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.
“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?
181 thoughts on “Squats and Deadlifts are Not the “King of Exercise” for a Lot of People.”
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
Comments are closed.