Squats and Deadlifts are Not the “King of Exercise” for a Lot of People.

May 9, 2012

I want to explain my stance on limiting the use of squats and deadlifts. I don’t believe they are terrible exercises. I think they have a place in the routines for some people, depending upon their goals.

Do I believe that either of these should be labeled the “king of exercise” that so many people claim them to be? Not by a mile.

[Here’s a fit couple walking down the beach. Both of them could probably add quite a bit of mass to their legs with a routine based around squats…but should they?]

Squats: The Best Exercise to Add Mass to Your Lower Body

Want to add a lot of mass to your legs, hips, and butt? Squats are the answer. Want to increase the weight on the scale? Squats will do that too. No doubt about it…squats will definitely add a lot of muscle to your body quickly.

Although they do work a lot of muscle groups in the body besides legs, the majority of muscle added will be to the lower body. For someone who wants to add a bit of size to their legs, it is a great exercise choice.

The Lower Body Has a Large Potential for Muscle Gains

People who question my recommendation for limiting the use of squats, typically say something along these lines…”adding muscle is tough and takes hard work, people don’t need to be worried that they will add too much muscle on accident”.

The problem is that the lower body does tend to grow at a faster rate than the upper body. Women in particular have this problem.

[Once your lower body has as much muscle as you would like, I recommend either backing off on squats or dropping them completely from your routine.]

If Your Legs Are Bigger Than You Would Like?

If you want to lose muscle mass in your legs, then avoid all direct leg resistance training. For some reason, this is a controversial recommendation…but it makes perfect sense to me. Avoid all direct leg resistance training until your legs are as slim as you would like.

At that point, reintroduce a limited amount of direct leg resistance training…but make sure that your legs don’t increase in girth again. Here’s my full-blown post on losing muscle on purpose.

If You Want to Tone the Lower Body Without Adding Size?

A few options:

  • Perform cardio in an intense manner and see if that gets the job done.
  • Train legs short of failure 1-2 times per week.
  • Train legs once every other week (if you gain size easily in the lower body).

Deadlifts: A Better Option for Density, Less Potential for Mass

I fall under the category of gaining muscle too quickly in my thighs, hips and butt. Intense cardio keeps my quads and hamstrings toned, but doesn’t hit the lower back as much as I would like.

A great exercise to work the lower back and glutes, are partial deadlifts in a power rack. I simply do these once every other week, for 5 sets of 3-5 reps (well short of failure).

[I used to do deadlifts from the floor every other week, but found that it added size to my quads. Shortening the range of motion to the upper 1/2 or upper 2/3 of the lift works my back and glutes without hitting the quads as hard.]

A Good Exercise That Targets the Glutes

As far as firming up and shaping the lower body, I believe that intense enough cardio will get the job done for a lot of people. For those who want to add in a bit more glute work, kettlebell or dumbbell swings are a great option. Roman demonstrates the proper variation of this exercise to target the glutes.

[Just like partial deadlifts…this still hits the legs to a certain extent, so cut back the frequency if it adds more size to your lower body than you would like.]

“Real Men Squat”, “Squat or GO Home”, & Other Nonsense

I haven’t squatted in years, but I never thought squatting was particularly hard or taxing. I got up to 405 pounds for 5 sets of 6 reps…and it was somewhat tough…but not crazy intense or anything. Sure there are guys who squat over 600 pounds for reps, but it is all relative.

There are some in fitness who act like squatting is such an accomplishment. It really isn’t that big of a deal. Heck…I used to run hills in Junior High with my track team, and that was much more intense than my old squat workouts.

A Lot of People Will Want to Limit These Lifts

I don’t like wearing pleated pants or relaxed fit jeans…so these lifts aren’t congruent with my goals. I also found that too much leg mass made me feel sluggish. If you are a man or woman who wants large legs, then that is cool…I’m not trying to push my goals on anyone.

One of my good online pals, Elliott Hulse, has legs the size of tree trunks…but it works for him. He is a competitive lifter and would have big legs even without lifting. He is just playing on his strengths, which completely makes sense.

Note: There are some men and women who can squat or deadlift on a regular basis without adding too much mass to their lower bodies.

If you have those same genetics, then you can get away with doing those lifts on a regular basis. If you don’t have those genetics then avoid those lifts…or at least use them less frequently. Makes sense, right?

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

ED July 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Why is everything referred to as gaining size. A lot of guys have got to a size they simply want to maintain or tweak slightly. For them which is how I train, doing these exercises is simply about achieving new PB while having good technique. To assume it is purely he exercise itself which is overdeveloping the body is pure nonesense, many top level weightlifters and powerlifters are lean as, the reality is most guys are simply stuffing themselves with too many calories.

Richard July 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

True, I find the upper body far harder to build up than the legs.

Nick July 25, 2012 at 4:08 am

Really nice site, and I agree huge legs are not all they are cracked up to be. Check out http://www.freefitnessgym.com and see Hannibal do some amazing demonstrations of upper body strength. I don’t think he worries too much about his legs and he certainly looks great. As a personal trainer and ex marine I have found functional legs are better than large heavy muscular legs. However there will always be keen bodybuilders out there who just want huge legs. My siter is married to one and he has got massive all over…something she dislikes and preferred him when he was a lean semi pro boxer.

John July 25, 2012 at 6:36 am

Yeah, this article is ridiculous. One simply isn’t going to add enough size to inhibit any lifestyle choices with a modest amount of squatting, and the benefits are too many to list here. Now quit making excuses and go squat.

Sean Nalewanyj July 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I injured my lower back doing MMA training a couple years ago and haven’t squatted or deaded since then. I haven’t noticed any decrease in my overall size since removing them from my routine. I used to be a hardcore “either do squats or you’re automatically a wuss” kind of guy but now not so much. Great article.

Danimal July 28, 2012 at 5:33 am

Love this!!!! I became a little too friendly with squats/dead lifts about a year ago and I became an unfortunate owner of legs with WAY too much muscle mass…. Shudder… About 6 months later and I’m barely starting to see my legs take a shape that I used to have. How did I do it? Not doing a single squat or dead lift. I owe it mainly to cardio.

Glad I came across this!

John D July 28, 2012 at 10:14 am

okay…. I agree… here is my two cents worth… I have been doing “functional” exercise now for about 4 months. I mean really, when in the real world is someone is gonna put a 200 lb bar on my neck and say “go for it”

Curt August 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm


Great article describing your pros and cons on squats and deadlifts. I also want to mention that you can also perform single leg exercises for leg strength, size, and flexibility. I prefer them to barbell squats and deadlifts and am making better gains than ever.


Chris August 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

Definitely a good article. A rarely seen view of squats and deads. I’ll be sharing this

Milan Stolicny August 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

That’s right. Pull ups are. But all the little stuff like walks on the beach and hiking, biking, surfing, open water swimming are too. Enjoying life is the most important.

AE August 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I don’t want to add size to leg muscles, but I can’t do cardio safely without strengthening my hips, quads and glutes. I did a lot of running when those muscles were relatively weak which ended up causing knee instability and pain. Just to clarify, my thighs and glutes are large and develop muscle easily, but they are not strong. Working those muscles with resistance band walking, lunges and squats, as well as foam rolling thighs, hips and it band, helped.

So, according to Rusty, how do I implement the high intensity cardio and running without risking further damage to my knees? Train them once per week like he suggests? Other plyometric type exercises?

Jeff August 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I have to agree with the people stating that this is a very poorly written article.

“I haven’t squatted in years, but I never thought squatting was particularly hard or taxing. I got up to 405 pounds for 5 sets of 6 reps…and it was somewhat tough…but not crazy intense or anything. Sure there are guys who squat over 600 pounds for reps, but it is all relative. There are some in fitness who act like squatting is such an accomplishment. It really isn’t that big of a deal. Heck…I used to run hills in Junior High with my track team, and that was much more intense than my old squat workouts.”

This tells people all they need to know.. The only thing I agree with in this paragraph is that everything is relative. I would love to see the form on your squats as well. I’m truly not trying to be rude, but there is so much misinformation on the internet, it gets to be so tiresome. You have people who think that they are getting “expert” advice just because someone is good at SEO. They read an article, and think that because it is on the internet, it must be true.

I really do wish you all the best with your website, I just can’t believe that this is an article.

And on your “partial deadlift” video, the person is over extending entirely too much on lockout. It gives way too much opportunity for the bar to move out of position (up and down).

Jeff August 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/squatting-101/ – This is the article that everyone should be reading.

Sid August 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I actually really appreciate this article. I am categorized as one of those people trying to gain mass to their legs, but I totally agree with you that you can keep your legs toned and fit just by doing cardio. Right now my squats are pretty weak, but I am reading mixed reviews on how a proper squat is performed. Some people state that when people squat down into the sitting position, it isn’t working your legs fully. I personally have always thought that was the correct form in comparison to a full squat which seems to be overextending and pushing someone to their limits. Btw love the article!

Tommy Newkemall August 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I agree, Rusty Moore has changed my thinking about this exercise. Besides re-injuring my back doing deadlifts I have no idea why I thought I needed such an intense leg day when I could have used that time to lose more fat… Duhhhh.
My legs are proportional so why was I trying to make them bigger. Thanks for helping me re-think my goals and not waste time.
Of course, if you are an athlete and need strength or size, of course, by all means squat away. But for those of us with limited time I’m happy to report that squats can be eliminated – at least until I see a need for them.

Erik August 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

How do you get back in the game…after being not active for years? I’m not overweight but my glutes have gone totally. Will I be able to get them back like I once had them? Please help. Peace!

James August 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm

A lot is going to come down to someone’s individual goals. It’s good to question why you’re doing a particular exercise and not just putting it in your routine because someone else said you have to squat. I feel, for myself anyway, there are other benefits to doing full depth squats besides just gaining muscle mass, even with light resistance, and wouldn’t want to give them up.

Aaron August 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I stopped doing heavy squats and deadlifts cuz my joints were hurting as fuck, and I wanted to keep them for a later age, I’m just 22….

I switched to simply an upper body routine of just chinups, pushups and overhead press. Which gives nice looking mass on upper body and attractive look. Not bulky, but more fight club style body.

eeee August 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm

so stupid

Nicky September 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Thanks for the post Rusty.
I am a woman with naturaly HUGE (muscular) legs (generally referred to as ‘the girl with the legs’) .
With or without leg workout.
I am just getting back into weightlifting (after Tri and Marathon) and have a huge amount of weight (fat) to loose. I was going to add squats to my workout, because it is what you read to do. But I know you are right! So thanks for the reminder!

Gabriel September 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Fair points and a well rounded argument. However, I think there are more reasons why squats and deadlifts are so widely respected than their role in mass gaining – lower weight, higher rep versions of both are great for burning a lot of calories and toning the lower body and core. I don’t necessarily favour one exercise over all, but I do think that compound exercises are very important for every goal I’ve come across. It seems they can be tweaked to benefit any goal, whereas isolation is more limited IMO.

Ron September 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

It does seem strange that your suggestion to stop all all direct leg resistance training is seen as controversial. It seems logical to me also. Not that having big legs is a problem for me. They have always looked skinny – not enough squats I suppose.

Thomas September 8, 2012 at 1:29 am

Squats don’t make ones legs huge, nor do deadlifts. Best thing I added to my workout were both. You don’t need to squat 400+ and dl 500+. Higher reps a moderate weight will do nicely if you are afraid of mass.

SPRVLN September 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm

This is one of the most inane things I have ever read. Everyone in this room is now dumber by reading that. I award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul.

Austin September 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I hate the term “functional legs” im only 5’9 185lbs and have 26″ thighs, and mine are pretty functional, i can grab rim , i can run a 4.6 40 yard dash, i can squat 400+ deadlift 500+, can drag heavy objects, push heavy sleds. What does functional have to do with mass? The only way mass directly effects functionality is when it compromises range of motion, and unless you are a juiced up body builder trying to be a ballerina doing the splits, i don’t see that happening to people.

RYAN September 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm


Christos September 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm

It takes a couple of minutes of reading to realize the target audience here is women.
So it becomes repetitive to read about how making your legs and butt bigger is a no no so stop squats, stop deadlifts.
Just a thought though, can women have legs that are too muscular through natural training?
So why they can have strong muscular legs from squats they are better off having slim untrained ones?
Sorry man but this is another example of women being victimized by beauty standards set by the gay industry.
From people who can’t get aroused by a woman’s figure so they measure their beauty with a tape.

God September 23, 2012 at 7:44 am

I would say 99% of these people on this page have next to no idea. There are many reasons to load the lower body with heavy weights and just seeing the word toned makes me shudder. Cheer up people, your all acting like just looking at heavy weight makes you look like mr or ms olympia. What a load of bullshit

Scott@Muscle Wanted September 27, 2012 at 3:23 am

Rusty, I think you missed your calling if you were able to squat that weight at your height and it wasn’t too taxing. It would be hilarious (maybe just to me) if you would train just your legs and not your upper body. You would look the opposite of most gymgoers with the large upper body and no legs. That would be a sight! Captain lower body.

Anyway, you obviously have a propensity to gain size in your lower half. Not sure what the controversy is if someone has a similar body type and they don’t want large muscular legs. You would limit training on any bodypart that overpowers your body if you want to be proportionate.

On the flip side, Arnold often did squats and deadlifts and still had an amazingly tapered waist. A lot of pro bodybuilders today seem to gravitate towards just the leg press but still have bulky midsections. Steroids aside, people just build differently. If you’re natural, your ability to add muscle is limited but you can still add more in one place easier than another. In that case, you saying to restrict direct stimulation seems logical to me.

I don’t currently limit either squats or deadlifts because my goal is to build the most muscle I can naturally. If that is the goal, those exercises are tools in achieving that. I would also agree that if you are natural, simply limiting deadlifts and squats because your afraid of adding too much mass is naive until you try it. Adding a lot of muscle is not that easy for most. Don’t limit just out of fear. Check YouTube for plenty of women/girls deadlifting a lot of weight with their small “toned” bodies.

jordan September 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

You gotta squat, lunge or deadlift (but not necessarily with heavy weight). It makes no sense to weight train the upper body, and only do cardio for the lower body. If that’s the case, cut out the upper body weight training and replace it with some type of upper body cardio (ex. boxing).

MIA October 5, 2012 at 5:38 am

this is bullshit. you are not going to get huge legs from squatting and deadlifting unless you are eating in a surplus.

Stephen October 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

This article is complete garbage. Whoever wrote this is a hippie. It would take me to long to correct everything on this page. Its all wrong!

mark October 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Article is complete trash!! These are two good exercises. It depends on what your goals are, you can lift to pack on muscle or to lose fat. A key factor that this guy fails to mention is diet. Diet is key when trying to get shredded or pack on mass. Damn miscer!

Aaron October 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I agree with you for two reasons:

1. Heavy squats and deadlifts has caused me serious joint inflammation around ankle area, better save those joints than having bigger quads.

2. The visual impact is not this great, I prefer focusing on adding mass to arms, shoulders and pecs.
And go for the fight club physique rather than body builder look.

Overall, for overall joint health and sex appeal, you don’t need to do squats and deadlifts at all. Muscle gains is not about strength, it’s about calorie surplus.

Ulisse October 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

I want more strenght, but I don’t want to be bulky.
Squats and deads are essential. I’ve put back heavy squats and deads into my routine for the past 6 months and I’ve brought back my 1rm at 170 kg dead and 140 kg squat at 79 kg of bodyweight. I’ve hardly gained 1 kg of muscle during these months, by keeping the reps low and the pauses long, but lifting progressively heavier. My maxes were at a terrible 112 squat and 120 dead after a year of just hiit et similia.
For sure squats and deads ain’t for everybody; but almost.

J Eliott October 23, 2012 at 1:50 am

Not sure what the hate in the more recent comments are about, I don’t necessarily agree with the article either but people are entitled to their opinions, if you want to squat and deadlift then go ahead and do it, if you don’t want to nobody can make your. Personally I fell in love with squatting after I accidentally discovered I could vertical leap over my front fence easily, something I hadn’t been able to do for 10 years due to a lack of lower body power

Marcus October 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Squats and deadlifts are absolutely the king A and B of exercises. If you had to pick one exercise to do it should be one of these, and there simply is no substitute. They provide cardiovascular improvement, endurance, strength and flexibility if done right.

If you don’t want to gain mass with these exercises then 1) limit your protein intake and 2) lift light weight for high reps.

BOOM….article has just been slammed!

bridgit November 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

my friend she,had a mall lifted butt, till she used heavy weights and stopped, after two years, what can she do , it flat now and lost shape , she is very depressed bt this can you help in any way ???

Thank you !!!

John November 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm

@Marcus – Like Rusty said, there will be people who are all for Squats/Deadlifts. To think that they are the king of exercises is your choice. If it were the king of exercises, martial artists, runners, athletes, etc would only need to do these 2 exercises to be the best? Get real. I’m pretty sure Bruce Lee would still be able to beat a guy who did 700pnd squats.

@Rusty – I like the way you explain things. There are people who are just arrogant and don’t accept other people’s thoughts and practices behind something. I’ve been following your workout routines and love the article about Round and Big vs Cut and Defined. Great work!

Mach November 5, 2012 at 11:00 am

I dropped squats from my strength-building routine a couple of months ago- I do deadlift however, once a week.

I hated the fact that getting up out of the ‘love seat’ was a bit of a strain- I’d ask my wife to give me a helpful push… my thighs were ‘toast’!

Workouts should be enjoyable (as well as challenging)- heavy squatting became too grueling- not worth the pain and strain for me!

They would interfere with my sleep too…

.. Yep, stay liberated- forget squatting- I’m making great gains with all of my other exercises!

Nice article, nice to see that not everyone is an unquestioning Rippetoe/Medhi disciple!

“Get under the bar and squat?!”… **** off! ( -:

Sanssaying November 7, 2012 at 10:42 am

I find the “get the hollywood look” approach to fitness largely appalling. If bodysculpting & vanity are your fitness priorities, then perhaps bypassing squats & deadlifts is sound. However, if longetivity, a healthy back, athletic performance, mobility & agility are concerns squats & deadlifts are superb. Yes, they demand a large investment of time to perfect technique, but the long term rewards are worth that investment.

The fitness world has shifted at large from the “aesthetics first” mindset advocated in this post and throughout the site in general. This post is a throwback. Train like an athlete and the aethetics fall into place. Train for vanity and you’ll look weird (regardless if you’re a steroid abusing meathead or an HIIT-for-physique advocate).

John November 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

I just bought a squat rack for dead lifts and Squats and to safely do bench presses because I don’t have a spotter it cost about 400 and i thought it would be cool be because I bought this guys program and he said the whole thing about deadlifts and Squats being the king of lifts and those are part of the program .. I actually just started the program but after reading this article I’m starting to hope I don’t get a weird mishaped lower body.. What’s a low weight that I could be using for d lifts and Squats that won’t put givE me giant thighs and a weird lower body? I’m using a low weight right now of 205 for dlifts.. And 145 for Squats because I have just started lifting weights…

bridgit November 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

well my friend also has loose bigger thights and calfs now after overtraining with weights , she is so depressed im very concerned, does she have to go back weights training or should she try loose the loose flab on legs first ??? she is an ectomorph shape but had skinny fat now since stopped heavey weights , would appreiate advise thanks !!!

Keri M.B. November 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I have big thighs no matter what – mid 40s. I LOVE squatting / deadlifts. I also do compound exercises and limited (very limited) isolation exercises. So I aim to workout the entire body at once.

I am complimented on my legs so much, I could probably be a leg model. My legs are not tiny (I’m 5’2 and 140lb) – but my legs are rock solid muscle (muscle does weigh more than fat ladies.) I even had an ultrasound done of my legs and they sent me for an MRI there was so much muscle.

I’d rather have muscle (with no signs of flab or cellulite) than “skinny / thin” legs. I also workout my upper body just as equally hard in the weights department – so I look balanced.

Thomas Cardwell November 21, 2012 at 2:33 am

It is absolutely NOT TRUE to generalise that people tend to gain mass quicker in their lower body. Sure, some people may build big quads very quickly but this is no more likely than somone else who happens to have a particularly impressive set of triceps. It is entitely down to the individual and youll find that most people will absolutely have to hammer their legs with squats and alot more to get them anywhere near large. It was not just happen by accident with a few sets of squats each week.

Also, the statement that intense cardio is enough to build impressive legs is a joke. This along with your other statement about not wanting to have big legs so you still can buy fitted jeans shows me that you are a typical anti-bodybuilding type. I bet you also run down big guys for not being able to run marathons and not having ‘functional strength’. From viewing some of the other articles on this site it is clear that the writers are anti-bodybuilding, anti muscle gain. This ariticle is clearly aimed at scaring women away from the weights room and it is compete bullsh1t.

Ladies, do not listen to what this guy is saying. Keep squats and deadlifts in your routines if you want to stay lean, fit and strong. Unless you are hormone assisted you will NOT grow huge muscles, you will become lean and athletic. If nothing else, the calorie burning effects of a hard leg or back routine are brilliant. If your worried about becoming too muscular, take a look at some of the IFBB bikini division girls, who all train super hard and heavy as they can, they are all stunning and far from muscular.

Pasadena December 4, 2012 at 11:42 am

I’m a woman. I used to squat for 3-4 sets of 15 reps on a regular basis. Weight was heavy enough that I couldn’t do more (more than my BW -and I’m not light).

I also did a few “strenght” programs a year, where I squatted more weight for 3 to 6 reps.

While I’m tall and have pretty “long” muscles, I’m not your regular girly girl with a dancer’s body. My legs are my strong point.

I never had big quads. They were strong, and hard. But never did they really grow. I believe they were thinner (leaner) than before I started squatting (and leg-pressing). And it was one of the toughest exercises for my abs.

I think it’s more HOW you squat (as in the program you use, sets/reps/weight) than the mere fact of squatting.

bridgit December 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm

lifting too much and two many times a week can dstroy a womans body when she stops it stretches the skin and gives you loose skin and flabby flesh. if wemon want to lift they should always get advise from a proper trainer that knows what there talking about, cause it leaves people scared for life and feeling distought even sucideal after the dammage is done .

bridgit December 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm

believe me i know a girl in this situation …………..

Ziya December 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Whilst I like most of what you have to say in your other articles, this one is a complete joke. I don’t see how squats and deadlifts would gain you an unnecessary amount of muscle unless you lift and eat heavily enough for that purpose. The last time I checked, that was the same with all other body parts.

To illustrate my point, here’s a youtube video of a ‘functional looking’ dude squatting 315 lbs X 5. He doesn’t have ‘tree-trank’ legs and probably wouldn’t if he worked his way up to 405. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afxQ_c4E-rs&feature=plcp

Sorry Rusty but you’re off target here. Nothing wrong with you not liking these exercises but that does not negate the benefits of performing them.

Personal Record Fitness December 28, 2012 at 1:11 am

Big legs are part of genetics. If you have the genetics to have larger legs than an upper body, your upper body will hardly grow unless your legs do. And vise versa. It`s simple Biology. And you do not have to train for size. Strength and Conditioning are also an option with these moves. They are the kings because you use these moves in real life. (sitting and picking things up)

bridgit January 1, 2013 at 11:43 am

my friend tried to kill herself last week cause of the damage she has done to her body with wheights , she has lost more wheight now looks aneroxic and has loose flesh and skin she is very down, she said she did over work her body and especially her lower bdy with too many squats and lunges and then leg press , using heavy wheights on four days in a trott not to mention the upper body workout also, for two years, if anyone can help or give advice if she can gain back some muscle and hopefully get rid of the loose flesh and skin without overdoing it , please advise, if you could get back to me rusty would greatly appreciate it thank you !!!

Helen January 3, 2013 at 3:35 am

I am trying to get my thighs and calves to grow, I hate having legs like chopsticks. The above article is usefull to me because I know now to hammer my legs with squats so that they will grow. Many thanks!

Mark Propes January 3, 2013 at 4:35 am

Rusty is correct. People have opinions that are different and they may or may not change by listening to other ideas that are not mainstream. He was very clear in the article to tailor squats to your desired goal. Just listen to another viewpoint and do not be so obstinate when it comes to learning. That is how we all progress as humans. Remember the earth was once thought of as being flat until proved differently.

Affection for Fitness January 3, 2013 at 7:45 am

Hi! I am a woman with very well developed muscles in my legs who does no lower body weightlifting at all. I stopped several years ago because it was incredibly hard on my knees. Instead, I do a variety of other types of exercises, including yoga balancing poses, to keep my leg muscles very strong and backside firm but my knee joints safe. Actually, the yoga balancing poses have gently rehabbed much of the knee problems that the weightlifting caused. My knees feel better than they did 10 years ago! So I completely agree with this post. People with knee problems should be receptive to other less joint-stressful routes to well-developed leg muscles.

🙂 Marion

Katherine January 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

I don’t understand all these people who are pretending that no woman puts on lower body muscle. When I was speedskating, I lifted heavy, and my thigh muscles got so huge I couldn’t cross my legs. Even now, 20 years after stopping, brisk walking with some hills is enough to keep my legs firm.

Ksh January 6, 2013 at 1:03 am

Pavel addresses this point in Beyond Bodybuilding, and says that pistols, deadlifts, dead squats and kettlebell hack squats etc do not add much mass to your lower body while getting it stronger.

bridgit January 11, 2013 at 10:19 am

why are the recent comments gone is it because they are true squats and lunges lifting heavy is bad for you it destroyes your body when you stop ….. loose skin and flab………………and its very true ….. so wemon keep away from wheights always..

bridgit January 11, 2013 at 10:21 am

sorry i appolagise the commonts are there ……….

Lee January 16, 2013 at 6:49 am

Squats and deadlifts are not the king of exercises for a lot of people – this much is true. Why? Simply, there are safer and more efficient ways to target the legs and lower body, such as unilateral training.

Respected strength and conditioning coach Michael Boyle writes about this, explaining how single limb training is a more effective – and anatomically correct – way to train. In a world where few trainees squat properly, Boyle proposes that conventional double leg movements are flawed and that single leg exercises provide a more functional way to exercise while enjoying higher levels of safety.

Boyle argues: “If what we were doing worked so well, why do we have so many tears and bad backs? I truly believe that single leg training is the best way to prevent knee injuries and the best way to train around a back problem.”

However, just like many of your readers (and coach Boyle), I feel some type of leg training is far too important to simply ignore. Because of this, I don’t plan on parting with my split squats any time soon!

Thank you for your article.

Steph January 19, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I tend to carry more muscle in my shoulders and arms. If I overdo it on the upper body stuff I look hulking…

Steph January 19, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I wish my lower body got bigger the easiest! Who doesn’t want a big butt!?

saudi kid January 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I kicked out all lower body exersices . (My leg still mascular though)
it is just not natural to work your lower body.
I will never forget that day. After finishing tough lower body workout my mother asked me to go with her to the shopping mall . I couldn’t walk normally. Even drunk person will walk better than me. At that time I realized the mistake I was doing. Natural life activities don’t require great legs strength. Its all about cardiovascular and upper body strength.
Have you lift heavy things to your home using your legs before?

The best idea is to use your lower body for cardio only. I usually do HIT session with jump rope
Sorry my English is crape.
Thank you rusty moore for these great articles
I will recommend your blog to people I know here in Saudi Arabia.
Good luck

Eric February 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi Rusty,

Great article. Real eye-opener. I’ve been working my legs at every opportunity in an effort to get lean. I’m about 165lbs and between 5″10/5″11. My immediate goal is to reach 158lbs. Can I use bodyweight squats and/or lunges as a warm up exercise without making them bigger?



Fred Bowman February 4, 2013 at 12:08 am

I agree that there is in fact a group of people who views squats and deadlifts as a major achievement. For me, I just do it when necessary and stop when I have accomplished what I aim for, like a certain amount of mass on my thighs and calves. Both squatting and dead lifting cannot be done as a daily exercise regime but only as a toning or mass/muscle building programme.

Roberto February 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Great post! Realy helpfull

Alyssa February 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

lifting at a calorie deficit will NOT mke muscles larger and or bulky, especially for women!! We have way too much estrogen to get bulky…the misinfromation here is incredible to me. Do your reaearch people….i have gotten increcibly lean by lifting HEAVY and keeping calorie deficit, anybody can.

Alex February 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hi Rusty, I was just wondering if bodyweight squads and lunges (no weights) also make women gain excessive muscle mass in the legs? I am a runner and to these about 4 times per week in addition to running/elliptical and can’t help noticing that I have bigger legs than about 3-4years ago. This was before beginning to run, I just used to to do some cycling about 2-3 times a week and a LOT of brisk walking, everyday, my legs were literally like sticks. So would bodyweight squats have added this much muscle and should I just cut them out altogther now? (As I run longer distances any extra muscle weight is really not gonig to help me). Thanks!

wyzz March 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I cannot stop laughing at the nonsense in this blog. to the author of this blog, come at me bro @ forum.bodybuilding.com.

only people with no lifting experience will buy into what you said– a shit load of bro science

Sheldon March 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Great article, I couldn’t agree more about not overdoing it with squats and leg lifts.

Sally April 27, 2013 at 10:23 pm

This article makes sense. Really, a lot of it seems like common sense. The author talks about how squats and dead lifts are good for some and not for others. Obviously, everyone is different. However, the author also takes a swipe at people who are into squatting by saying it is not a big deal. So the negative reviews are not surprising.

FitAndFab June 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Hi Rusty,

Great info you are sharing. I agree that cardo is good to build lower body muscle without the bulk. I’m a big fan of jump rope for an overall workout. I do like to incorporate squats too but I do limit it as I’m not looking to beef up my legs, just tone them nicely. Thanks for the info.


Caffeine Fitness July 13, 2013 at 5:42 am

Great post Rusty!

People need to realise that no exercise is a must-do no matter what others say.

Attaining a base level of strength is a sensible initial route to take, but once there you need to re-assess your goals and how your body looks with this new strength.

Sean August 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Although opinions vary, two things: 1. Women’s lower extremities do “bulk” and actually grow faster than men’s (this isn’t bunk science this truth. Women, for those who are unaware, bare children. If they don’t, they are still built (as a whole) to do so. Women outlifted the men in high school aalllllll the time.) 2. I’m not sure if the lower body literally grows faster or if that’s the affect it gives because more muscle (half your body including the largest, gluteus max…your ass) is growing at once.

Ryan August 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

While reading this I became almost offended. This whole article and most comments below just sound like pages and pages of excuses for denying your body of two GREAT excercises. Nearly every serious professional powerlifter, athlete, bodybuilder, ect… ect… uses these two excercises because they reap so many benefits from doing them CORRECTLY. Why publicly bash an excercise that has been proven to be more effective then most in order to make yourself feel more comfortable with your lack of it? Call me what you want. First article I’ve read on this site, feeling the need to go no further. Going back to where the professional give you real advice.

Cate September 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Great article! Finally the truth not just the usual garbage about lift heavy and you won’t bulk. Most women who have been exercising consistently for a while will find that squats (even yoga routines heavy in long held squat poses) will build leg bulk in a way they don’t like. The longer you have been exercising the quicker the muscle will build due to muscle memory. Even aerobics due to the squat and lunge based nature of the moves will do this in some women. I avoid aerobics, squats, and any lower body work apart from ballet and yoga stretches ( not holds) and my legs look much better than when I was going to the gym. Also most women should avoid the static cycle machines and stairmasters etc.

Ian Kelley November 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I am pretty sure that you are talking about squats and deadlifts using significant load since you claim to have done 405 lb. squats that were “no big deal” and I think this post like a lot of your other ones i have read are missing a couple of important considerations.
1. Eating more or less is the primary cause of reduction in body mass. If you don’t want to “bulk up” you need to eat less and healthier not lift lighter weights or do only cardio
2. HIIT training such as Crossfit or a good Fitness Bootcamp which includes bodyweight or light load squats and 1 leg deadlifts is far more effective for everything than steady state “cardio” which is what I take away as your meaning in the post.

The squat and deadlift are very important functional exercises that everyone should be doing (no load required) because we all need these exercises for the rest of our life. If you have ever sat on a toilet or picked your purse off the ground you are squatting and deadlifting. You should at least learn how to do it properly without surrendering your lumbar curve on deadlifts and with full ROM and hip extension on the squats. Just sayin…..

Cat September 2, 2014 at 3:03 pm

As a young woman with PCOS, my testosterone levels are slightly elevated. Ever time I increased the weight on my squats, my thighs increased in girth. I can’t fit into any of the pants I wore just a year ago! My quads are definitely larger and my thighs are just to big for my taste; I’m comfortable at a size 4-6. This article makes total sense. I’m really glad I stumbled upon this. Thanks Rusty!

Lindsey King September 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I think it’s so funny that all of these guys that don’t agree with this article are getting so hurt and crying about it. All he is saying is that squats aren’t for everyone and I think that this article is really more for women. I’m a female that almost competed in figure, and for me I do know that if I’m not doing the bodybuilder diet and cardio every single day, I WILL bulk up if I’m doing any squats or lower body excersises with added weight. I just don’t understand why everyone is bashing this guy so much, guys aren’t pussys if they don’t feel like squatting and some women WILL bulk if they lift heavy lower body! It’s just a fact!!

Chris November 5, 2014 at 6:34 am

Why is every body getting all fired up on people telling their different Experiences in training ? I am 54 yrs old and started lifting when I was 13. Met allot of the top notch bodybuilders of my time including Arnold, the Menters, Boyer Coe, Casey viator, etc. I like them, have done some really impressive squatting and dead lifting in my life. Rusty is 6”3 doing a rock bottom squat of 405. Hell most people don’t go rock bottom .Now at that height that is impressive. . I trained for years doing these lifts heavy and hard with extreme prejudice of adding more and more weight under good form. Guess what, I have had bilateral total knee replacements now in my 50’s. Now if you think that squatting and dead lifting is so great for everyone have your orthopaedic surgeon’s phone number on speed dial because when you get older you will have problems. Just like the above mentioned body builders, Arnold has had knee surgeries, both the mentzers died in their 50’s a week apart. All the author is trying to relay is that for a lean and toned look with density, you don’t need to over do these lifts, and there comes a point of diminishing returns. Not everyone wants to be a muscle head like us. How much this article could of helped me years ago, because knee replacement therapy will make your squatting and dead lifting look like child’s play. But just like me we all know everything when we are younger and we must learn this crap on our own. Keep an open mind people, not to long ago they said smoking is not bad for you

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