In a deadlift, the weight begins and ends on the floor in a down-up-down movement; a squat is driven by an up-down-up movement, and the weight begins and ends at the apex of the lift.

Comparison chart

Deadlift versus Squat comparison chart
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Introduction The deadlift is a weight training exercise and one of the three canonical powerlifting exercises, along with the squat and bench press. The squat is a compound, full body exercise for strength training and one of the three canonical powerlifting exercises, along with the deadlift and bench press.
Primary Muscles Lower back, quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, abdomen. Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings
Strengthens Grip strength, lower back, legs, torso, forearms. Legs, hips, buttocks, core.
Technique The dead weight is lifted off the ground up to the hips, then lowered again. Standing with bar held across upper back, then squatting to the desired depth and returning to standing position.
Initial barbell position Loaded barbell on ground. Loaded barbell held on shoulders behind neck.
Movement Down-up-down; movement with hips. Up-down-up; movement with knees.
Weight Placement Hands. Upper back or hands.
Most Common Injuries Lower back. Lumbar spine and knees.
Variations Roman, Sumo. Barbell, lunge, Smith, bodyweight, box.
Equipment Back brace, various types of weights can be used: barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, trapbar. Barbell and weights, power cage or spotter, or individual hand weights, back brace.
Spotter Not required. Yes, or a power cage or Smith machine.
World Record (Men's) 1,015 lbs by Iceland's Benedikt Magnusson (2011). 1,268 lbs by Finland's Jonas Rantanen (2011).
World Record (Women's) 683 lbs by the USA's Becca Swanson (2005). 854 lbs by the USA's Becca Swanson (2005).


In a deadlift, the weight is held in the hands; the motion starts with a static weight on the floor and ends with the weights down on the floor, and the lift is dominated by hip movement. It is a Down-Up-Down sequence.

The squat differs from the deadlift is several key ways: the weight is placed atop the upper back, the weight begins and ends at the apex of the lift, and the motion is dominated by knee movement. A squat is an Up-Down-Up sequence.


Deadlifts can be performed with a variety of weights and configurations. The competition deadlift usually involves a barbell with weights. A trap bar may be used instead of a normal barbell, and has a U-shape between the weights, allowing more clearance for the knees when lifting the bar. When using a bar with weights for deadlifts, padding on the ground is usually required to absorb the impact of the weight when it’s dropped. A back brace belt is also required.

Although squat exercises can be done with no weight or equipment (doing simple body-weight squats), weight training squats require some special equipment. If lifting small amounts of weight, individual hand weights are enough to perform the exercise. Once heavier weight is desired, equipment includes a barbell or trap bar, weights, and a spotter or two. A power cage, which holds the bar and weights at a high position for starting, and prevents the bar from dropping below a set height, increases safety. A Smith machine, which keeps the bar in vertical tracks may also be used. A good back brace belt is also necessary.


The deadlift gets its name from the fact that the weight starts out “dead” or static on the floor. It’s one of the few weight training exercises in which each repetition begins with dead weight. When using a barbell, two grips may be used: overhand or mixed (one hand overhand, the other underhand). The overhand grip usually feels most natural, but the forearms receive the added strain of preventing the bar from rolling out of the hands. The idea behind a mixed grip is that the counter-torsion of the mixed hand grips prevents the bar from wanting to roll. The conventional stance is with the hands holding the bar outside of the feet. In a sumo stance, the feet are spread wider, and the arms between the knees. The lift begins with a head-up, arched-back posture, and the weight is lifted until the legs are straight. The weight is then lowered back to the ground (or dropped if performing a max-out lift).

The lift begins from a standing position, most often with weights on a bar braced across the upper back behind the head, with hands holding the bar in an overhand grip. Individual weights may also be held in the hands. The movement involves moving the hips back and bending the hips and knees to lower the upper body and the accompanying weight, and then returning to a standing position. The depth of the squat can vary, but the basic guideline is to make the upper legs parallel to the ground. The competition standard is for the top surface of the leg to go below the top of the knee (known as a “deep squat”).


While performing a deadlift, maintaining the proper posture is key to preventing injuries. After squatting down to lift the weight, the forearms should be touching the outside of the kneecaps (or inside of the kneecaps for the sumo stance). If the arms are too far forward of the kneecaps when starting the lift, the back muscles will be strained; if the arms are to far behind the knees, the knees become more vulnerable to injury. Use of a back brace belt is also recommended.

The squat is one of the oldest and most established exercises in weight training. In recent years, it has come under scrutiny as possibly causing too many lower back injuries. The keys to preventing injuries are to use proper form and a back brace, to lift with your legs, and to not over-exert. To avoid injury, rapid descents should be avoided, as should extending the torso too far forward. A power cage will reduce the risk of accidents and negates the need for a spotter. A Smith machine, which keeps the bar on vertical tracks, reduces stress on the hips.


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