September 07, 2021 10 min read

The average lifter will be able to deadlift more than they squat. Many factors including weight and body type impact whether individuals can lift heavier weight squatting or deadlifting. Lighter people tend to do better with deadlifts, for example.

What’s the use in comparing two lifts? It’s not just to brag about your prowess with one or the other. These strength ratios help identify weaknesses and strength imbalances between muscle groups. The deadlift is just one of the traditional reference lifts and the most ideal for amateur and non-professional weightlifters.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about strength ratios and how you calculate the ideal deadlift to squat ratio for yourself.

Differences Between the Squat and the Deadlift

Squats and deadlifts target many of the same muscles but not in quite the same way. The glutes play a major role in both of these exercises, for instance, but the range of motion they go through is different.

 Black shirtless bodybuilder doing squatting with a barbell on shoulder.

Both are lower-body strength training moves. But while the deadlift focuses on a hip hinge and the lifting weight off the ground, squats place the weight on your upper body while your knees hinge but your back and hips remain in a fixed position. It’s clear that these two ranges of motion don’t work your muscles the same way.

Deadlifts target your glutes, hamstring, and lower back muscles. Squats work your thighs and quads in addition to the glutes. Squats also improve knee stability by exercising the muscles that support your knee while deadlifts focus on your hip joint.

Although each of these exercises has its own list of variations that expand its reach, you just can’t get the same benefits from squatting that you can from deadlifting.

The reverse is also true. Both should be included in any fitness routine worth its salt.

The Ideal Squat to Deadlift Ratio

Amateur weightlifters will have to make different calculations than professional powerlifters to find their ideal squat to deadlift ratio. For one thing, they’re dealing with completely different strength levels.

Plus, powerlifters training for championships or the Olympics use the clean and jerk more than the conventional deadlift.

The overhead “jerk” portion of the clean and jerk showcases upper body strength that other weightlifting exercises like the deadlift don’t.Here’s a quick look at some fairly reasonable deadlift numbers that will work as a baseline for the majority of lifters:

Deadlift: 125 lbs

Front Squat: 85 lbs

Back Squat: 100 lbs

You can get some idea about the ratio that should exist between these three lifts. Convert them to percentages of your back squat max if you want to know how much you should be lifting in the front squat and deadlift.

Calculating Your Squat to Deadlift Ratio

Although it might amp you up more, don’t make these calculations with your one-rep max. 1RM changes from day to day and over time. Use a 3 rep max or 5 rep max. Make sure you do this regularly to recalibrate as you improve on your starting strength.

Most lifters use the bench press, military press, or powerlift deadlift to calculate their base weight. The base weight is going to be your 100% - the other weights will be a percentage of the first one. When you’re getting this first weight amount, make sure the conditions are always the same. You don’t want to have small unseen things screwing up your ratio.

Try to use the same barbell/weight set and keep a regular diet and fitness routine going. Space out your 3 or 5RM with your core lift from other big lifts to make sure you aren’t overly fatigued. Hitting lower than you wanted will discourage you on your path to glory.

Once you have a deadlift 3 or 5RM that you feel is representative of your ability, you can calculate what your squat max should be. To put this number to use, you need to run through some squats and see how far off the mark you are.

Can You Do Deadlifts and Squats On the Same Day?

Yes, you can deadlift and squat on the same day.

Keep in mind that your glutes and core may be exhausted by one move and fail during reps of the other. If you’re going to combine them during the same workout session, make sure you prioritize the one that suits your fitness goals the best.

But when you’re trying to calibrate your max squat weight, you shouldn’t try it right after you’ve just run through lots of deadlifts. You should be lifting under ideal conditions so you can see what you’re capable of. Deplete your hamstrings and glutes with even one deadlift rep and you’ve already affected your squat ratio for the worse.

3 Things That Are Killing Your Deadlift to Squat Ratio

If you’ve run through and calculated how much you should be able to squat and aren’t lifting that number, you might be limited by one of the following factors:

1. Your Body Type

Characteristics like height and weight may make either squats or deadlifts easier for you. People who weigh more tend to be better at squats while lifters in a lower weight class often fare better with deadlifts. Shorter people are better at certain deadlift variations, but we’ll talk about those in the next section. Research has shown that people whose torsos are longer (expressed in proportion to their legs) are better at the sumo deadlift variation.

Muscular fitness man doing deadlift a barbell in modern fitness center.

Lifters with shorter legs are at a disadvantage when it comes to deadlifting. The way your body stores energy and builds muscle could affect how easy it is for you to improve on your starting strength.

Your weight class isn’t an automatic determinant. The big change starts just above 200 pounds for men and 140 pounds for a woman. Remember to account for your body fat percentage when considering your body weight for these calculations.

2. Your Exercise Choices

Both deadlifts and squats have tons of variations that target different muscle groups or challenge your body differently. You could be disadvantaging yourself by using the wrong variation. The tricky thing about this potential problem is that it’s best to use lots of different exercises and exercise variations to triangulate where you’re having the most problems.

Let’s say you use front and back squats as well as the snatch, clean, and powerlifting deadlifts. The exercise that’s the furthest away from the ideal number is where your greatest weakness lies.Here’s the thing: the vast majority of lifters at every level are not satisfied with their ratios.

That’s what keeps us motivated and trying our hardest to put on more muscle mass and build functional strength at the gym day in and day out. So when you’re calculating yours, remember that you should be looking for the number that’s farthest away. Ideally, this will change from time to time and you can alternate your workout routine accordingly.

3. Your Grip Strength

Another key difference between squats and deadlifts is that they don’t require the same amount of grip strength. Deadlifts obviously require much more, while standard squats allow your shoulders and upper body to bear some of the brunt of the barbell.

Even when you’re doing front squats with a dumbbell or other squat variations that do involve more grip, your overall grip strength will still be impacting your deadlift poundage more because virtually every deadlift relies on it.

Pull-ups and chin-ups are great bodyweight exercises for improving your grip strength if you think that could be the culprit behind less than ideal deadlifting weight. Even dead hangs will help if your pull-up count is also lackluster. Towel pull-ups and resistance band pulldowns work as well.

When Do I Need A Higher Squat Ratio?

Whether you’re trying to be the next powerlifting star or not, falling below the strength standards you’ve set for yourself can be disheartening. That’s just part of the challenge when it comes to weightlifting and bodybuilding. You have to find the most effective strategies to reverse your strength disparities and improve your overall lift maximum across the board.

The first thing you need to be able to do to make all of this calculating and comparing worthwhile is to understand how to read the numbers once you have them. In a really simple stack-up where you’re only comparing your deadlift and squat poundages, the job is straightforward enough.

If your squat ratio is over 100% of your deadlift ratio, work on increasing the weight on the barbell when you deadlift. When your deadlift is higher, do the opposite. It’s a constant back and forth but that’s what weightlifting is all about.

How to Get a Higher Deadlift Weight

Surpassing a deadlifting plateau can be challenging, particularly when you’ve been at it for a year or two. Getting over that hurdle takes a new level of commitment that not everyone needs, wants, or is able to give.Form issues are really common with deadlifting. Try using lighter weight and moving slowly through the motions to refocus on the fundamentals.

Get a personal trainer or ask a buddy to spot you or even record your deadlifting so you can watch your lift form later.

One deadlift variation that helps improve form is the rack pull. You place the barbell in the rack and place the pins above or below your knees depending on which section of the deadlift you want to practice.

Lifting the barbell from above your knees focuses on the second half of the deadlift and the lockout while placing it lower will help you focus on the lower section and spare you the difficulty of having to get the bar off the ground.

How to Get a Higher Squat Weight

Squats are more frequently the problem when people look at their ratios. This is because the majority of people at the amateur level are beneath the threshold where they would naturally be better at squats. Remember, it’s not just men above 200 pounds and women above 140 that usually find squatting easier but people above those weight classes who also have the muscle mass to make lifting easier in general.

If you’re relatively new to weight training, just keep practicing your squats to build squat strength. Use isolation exercises to hit your quads and try blasting out more reps at a lower rate to continuously exhaust your muscles and encourage hypertrophy.

Young athlete exercising goblet squats

Once you start to see some plateauing - or when you just get bored with the same old squat form - switch up with some squat variations. Try the Bulgarian split squat, banded front squat, and goblet squats. Throw in some single-leg variations to even out any strength imbalances between the left and right side of your body.

Deadlift to Squat Ratio Ranges

Don’t feel like you have to hit a precise mark with your ratios. So many things can affect whether your squat weight is in a good proportion to your squat weight that a definite number might be a fruitless pursuit. But you can aim for a certain range.

The results of these ratios also vary and if you aim for a range of percentages then you can be satisfied that you’re still comfortably within range even if your poundage slacks off a bit occasionally. Your squat can be anywhere from 80 - 90% of your deadlift weight.

If you’re trying to calibrate for full-body strength and not just concentrating on the lower body with squats and deadlifts, then your bench press should be 75% of your back squat weight. Here’s how men’s deadlift to squat ratios might change with bodyweight:

Bodyweight

Squat:Deadlift Percentage

140

84 - 88%

150

86 - 90%

160

88 - 92%

170

90 - 94%

180

92 - 96%

190

96 - 100%

200

98 - 104%

210

102 - 110%


In the real world, your ratio probably won’t progress in a way that fits in with these ranges perfectly. The far end of the spectrum can vary greatly according to body type and the strictness of the fitness regimen that has been followed. For the majority of people, the lower end of these ranges is more likely.

There simply isn’t enough time to get these ratios exactly where you want them. Here’s how those same ranges could look for women. Remember that the ratio tends to start favoring squats after body weight surpasses 140.

Bodyweight

Squat:Deadlift Percentage

110

88 - 92%

120

90 - 94%

130

92 - 96%

140

96 - 100%

150

98 - 104%

160

102 - 110%

170

105 - 120%


As we said before, these ratios are given as ranges because there are so many things that have to be factored in. Since many women work on building out their booty and legs, it’s likely that a sustained fitness routine will help imbalance this ratio in favor of squats.

Identifying Weaknesses With Ratios

Try to get out of the mindset where you’re only considering deadlifts and squats as ends in themselves. You should be trying to build more muscle mass and functional strength to match. Think of the action of each exercise and try to identify where you need improvement on those terms.

For example, you might want to use exercises that improve your pulling or pushing power. Squatting and pressing are two other ways to look at it. Squats are a real motion that you use in your daily life while deadlifts aren’t.

The 3:4:5 Ratio

Lots of lifters use a 3:4:5 ratio as an ideal strength standard to work toward. Rather than expressing a ratio via percentages, each of these numbers represents a fixed weight goal for benching, squatting, and deadlifting, respectively. So you would try to bench 300 lbs, squat 400, and deadlift 500. For the most part, this arrangement is popular because it’s easy to remember and a goal that takes a long time to reach.

You also account for advantages due to your body type by making it more of a 3:5:4 ratio. As you can see, any kind of ratio is not meant to work as a fixed goal for you to reach but as a handy way to identify weaknesses and give you an idea of how your strength is developing. It’s a moving standard, not a fixed one.

You can’t just measure your 3 or 5 rep max and work with that information for months. It’s going to change, as it should, and you should adjust your workouts accordingly.

Conclusion:

Setting up goals for yourself and tracking how successful your fitness routine has been is a challenge.

When it comes to lower-body strength, measuring your deadlift to squat ratio is a great way to do it.

While we can say an ideal deadlift to squat ratio is about 80 - 90%, that’s incredibly broad and doesn’t account for differences in body types and attributes like height and proportional torso length that could make either deadlifts or squats easier for an individual.

Use the information in this guide to decide for yourself what ratio makes the best goal for your future and get a realistic picture of where your strength level stands in the present. Success is more likely when you know exactly what you’re working with. 


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