The deadlift and the squat are two vitally important compound exercises that make up the majority of the “big 3” movements, wherein they have been cemented in resistance training as the holy grail of lower body muscular development.
However, due to the intensity and muscle group activation shared between the two exercises, many individuals voice their concerns of overtraining and reduced muscular recovery if the two exercises are performed within the same workout - thereby raising the question; can you deadlift and squat on the same day?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is quite simple; yes, the deadlift and squat may be performed on the same day, in the same training session.
However, certain factors and training goals may make this not entirely applicable to every situation, and as such it is important for the exerciser to discern whether it is necessary to perform both exercises for their particular training program.
Both the squat and deadlift are closed kinetic chain compound movements usually making use of free weight implements like dumbbells or barbells in order to induce highly intense activation of the lower body’s musculature (and the back muscles in the case of the deadlift).
As one of the most effective mass and strength building exercises available for the lower body, the deadlift and the squat are given a central role in the majority of serious training routines - allowing them to be performed at rather high levels of exertion, rating anywhere between 6 to 10 on the Borg’s modified rate of perceived exertion scale.
The deadlift and the squat share intense muscle group activation of the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps - all of which act as the main source of force throughout both exercises.
However, the deadlift differs from the squat, as its muscle group activation set also includes muscle groups found in the back, such as the latissimus dorsi and trapezius, activating these muscles in both an isotonic and isometric capacity, something that the squat otherwise does not include.
As such, one can see that - when solely looking at muscle group activation - the squat and deadlift are redundant when performed on the same day, as both work practically the same muscle groups in the lower body.
The difference between this lower body muscle group activation is in the emphasis of certain muscle groups between the two, with the deadlift placing greater training stimulus on the posterior chain muscle groups such as the glutes and hamstrings, while the squat activates the quadriceps femoris in a more significant capacity than the conventional deadlift is capable of.
The majority of fitness literature and powerlifting advice states that it is the squat that should be performed prior to the deadlift in the workout sessions order of exercises. This is due to a multitude of reasons primarily revolving around maximal strength output and fatigue that is accrued when comparing the two exercises.
In more relatable terms, this means that one expends less energy by first performing the squat instead of first performing the deadlift, with the subsequent exercise being less affected by the fatigue that is carried over from the first exercise.
Performing the deadlift first will not only reduce the maximum amount of resistance and volume usable during the squat later in the workout session, but also increase the risk of injury as the lower back, hip flexors and erector spinae are all prematurely weakened, thereby leading to a greater chance that they will give out if the exerciser breaks form.
It is still entirely possible for the deadlift to be performed first in the order of exercises so long as the subsequent squat exercise is meant to be of a lower intensity and resistance.
As was previously mentioned earlier in this article, though the deadlift and the squat activate much the same lower body muscle groups, their particular emphasis on certain muscle groups differ - allowing the two to act in a synergistic capacity as far as leg muscle training is concerned.
However, this requires some fine tweaking of the workout session’s programming, with the aforementioned order of exercises within said workout session being only one of such tweaks required to perform both exercises on the same day.
A major component of ensuring that the squat and the deadlift may be performed safely together is accounting for the level of resistance and volume of repetitions for each exercise.
This, generally, means that the total volume of the first exercise must be reduced in order to allow for some level of energy to be left over for the second exercise, usually equating to the squat being performed for less repetitions per set so as to leave enough energy in the legs for the subsequent sets of the deadlift.
In terms of resistance, there is more to consider than simply muscular energy expenditure, as higher levels of resistance can place strain on the connective tissues of the joints as well as prematurely expend the glycogen stores of fast twitch muscle fibers, resulting in a higher risk of injury and greater accrued connective tissue damage that will require longer stretches of recovery in order to remedy.
Though these two factors equate to what is necessarily known as exercise intensity, balancing the two out by reducing the volume or resistance of one exercise so as to prevent injury and overtraining during the subsequent exercise is of vital importance.
Another factor to consider when choosing to combine the deadlift and the squat within the same workout session is rest time between sets, which will depend on the relative intensity of the exercise being performed as well as the training experience of the exerciser themselves.
Longer stretches of time between sets will allow the exerciser’s body to recover to a greater extent, thereby reducing the impact collective fatigue will have on their athletic performance and reducing the risk of their exercise form breaking down due to muscular exhaustion.
As such, when performing the deadlift and the squat back-to-back in a workout, extending the length of time between sets for longer than the exerciser would normally rest can prove to be highly beneficial.
An often overlooked factor when performing highly intense compound exercises on the same day is that of the central nervous system and any fatigue that is accrued therein.
The central nervous system is known to undergo significant strain when an exerciser performs athletic activities at high levels of intensity, especially when that athletic activity is free weight compound resistance exercises such as the squat or the deadlift.
Without adequate recovery of the nervous system, the exerciser will find themselves growing physically weaker, less precise, slower and otherwise generally of poor bodily function as the strain goes on.
In the case of the squat and the deadlift being performed on the same day, it is important for the exerciser to not only temper the intensity of both exercises during the workout, but also to give their body adequate enough recovery after the training session before taxing the central nervous system once more.
This will usually require no exercise or low impact exercise in the following day or two after the training session, as the deadlift and the squat at high intensities can rapidly accumulate fatigue in the CNS when repeatedly performed over longer periods of time.
Yes - quite a few training programs utilize the deadlift and the squat on the same day, with each taking differing approaches to doing so, such as ensuring a day of rest is present between workout sessions, or prescribing a certain scheme of repetitions that reduce the total fatigue accrued from both exercises.
This is most noticeable in novice and intermediate training programs that train the entire body during a single workout session, wherein the deadlift and the squat may be performed within the same workout - though it is likely that the squat is performed with significantly lower intensity than it would be in other sessions of the training program.
Good examples include:
Even at higher levels of training, advanced powerlifting and bodybuilding training programs make use of the synergistic muscle group activation between the two exercises in order to maximize leg muscle training stimulus - though these programs will often account for the increased resistance of advanced lifter’s strength level relative to the squat and the deadlift.
If performed appropriately and programmed in order to avoid long-term fatigue and injury? Yes, you can indeed deadlift and squat on the same day.
If one is unsure of how best to structure their training program in order to allow for this combination of compound movements, it is best to either adopt the structure of another popularized training program or to seek out the advice of an athletic coach with experience in such matters.
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