Originally published in Functional Training Magazine
Squats and deadlifts are excellent exercises and are critical to training for maximum strength and size gains and accelerating fat loss. Both exercises are compound exercises that appear regularly in my programs. However, I don't use both exercises in their standard form together in the same training session. The reason for this is a very likely lower back overload. This reduces the training progress. Depending on which exercise you do first, the lower back will then limit progress in the second exercise due to pre-fatigue. This also increases the risk of injury due to overloading the lower back. This reduces the training progress.
Depending on goal, status, and primary deficits, a training phase will most often include either squats or deadlifts as the primary exercise of the lower body routine. If the goal is an even distribution of both exercises, I vary between three options.
Option 1: Weekly change
This option alternates two different lower body workouts in one week. There are instances where I rotate squats and deadlifts each workout to give the lower back a longer break from the primary stress of the deadlift. This is a sensible option to enable constant progress, especially from a performance of approx. 200kg for men and approx. 100kg for women. I'm assuming four training sessions - two upper and two lower body workouts per week.
Workout 1 – Every Monday
LH front squats, heels up, 8 sets of 3 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
Workout 2 – Every Thursday
LH Deadlift, pronated, shoulder-width grip, off the floor 8 sets of 3 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
Option 2: Monthly change
Squats and deadlifts alternate every training phase or month. Here the focus is more on the current exercise.
LH squats, heels elevated, 7 sets of 3-5 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
LH Deadlift, pronated, shoulder width, off the rack, 12 sets of 1-3 reps, 3010 tempo, 180 sec rest
LH front squats, 6 sets of 126.96.36.199.2.2 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
LH Deadlift, pronated, medium grip, off floor, 10 sets of 1-3 reps, 4210 tempo, 180 sec rest
Option 3: Combining specific squat and deadlift variations in the same workout
As with any rule, there are also exceptions. I sometimes put squats and deadlifts in a program in the same workout. However, these are variations on the standard exercises that are further apart. Quad squats and front squats largely recruit the quads and unload the lower back compared to regular squats, while Romanian deadlifts or good mornings load the lower back in a very controlled manner without tiring the quads. So I use them as a double station or as an A/B exercise in the same session, depending on status and weak point.
A1 LH Quad Squat, 8 sets of 2-4 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
A2 LH Romanian Deadlift, wide grip, rested, 8 sets of 4-6 reps, 4410 tempo, 180 sec rest
A LH front squats, 5 sets of 5,4,3,2,1 reps, 4010 tempo, 180 sec rest
B Russian Good Morning, 5 sets of 6-8 reps, 4210 tempo, 180 sec rest
To give your lower back time to recover, it's better not to squat and deadlift in the same workout. Weekly or monthly changes or the use of variants of these exercises that are far apart on the knee extension-hip extension spectrum are much more optimal.
Good luck with the deadlift and squat!
Image: Bob athlete Frederick Lüthcke LH deadlift in YPSI with 260kg.