At one time or another, you’ve probably compared your squat and deadlift and wondered whether one should be stronger than the other. You likely know people who have really massive squats compared with their deadlifts, or vice versa, and are confused whether their lifts or yours fall within the normal strength ratios.
So should you squat or deadlift more? The average lifter will squat 90% of their deadlift. Therefore, if you deadlift 100lbs, you should squat at least 90lbs. However, the lower the body-weight, the more someone should be able to deadlift, and the higher the body-weight, the more someone should be able to squat. This effect becomes even truer at either end of the extreme. For example, the heavier you are the more you’ll squat, and your numbers will likely exceed your deadlift.
These are general remarks, and as always, the answer usually depends on several factors. Your squat and deadlift ratios are impacted in four ways: how big you are, which style of deadlift you perform (conventional or sumo), what your leverages look like (arm, torso, and leg length), and your overall technique. Let’s dive into each one of these in more detail so you can understand whether you strength ratios are optimal for your individual situation.
After reading this article, check out my guide on Squat-to-Bench Press Ratios.
It Depends On Body-Weight
As I said above, if you’re smaller, the more you’ll deadlift. And if you’re bigger, the more you’ll squat.
The midpoint where bodyweight becomes a factor is around 93kg/205lbs for a man and 63kg/140lbs for a woman. So, if you’re above or below these points your ratios will start to reflect these differences.
Data taken from the 2015 IPF World Powerlifting Championships show how the squat and deadlift ratios change with body-weight. These world-class athletes represent a population who are well-trained and have the goal of maximizing muscular strength. While it only shows the male classes, the same phenomenon occurs among female classes as well.
|Body-Weight Category||Average Squat Relative to Deadlift|
(analysis by Stronger By Science)
|59kg / 130lbs||90%|
|66kg / 145lbs||88%|
|74kg / 163lbs||86%|
|83kg / 183lbs||86%|
|93kg / 205lbs||88%|
|105kg / 231lbs||92%|
|120kg / 264lbs||98%|
|120lbs + / 264lbs +||104%|
The reasons why ratios begin to change with body-weight can be explained in the next few sections; however, it’s largely due to how technique changes with a bigger torso (more girth), how lifters brace their core, and differences in leverages.
Keep in mind, these squat to deadlift ratios are averages. These are good benchmarks to know whether you can make some optimizations to one lift or another, but you may naturally fall on either end of these percentages.
It Depends On Deadlift Style (Conventional or Sumo)
A conventional deadlift has a longer range of motion, and a sumo deadlift has a shorter range of motion. If you’re pulling sumo, you might have a bigger deadlift than your squat.
This is not to say that sumo deadlifts are automatically better because it has a shorter range of motion. Deciding to do sumo should be based on your leverages, and if you are more suited to conventional deadlifting, then pulling sumo will be disadvantageous. However, if your leverages are optimized for sumo deadlifting, and you have competent technique, then you will have the bonus of a shorter range of motion.
Because (work = force X distance), the shorter the range of motion means the less work you have to do, which may lead to a greater ratio between your squat and deadlift numbers.
When we look at data from the 2016 IPF World Powerlifting Championships, it shows the breakdown of lifters pulling sumo deadlift and their body-weight category:
The important thing to recognize in this data is that there is almost a linear relationship between body-weight and the type of stance for both men and women. In the lighter body-weight categories athletes deadlift using more of a sumo stance, and in the heavier body-weight categories lifters deadlift using more of a conventional stance.
When we compare this data to the previous section on squat-deadlift ratios and body-weight categories, we see a striking pattern. The lighter body-weight categories have a greater squat to deadlift ratio than the heavier body-weight categories.
However, this data is merely a correlation. It’s tough to know whether the greater squat to deadlift ratio is caused by being lighter or because the lighter athletes pull sumo and therefore have a reduced range of motion. I would say it’s a bit of both.
It Depends on Leverages
Someone who has longer legs and shorter arms will have more of a disadvantage while deadlifting. This may cause deadlift numbers to be less than squats.
If you’ve been around powerlifting circles for some time, you’ll have heard the term ‘leverages’ used to describe whether a person is well-suited toward a particular lift or not. Someone’s leverages will dictate how far the bar travels (range of motion).
For example, someone who has shorter arms might have better levers in the bench press (shorter range of motion), whereas that same person would struggle more in the deadlift (longer range of motion).
Leverages depends on two factors:
- Your genetics — how you’re naturally built
- Your techique — how you position your body around the barbell
If your technique is sub-par, you’re probably not going to be able to take advantage of any superior genetic advantage that you might have.
Using the example above, if someone who has shorter arms doesn’t know how to set their shoulders properly by retracting their scapular on the bench press, they will not have the advantage of a shorter range of motion.
As a rule of thumb: master your technique first before worrying about leverages. But at the end of the day, having longer levers in the deadlift will usually impact how much more you can pull compared with your squat. Sorry, there’s nothing you can control here.
Check out my article on Can You Squat Every Day?
It Depends On The Technique
When it comes to technique, we’re looking at two things: how we can broadly position your body to increase efficiency, and how body-weight may impact your technique.
Positioning Your Body
If you find your deadlift lagging behind your squat numbers, there are several ways to decrease your range of motion through your technique:
- Check Your Foot Stance
For a conventional deadlift you want your feet standing directly under your shoulders or slightly in line. If they are any wider then you are increasing the range of motion.
- Check Your Hand Width
The wider your hands are on the bar, the more range of motion you’ll be pulling. However, generally speaking you don’t want your hands narrower than shoulder width because then it will start to impact your upper back strength.
- Check Your Grip
If you grab the bar closer to the base of your hand then you’ll be pulling a greater range of motion. Try putting the bar directly under your knuckles.
- Check Your Hip Position
If you treat the deadlift like a ‘squat’, and you have your hips too low in the start position, then the range of motion will increase. If your hips are below your knees then you’ll want to bring your hips higher up to leverage a better bottom position.
How Body-Weight Might Impact Technique
As stated above, the higher your body-weight, the more your squat starts to match or exceed your deadlift numbers.
No matter the technical efficiencies mentioned above by trying to leverage a shorter range of motion with your deadlift, a higher bodyweight might simply just put you in a better position for a heavier squat.
This is due to two main reasons;
- Heavier Body-Weight Allows Better Bracing For Squats
A lifter’s thicker torso might allow them to brace for squats more effectively. In essence, their core muscles are more able to create intra-abdominal pressure and act as an internal weight belt on the body.
- Heavier Body-Weight Prevents Optimal Start Position For Deadlifts
Someone who is a heavier body-weight is assumed to have a bigger torso, whether that means having a thicker abdominal wall or more belly fat. Having a bigger torso will negatively impact the deadlift start position by not allowing the lifter to bring their hips down as much. As such, lifters usually have their hips higher in the air, putting more stress on their low and mid back, and taking their legs (quads) out of the movement. (I know I mentioned previously that you don’t want your hips too low in order to reduce the range of motion, but this is a case of the extreme opposite — there is definitely an optimal middle ground with your hip position)
Generally speaking, you should be concerned about your technique regardless of your squat to deadlift ratio. However, if you find one lift lagging behind the other based on the benchmark numbers above, then you might want to look more critically at your technique to see if it’s an underlying cause.
What Really Matters In Powerlifting (The Total)
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, then I would argue that you need to be less concerned with how much you deadlift more than you squat, or vice versa, and more about how your total relates to your overall competitiveness.
If your total isn’t competitive for your body-weight category at the level you compete, then you just need to get stronger generally across all lifts, and not worry about the proper ratio.
For example, If you notice your deadlift lagging behind your squat based on the benchmark numbers above, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It might just mean that your squat has progressed quickly, and the rate of progress will likely start to slow while your deadlift numbers naturally catches up. So I wouldn’t do a ‘deadlift-specific’ phase of training to try and increase strength in your deadlift, just keep training and getting stronger.
In general, the more you train and the stronger you get, the more your ratios start to fall in line with the averages. Just get stronger overall, and any imbalances will iron out over time.
While the average lifter will squat 90% of their deadlift, it depends on your body-weight, deadlift stance, leverages, and technique. The most determining factor for this ratio will be your body-weight, but don’t be discouraged if you see your ratios outside the average. There is a lot of individual differences between people, so continue to train and get stronger overall, as the ‘total’ is more important than any ratio.