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Deadlift or squat first [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Apr 30, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Deadlift or squat first

Deadlift or squat first

Generally, you should start with the squat before the deadlift as injury risk is higher. Try to avoid pairing them on the same day unless you are a beginner. 

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What is your why 


Before we go into the question of whether to squat or deadlift first, let me ask you a couple of questions. 


  • Why do you research the squat and deadlift?
  • Why do you want to deadlift?
  • Why do you want to squat?
  • Why do you want to get stronger?
  • Why do you want to build muscle
  • What happens if you do?
  • What happens if you don’t?


While these questions might seem trivial and obvious to you they are at the heart of your long-term success. You have to have answers to these questions which transcend a particular mood on the day. Otherwise, you will stop training once life hits you in the face. Most people think about their goals in this way:


  • What do I want?
  • How do I get it? 
  • Why do I want it? 


Almost everyone knows what they want. This changes quite regularly based on what we see during the day. Fewer know how to get what they want and made a plan. Almost no one knows why they want something or have reflected on it. When you go through life like this you are mainly lay controlled by your reactive system. Read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking fast and slow to dive deeper on this. If you want to activate your full potential change your thought pattern to


  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What do you need to do 


It is a small and very impactful change to make. What you do in a day will be connected to your inner beliefs. You will be happier and the people around you more likely to help you. Take me as an example. I can either do this 


  • I need to lose weight
  • I go on a diet 
  • I want to be a good husband 




  • I want to be the best husband I can possibly be as it makes me happy to see my wife happy 
  • My mind and body have to be in a good state of mind to be a good husband for a long time 
  • I exercise and read regularly 


This way you will not get deterred when your goal of losing weight does not materialize immediately. Also losing weight and being fit in this setup is only a means to an end to be a good husband, rather than the main focus. These are slight and important psychological differences. 


If you are not convinced yet check out Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers. 




The deadlift is one of the most iconic movements you can do with a barbell. Together with the squat and bench press, it builds the foundation of the sport of powerlifting. Weightlifters also regularly perform this lift to increase their strength when pulling the weight off the ground. Most people think of the conventional deadlift first but there more than this one.


Variations on the deadlift are 


  • Sumo deadlift 
  • Romanian deadlift 
  • Coan deadlift 
  • Halted deadlift 
  • Paused deadlift 
  • Deadlift with chains 
  • Deficit deadlifts
  • Kettlebell deadlift 
  • Rack pulls
  • Snatch grip deadlifts


All of these lifts serve different purposes. They are mainly variations of the stance and range of motion of the deadlift. 


The deadlift mainly trains your glutes, quads, traps, lower back, and hamstrings. Based on how you lift the emphasis is more on the back of your body than the front. This is reversed for the squat. 


To perform a good deadlift check out advice from the following lifters:


  • Ed Coan
  • Andy Bolton 
  • Dan Green 
  • Frank Duffin 
  • Calgary Barbell 
  • Eddie Hall 
  • Juggernaut Strength 
  • Brian Alsruhe 


A good book to read is Deadlift Dynamite. Here are some tips I picked up form these coaches:


  1. Place your midfeet under the bar
  2. Grip the bar in a mixed or hook grip
  3. Lower yourself to the bar 
  4. Turn your elbows in as if you want to squeeze lemons in your armpits 
  5. Be patient off the floor and make the bar bend 
  6. Initiate the pull by pushing your legs into the floor. Make a footprint 
  7. Pull the bar upwards and towards you 
  8. Squeeze your glutes 
  9. Pop your hips forward 
  10. Lockout and finish the lift


A point which is often discussed for the deadlift is straightening your back. This is very hard to do actively and I don’t like this queue. If you follow the steps above and stay under tension your back will be straight.


There are two points where deadlifts can fail. Off the ground or at lockout. If you can’t lift the weight off the ground you are not strong enough. Scale back. If you struggle with your lockout work on technique and speed. Failing the lift on the way up goes back to your grip. The weakest link in a deadlift will be your grip. The longer you take to bring the weight up the more likely it will fail. 


The biggest advantages of the deadlift are that you can load it very heavy and that it is an expression of raw strength. For me, there are very few things as satisfying as completing a heavy deadlift. There is just something primal about it. 


The biggest disadvantages of the deadlift are its strain on the lower back and that it is it very well suited for repetition work. Use high volumes of deadlifts with caution. Especially if you pull conventional. Sumo deadlifts are less taxing on the lower back. 




The barbell squat is one of the most important underutilized barbell exercises out there. It is interesting to see how much more floor space in gyms all over the world is dedicated to the bench press compared to the barbell squat. I personally think that is mainly due to the fact, that the squat is scarier than the bench press. This trend is changing due to the surge of CrossFit but it still baffles me. Don’t even get me started on the wasted space for dumbbells compared to rack space. It is a reflection of how people want to train, not how they should train to reach their goals. 


There are many variations of the squat out there. Some of them are:


  • Safety bar squats
  • Barbell front squats 
  • High bar squat 
  • Low bar squat 
  • Paused squat 
  • Pin squat 
  • Pistol squat 
  • Split squat 
  • Ass to grass squat 
  • Half squat 
  • Quarter squat 
  • Air squats 


Just to name a few. Squats come in as many shapes and forms as there are people. In this, it is a lot more individual than the deadlift. 


The squat mainly trains the quads, glutes, hamstrings and your abs depending on load and bracing. Compared to the deadlift the emphasis is more on the front of your body. You will also get more activation of your abs as you load the barbell on top of your body and it needs to be stabilized. 


To learn from the best look up the following squatters: 


  • Tom Platz 
  • Ray Williams 
  • Captain Kirk 
  • Eric Lilliebridge 
  • Carl Yngvar 


There are many ways to go about the squat and you will need to decide what works best for you. I usually follow this routine of queues which I have picked up from several sources: 


  1. Place your hands as close together as you can in the bar. The smaller you are the closer it should be. I am 185cm, make and weigh 85 to 90kg depending on chocolate consumption.  I go half a thumb inwards from the knurling.
  2. Get under the bar aggressively 
  3. Get your feet parallel 
  4. Wedge yourself under the bar so that it is locked in 
  5. Pop the bar from the rack by straightening your hips
  6. Always walk out backward 
  7. Use a three-step walk out 
  8. Plant your feet as if you were to grab a mouse with them like a hawk
  9. Fully exhale 
  10. Breathe in and push your abs out. Push in all directions as if you became a cylinder of metal 
  11. Pull the bar into your back as if you were to bend it like a horseshoe 
  12. Squat down as quick as you can in a controlled way 
  13. Drive up


The squat is won or lost in the setup. All these points are aimed at building maximum tension before you even initiate the lift. You will be surprised how you will complete some reps without even noticing when it set up like this. 


The biggest advantages of the barbell squat are its effectiveness and versatility. The squat aims at many muscle groups at the same time and has carry over to many sports and exercises. 


The biggest disadvantages of the barbell squat are that it is quite technical and needs a rack to be performed safely. It is also harder to emulate with dumbbells or kettlebells than the deadlift.


Should you deadlift or squat first 


It entirely depends on your lifting style and personal preferences. Generally I would say squat first and then deadlift. The injury risk is lower on a failed deadlift than in a squat. 


In general I would also advice against pairing the deadlift and squat in one workout . Especially if you have trained for more than two years. If i do two main lifts on. A day I like to pair the squat and deadlift either with the overhead press or bench press. This way you can get done more in less time on Wendler 531 or the Juggernait method. 


In the book deadlift dynamite I learned from Andy Bolton that you should start the week with your weakest lift. If your deadlift is the weakest that is day one, if it is the squat or bench press start with them.


Further reading 



Topics: Lift stronger, Kettlebll, Fitness, Strength, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman