I know so many guys who are obsessed with exercise comparisons. And not in the, “I’m a deadlifter and I want to know if Bulgarian split squats will serve as a decent assistance exercise for my deadlift?” It’s more in the “I’d rather be talking than lifting because I’m going to keep pretending that if I could only figure out what is “best” then I’ll be ready to start some serious strength training.”
I get the deadlift vs squat question a lot. “Which is better?” My answer is almost always the same. “What are your goals? Better for me or better for you?” If you want to get better at the barbell back squat, then I would say that squatting is better for you. If you want to work up to a big pull, then you should probably spend some time picking heavy things up off the ground.
It’s about priorities, and this is just me, but here is how I prioritize my exercise selection:
- First, I set goals
- Then I pick movements that will help me meet those goals
- I only pick movements/exercises that I like doing–if it’s not fun for me, I don’t need it
I have the luxury of saying that because I don’t compete and I train because I love to lift weights. That’s about it. I like looking good and feeling good, but I train because it’s fun.
If I had the goal of squatting or deadlifting more, I would focus on the one that I enjoyed the most. If I was competing, I would choose whichever would make me perform better in competition.
But most of the guys who are asking this just want to be bigger and have more muscle. This can be accomplished by squats and deadlifts. When I ask which one they enjoy more, the answer is usually “I don’t like either one.”
“Then why do you think you have to do either one?”
“A book/magazine said so.”
“But you don’t have to do anything.”
“But which one is best?”
And around and around we go. This is just two cents from a passionate amateur lifter who is always getting stronger and looks like it as well. Unless you are in competition, ask yourself why you “should” do anything in the weight room. Life is too short to do things that do not benefit us or are not enjoyable in any way.
I love to lift. I love to squat. I love to deadlift. I love to get stronger. But I enjoy deadlifting the most, so that’s which one is best for me. Choose something you like, bang away at it, if it makes you stronger and you’re having a good time, you’re doing it right, no matter what anyone says.
PS: Mark Rippetoe will tell you that you’re a sissy if you don’t squat. Just saying.