consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not to complete both during the same session. Some of the major factors to consider when deciding whether or not to train both lifts on the same day include time allotted to training, the goal of the training session, familiarity and experience with lifting, and sport-specific requirements.

Amount of Time 

The first major factor that athletes should take into consideration when deciding whether or not to complete both exercises within the same session or training day is the amount of time they have allotted per training session as well as to overall weekly training. If an athlete has ample time to dedicate to strength training each session, let’s say at least an hour or more, and if they are able to train multiple sessions per week in the gym then, by all means, they can train both lifts per session. 

When athletes have more time dedicated to strength training sessions throughout the week they are able to focus each training session around certain groups or are able to repeat the training of certain movements at the beginning and end of each week to achieve higher training volume for specific lifts. Athletes who have several hours a day and per week available to training may find it extremely beneficial to include both movements in one session in order to focus on other parts of the body throughout the week and increase overall training volume.

Athletes who have limited time available for strength training, such as less than an hour per session or 1 to 3 sessions per week, may find that splitting their training and the major lifts to different days throughout the week is most optimal for achieving focus on each major lift and applying maximal effort towards each lift. Athletes who only dedicate a few hours to training in the gym each week might find it best to have squats the first session, bench during the second session, and then deadlifts during the third session to allow their legs to fully heal in between sessions and to have as high intensity as possible towards all three lifts. 

The goal of the Training Session

The next major factor that athletes should consider when deciding whether or not to complete both movements in one session is the overall goal for each session and how it fits into their long term plan. 

If the athlete’s goal is to have their training sessions focused around certain body groups then training both squats and deadlifts within the same session would allow them to target their legs in multiple areas and more effectively train legs as a whole rather than separate the movements. Following their leg focused day, the athlete could then train bench along with accessory movements for chest and have other sessions dedicated to smaller groups such as shoulders, arms, or abs. 

For instance, athletes who want to train deadlifts twice a week in order to enhance both leg and back training could add in variations of the lift where they train Romanian deadlifts along with squats and then perform regular deadlifts on their back focused session. Utilizing Romanian deadlifts along with standard squats on leg days would target hamstrings, quads, and glutes which are all critical areas of the legs for maximizing not only strength but also control for other movements. Performing standard deadlifts during a back session would enhance lower back training and could be paired with other back exercises that target other sections such as the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, levator scapulae or rhomboids. 

If the athlete’s goal is to perform a one-rep max during the session then their best bet would be to separate the two movements into different days. They should perform squats at the beginning of the week and allow a full 72 hours before performing deadlifts to heal completely from the previous session and to replenish their glycogen stores to exert maximal effort. It’s not impossible to perform one rep maxes for both lifts within the same session but the chances of performing true maxes are much higher when the body is at its prime and not depleted from a previous movement. Training squats prior to deadlifts pre-exhausts the legs and may compromise the overall lift, especially for those who don’t train either movement at a high volume on a regular basis.

Another goal of training that affect an athlete’s decision of whether to complete both lifts or not within the same session would be if the athlete is a powerlifter or someone who competes in heavy lifting and is wishing to replicate competition conditions. Powerlifters should get used to performing all three movements to mock the conditions of what they will experience during an actual meet. Why? This will allow the athlete to become more accustomed to the fatigue and energy demands involved within powerlifting meets and also give them enough exposure to these conditions so that what they experience during the meet is not a complete shock.

Familiarity and Experience with Lifting

A third factor that should be taken into account when deciding to perform both squats and deadlifts within the same session is the amount of familiarity and experience the athlete has with lifting and strength training. Athletes who are new to lifting or have less than a year or two of experience with major lifts are generally advised to separate the lifts into different days in order to spend more time learning them individually and mastering the movements. However, this depends on the program on which you follow. If you follow Starting Strength, let it be known that you will be doing squats and deadlifts on the same day. Just because you are a beginner, this does not excuse you from training hard. Some beginner lifters may be intimidated by doing “too much” or focusing on the wrong exercises from the beginning. There is some good news here - you will make progress by doing any sort of resistance training! Just pick something you enjoy and roll with that. 

Those who have several years of experience with lifting oftentimes need not worry about separating the lifts unless they desire to maximize the intensity of a specific lift or want to focus their training on a certain part of the body. At this point, you can decide personally whether or not you can to combine squats and deadlifts on the same day. Depending on your goals, combining both of these compound exercises will help you reach your goal faster. There are so many situations and personal circumstances to consider - whether an experienced lifter does squats and deadlifts on the same day or not, the difference is probably marginal in the long run. 

Sport Specific Training

Another factor that affects the separation or combination of both movements within a training session is the sport that an athlete participates in. Those who participate in more aerobic-based sports generally lift less frequently when compared to those who compete in anaerobic sports and require less volume for each specific lift. Sports in the aerobic category include those such as cross country, open water swimming, cycling, and rowing. These sports involve a high focus on aerobic capacity and generally don’t require a huge focus on anaerobic lifts unless they are implemented in a more aerobic fashion. By separating squats and deadlifts into different sessions aerobic athletes can dedicate more time to performing aerobic training outside the gym throughout the week but still dedicate one or two days to general strength training and injury prevention. Athletes who participate in anaerobic sports, such as sprinters and powerlifters, may choose to do both lifts in the same session to achieve higher overall training volume and frequency which would lead to larger improvements in strength, explosiveness and muscle development. 

The Verdict: Yes, Athletes Can Train Both Squats and Deadlifts in the Same Session 

As seen, athletes may indeed be able to train both lifts during the same session and in some cases, it’s optimal for certain kinds of athletes to complete both within the same day rather than separate the movements. The answer to whether or not an athlete could or should perform both movements on the same day all depends on the major factors of time dedicated to training, the goal of the session, familiarity, and experience with lifting, and sport-specific requirements. 

It is generally best for the following groups of athletes to include both lifts within the same session: those who have limited time in the gym, those who only need general strength training and injury prevention, athletes with little to no experience with the major lifts or strength training in general, and those participating in aerobic-based or focused sports.  

References

  1. Barcelos C, e. (2019). High-frequency resistance training does not promote greater muscular adaptations compared to low frequencies in young untrained men. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. Damas, F., Barcelos, C., Nóbrega, S., Ugrinowitsch, C., Lixandrão, M., & Santos, L. et al. (2019). Individual Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Responses to High vs. Low Resistance Training Frequencies. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 33(4), 897-901.
  3. Schellenberg, F., Taylor, W. R., & Lorenzetti, S. (2017). Towards evidence based strength training: a comparison of muscle forces during deadlifts, goodmornings and split squats. BMC sports science, medicine & rehabilitation, 9, 13. doi:10.1186/s13102-017-0077-x

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