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What to Do If You’re Squat or Deadlift Dominant

Determine whether you’re squat or deadlift dominant, and then work to iron out the discrepancy

While different coaches have different opinions on the topic, I would argue that if your back squat is more than 85 percent of your deadlift, then you’re squat dominant and probably should devote some time to your deadlift.

On the other hand, if your back squat isn’t close to 80 percent of your deadlift, then you should probably focus on improving your squat, as you’re deadlift dominant.

Of course, sometimes the way our bodies are shaped—long legs and short torso, versus long torso and shorter legs etc—can make us naturally inclined to developing a better deadlift or squat, as a general rule, if your back squat isn’t sitting in the 80 percent range in relation to your deadlift, it’s worth investing some time to iron out the discrepancy.

3 Exercises for the Squat Dominant

1. Weighted Good Mornings

If you’re squat dominant, you’ll probably find these pretty challenging, but those who are good at good mornings are able to log reps at 60 to 70 percent of their back squat.

Just like a squat, focus on spreading the floor with your feet to really feel your glutes doing the work. I highly recommend starting out light until you become more comfortable with loading up, and then belting up to ensure you’re bracing as hard as you can.

  • Start with 3 to 5 sets of higher reps of 8-10, and as you gain strength and feel more comfortable, load up and hit some smaller sets of 3 to 5 reps.

2. Single Leg Barbell Deadlifts

We often do these with kettlebells or dumbbells, but try these with a barbell. These are a great way to really get the hamstrings involved.

  • Can you lift 35 to 40 percent of your max deadlift on one leg? That’s a good number to strive for 5 sets of 6-8 reps per leg

3. Kang Squat

A Kang squat is effectively a good morning that moves into a back squat, followed by moving back through the bottom of the good morning position before standing up again.

Focus on maintaining tension in your hamstrings at the bottom of the squat, so you don’t become quad dominant. If this means you must reduce your depth a bit, that’s OK. The key is to maintain hamstring tension and move through the good morning position, both on the way down and the way up.

  • Same as with weighted good mornings: Start with 3 to 5 sets at higher reps of 8-10, and as you gain strength and feel more comfortable, load up and hit some smaller sets of 3 to 5 reps.

3 Exercises for the Deadlift Dominant

1. Weighted Step Ups

If you’re deadlift dominant like me, you’ll probably find these incredibly challenging, as your quads just don’t want to do the work as you’re stepping onto a box.

With weights at your side or in the rack position, and with the box at knee high, focus on controlling the movement, using the foot on the box to step up onto the box, as opposed to pushing with your foot on the ground to gain the momentum required to stand onto the box.

  • 5 sets of 8 reps per leg. How heavy can you go and stay in control?

2. Bulgarian Split Squats

It’s next to impossible not to feel your quads during a Bulgarian split squat. The key here is to keep a nice neutral spine, and make sure your front knee doesn’t end up too far over your toe. Just like a squat, try to get your hip crease of your front foot to full depth.

  • Can you lift 60 percent of your bodyweight for 5 reps per leg with a nice, controlled tempo? That’s a great number to strive for 5 sets of 5 reps per leg

3. Heavy Goblet Squats

Goblet squats are a great tool for improving squat mechanics, namely achieving depth and keeping an upright torso throughout, however we don’t often load up on these. Heavy Goblet squat, and logging some volume in the process, however, can provide some great value that will transfer to your squat.

  • 5 sets of 10-15 reps as heavy as you can

Featured image via Pressmaster/Shutterstock

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