Both squats and deadlifts are popular additions to the gym routines of many. For some, these exercises provide an excellent lower-body foundation. For others, they provide a means to a shapely backside and toned legs. But how would your body look if you did squat- and deadlift-only workouts?
Squats and deadlifts can make a powerful addition to your lower-body routine, but they shouldn't be the only exercises you do if you want a well-rounded leg routine and backside.
What Are Squats and Deadlifts?
Squats are a popular exercise people use to target their glutes. But the truth is, squats target many muscles in addition to the glutes, like the quadriceps and hamstrings, the large muscles on the front and back of the leg above the knee. Plus, squats offer many health benefits, including burning calories, improving performance and building strength and power.
To perform a squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Once in position, lower your legs until your upper leg is parallel with the floor and then return to a standing position. Remember to engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine while you squat. Mayo Clinic says that 12 to 15 repetitions is enough for most people.
Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
Deadlifts also work the lower body. To some extent, deadlifts work your lower back, core and grip as well. To perform a deadlift, stand in front of a barbell or kettlebell. While keeping your back straight, bend forward at the hip and bend slightly at the knee. Once in position, grab onto the weight and lift yourself back into a standing position while keeping your back flat.
Read more: Deadlifts for a Bigger Butt
A Deadlift-Only Physique
Some people believe that deadlifts work the body harder than other exercises, bringing about faster changes. However, research published in July 2017 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed no difference in levels of fatigue or hormonal response between deadlifts and squats.
However, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), deadlifts are an effective exercise in helping to develop total-body strength. In addition, deadlifts can help prevent injury to the lower back when done correctly. So if you were to only do deadlifts at the gym, you might start to notice some benefits from deadlifting over time.
However, deadlifts do have drawbacks. For one, if done incorrectly, you risk injuring yourself or further aggravating a weak lower back. Also, despite hitting many muscle groups, it is not the most effective in training each of the areas involved.
The most likely result of only doing deadlifts and squats is a stronger backside and legs. You may also notice some weight loss since you're burning calories. However, ACE notes that spot reduction is a myth. If you're looking to deadlift or squat only in the hope of making your butt smaller, you may want to try a different approach. Targeting only problem areas is not nearly as effective at changing your body using a total-body training approach.
Adding Deadlifts and Squats
Deadlifts and squats are both effective exercises you should add to your workout routines since they are two of the best lower-body exercises to define your leg and butt muscles. How you add deadlifts and squats largely depends on how often you work out and your goals.
If you do a total-body routine, you can add deadlifts or squats into the routine. They can be done in the beginning, middle or end of the routine. If doing so, you may want to modify other exercises that focus on the legs or glutes.
If you do targeted workouts each day (e.g., arms, shoulders, chest, back), you may want to consider doing a deadlift and squat day as a replacement for leg day on occasion. Deadlifts and squats can replace other leg-lifting exercises as they hit most of the leg muscles in one move.
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- American Council on Exercise: "Technique Series: How to Deadlift"
- Mayo Clinic: "Video: Squat Exercise"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Acute Neuromuscular and Endocrine Responses to Two Different Compound Exercises: Squat versus Deadlift"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Exercises for Stronger Legs"