Squats can have a large carryover to deadlifts particularly due to the larger range of motion you move through in squats. I have personally run a squat only program called Smolov and put on 30kg on my deadlift without training it.
So, does deadlifting carry over to squats? Deadlifts can have carryover to squats for people with longer legs, people who tend to have weak back and hip muscles, and people with a weak squat lockout. A weak squat lockout is a sticking point where you struggle after halfway up and cannot push your hips through.
The carryover from deadlift to squats will not be experienced by everyone though.
In this article, I will go through everything you need to know about how the deadlift can carry over to squats. I will also discuss things you need to take into consideration about deadlifts and give you examples of other exercises that will carry over to squats.
This article goes along with my article on Squat To Deadlift Ratios: Should You Squat Or Deadlift More? Read it next!
Can You Get A Stronger Squat By Deadlifting?
First, we need to understand how the muscles work together during squats and during deadlifts to understand how there can be a training crossover.
There are many crossover muscle groups that are used in both exercises.
The major muscles groups responsible for the squat and the deadlift are the:
- Hip Adductors
- Gluteus Maximus
- Calf Muscles
- Back Extensors
- Abdominals and Obliques
In general, whether it’s the squat or deadlift, the quads and adductors are used to a greater extent to move the barbell out of the bottom position by extending the knee and hip.
As the barbell travels upward in the squat or deadlift, less quad and adductors are used, and more glute strength is required to bring the hips ‘up and through’.
With that said, the squat is a more knee dominant movement and the deadlift is a more hip dominant movement.
Want to improve your squat technique?
4 Ways The Deadlift Can Carryover To Squats?
There are four ways the deadlift can carryover to squats:
- If you have longer legs
- If you have a squat lockout weakness
- If you slouch when you fatigue in squats
- If you shift onto your toes on squats
Check out my complete list of 20 Exercises That Improve Squat Strength.
1. If You Have Longer Legs
Longer legged lifters will require greater hip extensor strength (glutes) to bring the hips up and through in the squat. This is because the hips need to travel through a greater range of motion compared with shorter lifters. Therefore, by training the deadlift, lifters with long legs can get stronger glutes.
When I am talking about longer legs, I am specifically referring to having long thigh bones relative to a shorter torso relative to everyone else.
Layne Norton is a good example of someone who has relatively longer legs. Eddie Bergland is a good example of someone who has shorter legs.
When someone has longer legs and a shorter torso, it means that in order for the bar to be above the center of gravity they are going to be a bit more bent over during squats.
Having long legs means that the hips are further away from the center of mass, which leads to the squat looking more bent over.
This makes the squat become a bit more of a hip dominant movement. I explain more about this in my article on Bar Path For Squats.
The deadlift can therefore carry over more towards a squat by improving strength in the hip and back muscles such as the back extensors, glutes, and hip adductors.
However, the deadlift might not carry over to the bottom range of the squat, when the quads, glutes, and adductors are at a longer range of motion that the deadlift does not move through.
If you’re a tall lifter, read my article on 10 Squatting Tips For Lifters With Long Legs.
2. If You Have a Squat Lockout Weakness
The squat lockout will have a greater demand on the glutes, and failing to lockout may be an issue with glute strength. So by training the deadlift, you can increase the strength of your glutes, which will transfer to the lockout in the squat.
As mentioned earlier, during a deep squat, the adductors place a large part in getting the hips out of the hole and the quadriceps are working the hardest.
When you come up and out of the hole as you get closer towards a half squat, the glutes become more responsible for pushing the hips through and the hip adductors are used less.
If you have a sticking point where you slow down at halfway up during the ascent of the squat, or if you fail at the halfway point, the deadlift will carry over to the squat to a much greater extent.
This is because your glutes are the weaker part of the squat and the deadlift will help carry over by strengthening those muscle groups in a similar range of motion.
If you have a weak top half of the squat, make sure to read my article on the 5 Tips To Fix A Weak Squat Lockout.
3. If You Slouch When You Fatigue in Squats
If you are someone who fatigues in the upper back or upper body during sets of squats, you will struggle with keeping your back extended and shoulders retracted. The deadlift has a large demand on your back muscles, which can then train the capacity of those muscles for the squat.
Having a tendency to slouch your posture means you have weak posterior chain muscles (traps, lats, glutes, back extensors).
Deadlifts, which are a hip dominant exercise that targets the posterior chain muscles more, will be useful and train those weak muscles when performed correctly.
It is important that when you train deadlifts, that you keep your back flat as much as you can throughout as this will carry over to how well you hold your posture.
4. If You Shift onto Your Toes During the Squat
If you are someone who shifts onto your toes during the ascent or descent of the squat, you are relying more on your leg muscles (particularly your quads). Training the deadlift can help you with this problem by improving your ability to load your hip muscles more and stay on your heels more.
Shifting onto your toes while squatting means you have poor control over your center of gravity as you are overly biased towards loading your forefoot and knees.
What you will then need to do to compensate for this poor movement is to choose an exercise to bias the opposite.
This is why a deadlift will be useful as it is a hip dominant movement that when performed correctly can help you load your heels much more.
Loading your heels more will go hand in hand with loading your hip muscles more.
Want to improve your deadlift technique?
Does Deadlifting Have Negative Impacts On Your Squats?
While there can be a massive carryover from deadlifts to squats for certain lifters, you’ll also want to be aware that deadlifts may also negatively impact your squat.
There are two ways deadlifts can negatively impact your squats:
- If you deadlift too much without getting enough squat volume
- If you deadlift too heavy too close to squatting
1. Deadlifting Too Much
If you are someone who deadlifts too much during the week, then you take away your capacity to do meaningful training for squats. Squats and deadlifts train the same muscle groups but in different ways and our bodies have a limited ability to recover from training stress.
This means that training muscle groups is a zero-sum game, when you push one of the exercises, you limit how much you can push the other.
So if you deadlift too much, you might not be able to get enough squat volume to progress your squats.
If you deadlift too much, you might end up making yourself quite a hip dominant person.
This may lead you to squat with a bit more hip dominance meaning you sit back with your hips more and have more of a forward lean.
It might fatigue your hip extensors during squats more and subsequently change your technique in a way you do not want to.
Read more about programming for squats and deadlifts in my article on How Do Powerlifters Train Legs?
2. Heavy Deadlifts Too Soon Before Squats
Training heavy deadlifts too soon before squats does not allow you to recover quickly enough to perform better for squats. This is because the harder the session, the longer it takes for those muscles to recover from that session.
It is an important programming consideration to figure out where we put exercises throughout the training week.
When you train an exercise, those muscle groups will fatigue and decrease in strength to which you will need some time to recover. When you recover, your muscles will heal back and become stronger.
When you have squats very soon after a heavy deadlift session, you may be training squats at a point where those mutually used muscle groups are still at a point of high fatigue.
This will limit how heavy or how much squatting you can do on the day you want to squat. This immediate squatting session will have to be a very light squat session
Ideally, you want to spread the distance between heavy squats and heavy deadlifts by at least 2 to 3 days.
Other Exercises That Will Carry Over To Squats
There are many other exercises that will carry over to squats for different reasons.
Where you are weak in a squat will determine what exercises will have the greatest carryover to squats.
Make sure to read my other resources:
- 22 Exercises To Improve Squat Depth
- Do Hip Thrusts Help Squats?
- How To Fix Rounded Back During Squats
- How To Fix Your Knees Caving In The Squat
- How To Fix Heels Rising During The Squat
- How To Fix Losing Tension At The Bottom Of The Squat
In general, here are 3 great exercises that will carry over to squats:
- Front Foot Elevated Split Squat
- Box Squats
- High Pin Squats
Front Foot Elevated Split Squat – Bottom Range for Squats
The Front Foot Elevated Split Squat works really well at training for bottom range squat strength.
One thing that it does do is train the quads, glutes and adductors in a longer muscle length that you would go through in a regular squat.
If your sticking point or point of failure is at the bottom of the squat, you were already weak in a point below the sticking point. This exercise helps you access that range of motion without risking “butt winking” which is when you run out of room in your hips and lower back rounds.
The front foot elevated split squat is not an exercise that needs a lot of load to get a big stimulus from. It is also a single leg exercise so it may help with training each side evenly.
You can perform this exercise for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions with or without weight. If you use weights, try using a pair of dumbbells on each hand or hold a single kettlebell.
Box Squats – Mid Range for Squats
For a mid range sticking point, when the demand on muscles shifts from the adductors to the glutes more, the box squat would be ideal for this weakness.
The box squat when performed with the hips sat back a bit more, puts more demand on the glutes and hip adductors more.
Box squats can be performed at full depth where hip crease is below knee or it can be performed just above it.
You can perform this exercise for 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions at a difficulty of 4 to 5 reps in reserve.
High Pin Squats – Top Range for Squats
Having a sticking point at the top range for squats is not as common but does happen.
The high pin squats is a useful range of motion specific exercise as it depends on where you put the pins.
You should set the pins to 2 inches below the point you tend to have a sticking point or fail.
You can perform this exercise for 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions at a difficulty of 4 to 5 reps in reserve.
The deadlift does have a carryover to squats for some people in certain circumstances.
It is important to remember that as you fix your weakness in your squats with deadlifts, your weakness will be alleviated over time and your point of weakness may change.
To test to see where your weaknesses change over time, it is useful to perform squats at a high difficulty to see where sticking points occur.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com