Are your clients READY to Squat or Deadlift?

Squats and Deadlifts are sometimes placed together, but they emphasise different movement patterns, recruit different muscles and require different actions and body positioning. You should be comprehensively assessing your clients 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 shouldn't have one without the other.

Visualising the Difference

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.

Here are two simple screens 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 if 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.

If the butt wink begins before parallel, it could indicate a lack of mobility. Have the client try stretching and opening up the hips. And if the lower back tucks under early, this could be the athlete's natural anatomical depth. Some people are just not ready for squatting. Just yet!

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. If the client cannot hold a safe posture (Neutral Posture) throughout the movement you’ll need to regress the exercise.

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.

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 improperly deadlift 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.

If you would like to learn how to Coach the Squat and Deadlift, we are holding the "Big 3 Seminar Series" at Fitness Factory Training Academy starting in September 2017.

If you would like a spot on the next seminar, please email us to book your place

Also check get in touch for more details on our Personal Training Courses this summer.

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