Training

If You Squat More Than You Deadlift, This Is A Must Read

Updated September 18th 2022

It boils down to a host of things and if you are wondering whether that is normal or not to squat more than you can deadlift.

The answer is that it is not because most people can deadlift more than they can squat.

if you deadlift 405lbs, I am confident that you should squat at least 315lbs. 

Your squat should be around 355-405lbs, on average if you can deadlift 405lbs.

If your squat is higher, you respond better to squatting stimulus.

If your squat is lower than 315lbs when you have a 405lbs deadlift, this can happen and something is usually off in your training.

What we are talking about in this article is the reverse situation, squatting more than you deadlift...

It is quite common in untrained athletes, genetically gifted athletes with specific limb proportions, and super heavyweights.

But what else?

Here are a couple of reasons that could be behind why you deadlifting less than you squat:

Causes: Why Do I Squat More Than I Can Deadlift?

Improper form, being a quad dominated lifter, body leverages, training experience is just a small list of reasons why you can squat more than you can deadlift. While there are some world-class lifters (Ray Williams) that can squat more than they deadlift, a majority of lifters should be able to deadlift more than they can squat.

  1. Being a quad dominant lifter
  2. You are cutting squat depth
  3. You are built different
  4. You have poor deadlift technique
  5. You are using gear for squats
  6. You have been training squats longer

i) You are a quad dominant lifter

What this means is simply that your quadriceps are in way better shape than your hamstrings with the former being the primary muscles behind the squat and the other being among the main target group during deadlifts.

So the problem might just be that you are over-focusing on one exercise more than the others in which case you need to balance things out to give each exercise equal attention.

Another reason may be that your body is more receptive to quad exercises and are able to grow them at a faster rate than your lower back or hamstrings.

If this is the case, realizing this trend and implementing various exercises to target the weak chains of your body is a good way to start addressing the issue.

The solution—

  1. More posterior chain focus during accessories
  2. More posterior chain focus during warmups
  3. Changing your motor pattern and relearning how to squat/deadlift

Let us focus on number 2 since that is the easiest to implement today with an actionable plan.

Include more posterior chain circuit warmups to help correct your weakness.

25 reps each exercise for 4 cycles with no rest in-between:

ii) You’re not getting enough depth

A proper full squat rep will entail going well below your knee level.

If you are way above the hip plane at the point when your squat ends, as is the case with some people, then your squat figures will be impressive as compared to when you're going really low.

In this case, you are actually performing somewhat of a half rep, which is probably why your squat to deadlift ratio is reversed.

So, squat deeper and see if your squat numbers will still be so high.

iii) An anthropometry related issue

A little lesson in physics 101, the difficulty in lifting a weight depends on the distance of the pivot or fulcrum from the load.

The nearer it is, the easier it is to lift and vice versa.

Consequently, science dictates that those with longer arms may find it harder to deadlift in a particular stance- all relevant factors assumed constant- compared to those with shorter arms.

For instance, longer-armed lifters may find conventional deadlifts easier, and shorter-armed lifters may find sumo deadlifts easier.

Moreover, those with longer torsos and short leg combinations are excellent at squats and not as good at deadlifts as they can’t quite use hip extensor muscles as well as the normal lifter because of a more open-up hip angle.

So, in a nutshell, it could be that your biomechanics favor squats more than they do deadlifts.

iv) Poor deadlift technique

With an improper form, obviously, your deadlift is going to suffer.

Apart from deadlift shoulder pain, or deadlift tricep pain, your overall deadlift process will slow down and you will not get stronger.

Having good form means that you are completing the deadlift pain-free, taking advantage of all your leverages.

Your form starts right at the initial setup where bad technique entails an inappropriate width stance, poor back positioning, improper bracing techniques, and poor bar placement among a number of other things which we shall also be looking at shortly.

v) Are you using a squat suit or knee wraps?

Then, that could be it right there.

Sure you can balance out the equation by also imploring deadlift equipment but they are nowhere near as effective as a squat suit in comparison which significantly bolsters how much you can really squat.

Some even boast impressing carryovers of up to 200 pounds. So take off that squat suit to see much you’re truly worth.

vi) Past experience

The other reason could also be that you’ve already been practicing your squats way before you even decided to hit the gym.

If you have some background in snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, or something similar where you take on a squat-ish form, then your favorite pastime is where the problem’s at.

In daily life, we are exposed more to anterior loading, which biases our quads.

So, if you do not learn how to squat by activating your posterior chain, this can be a reason why your squat to deadlift ratio is skewed.

How To Blow Up Your Deadlift

So, your squats are better than your deadlift and from the preceding factors it becomes apparent that the problem could either be a poor squatting or deadlifting technique but the latter is more likely the guilty party.

Consequently, let’s start off with what you could do to up your deadlifting game:

  1. Grip strength
  2. More deadlift volume
  3. Deadlift stance optimization
  4. Get the deadlift bar as close to your shins as possible
  5. Start off your workout with deadlifts
  6. Add more accessories to help the deadlift
  7. Bracing

i) Get some grip strength going

With a flawed grip, it’s not just your ability to hold the bar that is strained, it’s also your ease in performing the whole lift in its entirety.

The weaker your grip is, the more difficult it gets and, naturally, the less you deadlift.

It’s an aspect many don’t take seriously and is often overlooked but it’s certainly pivotal to success and here’s how to better yours:

• Ditch the straps

This might seem counterintuitive but it’s better to hone your raw grip strength.

Straps are great no doubt but it’s best you don’t develop an overdependence on them which will shatter your expectations the moment they come off.

Some people might even consider deadlifting with straps cheating...

You are cheating yourself on potential grip strength gains.

• Loaded carries work wonders

Farmer’s walks, atlas stone carries and static barbell holds are excellent for building grip strength.

Whichever one you opt for, be sure to use quick strides and maintain proper form always.

Proper form encompasses engaged abs, shoulders down, and an upright torso.

How often should you do Farmer's walks would be your next question...

• Push and Pull

Pulling muscles often remain neglected but you should opt for an equal amount of pulling and pushing exercises.

Pull-downs, deadlifts, and chin-ups are great staple pull exercises to try out.

Deciding whether or not to go heavy or light will be the next decision once you decided on your pulling exercises.

• Higher rep sets

Grip strength and forearm muscles are not particularly suited for explosive power rather they are favorable for endurance.

So aim for higher rep ranges, between 12-15, with less weight as opposed to lower reps with greater loads.

Just make sure you avoid any deadlift forearm strains from excessive stress or lazy form.

• Use mixed grips sparingly

Mixed grips are great for overcoming immense deadlifts but they should be the exception.

Habitual mixed griping can cause muscle imbalances.

So, stick to doubled overhand until it is absolutely necessary to switch.

ii) Just deadlift more

if you just deadlift every week, progress will come.

Sometimes, the answer is just as simple as practice makes perfect or, more appropriately, your frequency is the key to perfection.

Improving your deadlift by about twice per week ensures you have an extensive mastery of your technique as well as excellent recovery which helps you get even better.

Have a heavy session and a light session and watch your deadlift numbers soar.

iii) Optimize your stance

There is no shortage of opinions on what constitutes the perfect stance so what might work well for one person might not necessarily do the same for your cause.

Right off the bat, no one stance is better than the other and if someone tells you otherwise, run for the hills.

That said, this brings us to the next question which is how to choose your best stance:

  • There are a number of stance variations available across the interwebs but generally these are coined from either the sumo or the conventional position.

With the sumo, the gap in between your feet goes well beyond your hip separation distance while with the conventional stance, this distance is an exact hip-width or less.

  • Picking out which one is good for you is akin to buying a car. You need to test drive it first to see if it’s comfortable enough and if you like it.

If you are unsure about which deadlift form to choose, try them both out and see which is more natural for you.

Give love to both deadlifting styles as they are both great to develop strength.

  • The conventional deadlift is desirable for its great off-floor speed, less hip mobility, and ease of multiple sets.

It may be undesirable for its harder lockout and increased lower back strength.

  • On the other hand, the sumo’s upsides can include a shorter motion range, improved quad development, and more hip utilization.

Its shortcomings can include difficulty in performing multiple sets and breaking weight off the floor.

iv) Scrap those knees

Optimizing an inch in your deadlift is leveraging a mile during your career.

If you look up some of the world’s best deadlifters, regardless of technique, you are bound to realize two things.

  • Their shins make a tight angle with the floor
  • They have cuts and bruises all over their legs from deadlifting

Their shins, or more accurately tibia, form almost a perfect right angle with the plane of the floor.

In other words, their shins are exemplary vertical. The other thing is that they have cuts and bruises on their knees.

And these aren’t a simple badge of honor, they are an indication of what they are doing right which is keeping the bar as close to their body as possible.

Even just a slight forward shift can significantly reduce how much you are able to deadlift because you are distributing the total generated pressure across vertical and slanted angles as opposed to only vertically as would be the case with a vertically placed tibia.

Deadlifting with an ankle sprain will also reduce the amount of pressure you are able to exert on the floor.

v) Kick off your workouts with deadlifts

Present age studies have provided evidence suggesting that the order in which exercises are performed has a say in how effective it is or the overall performance.

Findings argue that fatigue and resistances build up over time so the exercise that follows the first won’t get your full potential.

So, try starting out with your deadlifts in some sessions and let squats take the backseat.

Test this out for a couple of program cycles and see if this has any impact on those numbers.

vi) Prioritize accessory movements

Your hamstrings are just but one of the sets of different muscles that spring to action when executing a deadlift.

Your deadlift ability might not quite yet be up to full stride because of the weak link in your posterior chain.

To alleviate kinks in the armor, also incorporate accessory movements to help build your posterior chain.

These are some of my favorites:

  • Reverse Hypers
  • 45 degree back extensions
  • Glute ham raises
  • Stiff-legged deadlifts
  • Barbell bent-over rows
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Good mornings
  • Pull-ups.

And let us not neglect our other stabilizers to help maintain our deadlift strength and conditioning—

  1. Calf raises
  2. Hip adductors
  3. Hip abductors
  4. Hip internal rotators
  5. Hip external rotators
  6. Obliques
  7. Transverse Abdominis crunches

vii) Bracing training will make you have a stronger deadlift

When you brace correctly and deadlift, your lift is very efficient.

Very little energy will be used to set up, meaning that you can focus more on pushing the floor away from you and pulling at the bar at the same time.

This is more of an issue with newer lifters.

Shaking while deadlifting may be a common symptom.

Though deadlift bracing is a more natural movement for them, they can get careless with technique and forget the cues.

Make sure you practice like you play, in training and in competition.

Squat Is Higher Than My Deadlift, Anyone Else?

There is a trend that shows that lower bodyweight lifters (less than 132lbs) and super heavyweight lifters (more than 264lbs) have squats higher than their deadlifts while everyone else in the middle of the range will have a more balanced squat deadlift ratio.

Here is what I found to be a common trend for squat deadlift ratios.

This table was created with an average weight of men at 177lbs (80.45kg):

Level of Experience Squat Deadlift Squat Deadlift Ratio
Novice 285lbs 335lbs 0.85
Elite 480lbs 555lbs  0.86

For women, this trend was found with the average bodyweight being around 143lbs (65kg):

Level of Experience Squat Deadlift Squat Deadlift Ratio
Novice 160lbs 195lbs 0.82
Elite 300lbs 350lbs 0.857

For the average gym-goer all the way to even an elite level lifter, it is very unlikely that your squat should be higher than your deadlift.

Becoming an elite powerlifter is harder than it looks especially if your squat is higher than your deadlift.

Whether it is a physical training deficit, lack of deadlift training goals, etc., this is not a normal occurrence.

Not convinced?

Let us look at the world-class lifters, the IPF 2019 championships for open class men. 

How will they stack up?

Weight Class Squat Deadlift Squat Deadlift Ratio
59kg 295kg 270kg 1.09
66kg 315kg 292.5kg 1.077
74kg 330kg 322.5kg 1.02
83kg 365kg 290kg 1.259
93kg 390kg 350kg 1.11
105kg 390kg 362.5kg 1.076
120kg 417.5kg 387.5kg 1.077
120+kg 495kg 355kg 1.39

You might also be wondering whether or not these 2019 IPF world champions pulled conventional deadlifts or sumo deadlifts.

  • 59kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 66kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 74kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 83kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 93kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 105kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 120kg - Sumo deadlift
  • 120+kg - Sumo deadlift 

8 out of 8 of the 2019 world champion IPF powerlifting athletes pulled sumo deadlifts to achieve a squat deadlift ratio greater than 1, meaning that their squat max is higher than their deadlift max.

Though this is just one event and case example, it is important to highlight that as you become more elite in powerlifting, your squat should be a higher total than your deadlift.

Why should this happen?

  • Squats are fresh and you can seal the win with a monster squat
  • Powerlifting events can vary in length, draining your energy the longer event is
  • Fewer major sticking points in the squat means that you will finish the lift after you get out of the hole

Lifters of all levels can still benefit from this information.

This should motivate you into being better with both your squats and deadlifts.

Let’s Wrap It Up, Should Your Squats Or Deadlifts Be Higher?

Can you achieve these results from deadlifts only

At the end of the day, you squatting more than your deadlift shouldn’t give you sleepless nights.

What you should be worried about is making your deadlift and squat techniques flawless or better yet, improving on what you are doing right.

Everything else will fall into place sooner or later.

But is one exercise harder than the other?

Is the deadlift harder than the squat?

Having the proper leverages will determine whether or not the deadlift is harder than the squat.

If you have a short torso and long arms relative to your height, you are likely to be stronger at deadlifts compared to squats.

But body types and measurements are only one part of the equation and we have not even started lifting yet!

Here are a ton of factors outside of body limb proportions and leverages that will impact your deadlift and squat max—

  1. Stance width
  2. Bodyweight
  3. Technique
  4. Training experience
  5. Motivation

You need to train both movements consistently and with intent.

That is how world champion squatters and deadlifters are created— not by just having the best leverages.

Does deadlift help squat?

Training the deadlift will help improve your squat max over time.

How much it will improve your squat will depend on your deadlift variation, squat variation, and how efficient your body is at performing each movement.

For instance, more advanced or even elite level lifters with years of training experience will find that squatting improves their deadlift greatly.

More novice lifters may find that deadlifts help improve and maintain their squatting strength.

But overall, getting stronger at both movements will help you improve your maxes for the other lift. Here's why—

  1. Increased time under tension, bracing training
  2. Greasing the groove for heavy movements
  3. Higher goals will be created and completed

It is a positive feedback cycle. Once you begin to enjoy your training, you will want to be consistent and eventually get higher goals for yourself.

After you achieve your goals, the cycle repeats itself.

Are deadlifts necessary if you squat?

If your goal is to build muscle and increase your strength and power, deadlifts are one of the best exercises to complement squats in your workout program to ensure maximum core stabilization and physique growth.

Nothing else will get your stronger and bigger than picking up a heavy deadlift off the floor in a safe, controlled way.

Now, if you have more specific goals, your workout program can reflect that by your exercise selection.

For instance, not all bodybuilders perform heavy deadlifts but it is a great exercise if you are lacking core or back thickness.

As a result, many people opt to train the movement any way since you would be at a disadvantage if you do not recruit all the deadlifting benefits—

  • Preventing back injuries
  • Being the king of all exercises

If your goal is to powerlift, deadlifts are 100% necessary since you need to perform a deadlift 1 rep max with 3 attempts at competition.

If your goal is to Olympic lift, many world champions include deadlift accessories in order to train their cleans or snatch grip strength.

I always like to take these golden pieces of nuggets from world champions and tweak them to my individual goals.

I may not be a champion (yet), but seeing what works for me and what does not will put me in the position to get better and train healthy for longer.


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