Is Your Client Fit To Squat Or Deadlift?

Squats and Deadlifts are sometimes lumped together, but they emphasise different movement patterns, recruit different muscles and require different actions and body positioning. Clients should be comprehensively screened to determine whether they are anatomically suited to perform each exercise.

In order for the core to have its greatest potential stability (essential during squats and deadlifts) and to allow each client to be able to execute an exercise with optimal technique, their program must ensure that each joint segment has the appropriate mobility and stability for the specific movement pattern.

Every movement and every joint requires both mobility and stability. Mobility is the ability to move unrestricted though the intended range of motion (ROM) and stability is the ability to control the movement. You can’t have one without the other.

Two simple 'screening methods are highlighted below, to enable you to determine whether the Squat and Deadlift are appropriate exercises for your client.

Wall Squat

Have your client take a squat setup in front of a wall and allow them to squat with a movement that they are used to for 6 reps. Observe when his/her lower back begins to tuck under (a.k.a., "butt wink”), this shows up mobility issues at the hip, or do they fall forward toward the wall, which will show core stability issue.

If the tuck begins too early, this will probably be a hip mobility issue. Widen the squat stance, place weights under their feet (which creates artificial dorsiflexion for those with limited ankle mobility) and have them work on hip mobility drills during their warm up to help them with the squat pattern. Also, have the client stretch and opening up the hips. If the lower back still tucks under early, this could be the client's natural anatomical depth. Some bodies are just not fit for squatting.

If your client falls forward and can’t hold an upright body position, this most likely will be a stability issue. You can add circumfrancial breathing techniques to increase intra-abdominal pressure to aid stability. also, place a 5-10kg dumbbell at chest hight and have your client squat. This automatically activates the core, allowing the Squat to go deeper.

Deadlift Test

A simple screen to determine whether your clients are prepared to deadlift is a simple hip-hinge movement by a wall. Have the client stand upright with his/her knees slightly unlocked, then bend at the waist as if they’re trying to push their backside back towards the wall.

Start by teaching them basic motor control with proper hinging technique, core strengthening movements, flexibility and mobility drills. Use Deadlift variations such as the Sumo Deadlift with a kettlebell raised on blocks until the client can perform the movement safely. Once that goal is reached, they can progress to the conventional Deadlift pattern with greater loads.

Visualising the Difference

The Squat Position

According to Easy Strength, by Dan John and Pavel Tsatsouline, the squat pattern is a "deep movement of the knees and hips," whereas the Deadlift is a "deep hip movement with minimal knee bend." In layman's terms, Squats are quad dominant and Deadlifts are glute dominant. The main muscles engaged during a Squat are the quads and glutes. During the Deadlift, it's the glutes and hamstrings. The angle at the hip is different. The Squat pattern is more upright, and in the Deadlift, the torso is bent.

Other Things to Consider

If a client feels pain during the Squat or Deadlift, either the exercise may not be right for their body, or they're not doing the lift properly. A lot of people deadlift incorrectly by squatting instead of hinging, or performing Good Morning Squats rather than traditional Squats. A Good Morning Squat is when the the hips rise faster than the knees and you end up doing a Good Morning exercise.

Also, during a Squat the knees should be closer to the toes, with the shins at a 30- to 45-degree angle. During the Deadlift, the shins should be closer to vertical. Athletes can learn to sit back into the Deadlift by pulling themselves into the bar. This puts more emphasis on the posterior chain, while teaching the proper engagement of the lats and lift through the glutes.

Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press Seminar Series

If you would like to learn how to Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press, we are holding the "Big 3" workshops out of the Fitness Factory Training Academy with in the Fitness Factory Cardiff.

The Big 3 Series:

Squat: Sept 2nd 2017 Deadlift: October 7th 2017 Bench Press: December 10th 2017

If you would like a spot on the next seminar, please click the link to book your place.


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