Let’s first review Basic Squat and Basic Deadlift form. Looking at basic form will start to highlight the differences between the two moves.


The most basic form of the Squat is the Bodyweight Squat. This move can be regressed by sitting down to a bench or progressed by adding weight.

To do the Bodyweight Squat, stand nice and tall with your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be parallel and pointing straight ahead. You can place your hands across your chest on your shoulders or reach your hands out in front of you.

Then sit your butt back and down, bending at your knees as you keep your chest up. Keep your heels down as you drop your butt as close to the ground as you can.

Do not let your back round or chest fall forward as you squat. Also, make sure to keep your heels down. Only squat as low as your mobility allows.

Then drive through your heels and come back up to standing. Do not come forward onto your toes or lean forward as you stand back up. Squeeze your glutes at the top.

If your back rounds or if you shift your weight to one side or the other as you squat, do not squat as low and work on your mobility before increasing weight.

Also beware of your knees caving in or bowing out. Your hips, knees and ankles should all be in line as you squat.

If you find your squat depth is limited or your form has flaws, you will want to strengthen your glutes and improve your ankle, hip and even thoracic mobility.


For the Basic Deadlift we will review a Basic Bodyweight Hip Hinge.

To do the Bodyweight Hip Hinge, stand tall with your feet between hip-width and shoulder-width apart. Cross your arms over your chest and place your hands on your shoulders.

Then begin to hinge over at your hips, pushing your butt back toward the wall behind you as you lean forward. Keep your back flat as you hinge over and make sure to sit your butt back as you hinge. Keep your heels down on the ground as you hinge. Then drive up and squeeze your glutes at the top before hinging back over.

Do not let your back round. Make sure to sit your butt back as you hinge over and not simply lean forward. Also, do not be afraid to bend your knees as you hinge over. Your legs do not need to stay straight with the Deadlift or Hip Hinge.

As you hinge over, do not shift your weight to one side or the other. Sit straight back.


Just to be clear, they may both work your legs but they are NOT the same movement. They activate and develop the muscles of our legs, back and core differently.

However, if we are going for the simplest answer about the difference between the two moves it would be – The Squat is a Squat movement and the Deadlift is a Hip Hinge movement.

The Squat focuses on knee bend and dropping your butt toward the ground to work your legs while the Deadilft focuses more on hinging at the hips to load the glutes.

The Deadlift is generally considered to be a more posterior chain focused movement (aka it is focused on working your backside), and, while the Squat will still work your backside, the move generally involves more quad.

More forward lean is also acceptable during the Deadlift as you are hinging at the hips while with the Squat you are trying to sit down while keeping your chest more upright.

There are, however, exceptions to these basic distinctions and even variations of both movements that really combine both and could almost even be labeled either way.

How you load down each of these moves is also generally different.

Generally with a Deadlift you hold a barbell, kettlebell, sandbag or dumbbells in your hands extended down by your sides or in front of your legs. 

Usually with a Squat the weight is placed up near your shoulders. You can load the Squat by placing a barbell on your back behind your shoulders or you can front-load the move with the barbell in your hands at about your collarbone. 

So simply put – the Squat is generally loaded up around your shoulders while the weight for the deadlift is generally picked up off the ground and held down by your sides or down in front.

However, like with everything in health and fitness, nothing is black and white.

There can still be overlap between the two moves. You can hold a kettlebell down in front and Squat.


  • The Squat and the Deadlift are different moves. One is a Squat movement where you bend the knees to sink the butt as close to the ground as your mobility allows while the other is a Hip Hinge movement not as focused on knee bend but on hinging at the hips.
  • Also, generally, the two moves are loaded different.
  • However, there can be some overlap.


Which move is better, the Squat or the Deadlift, depends on your goals. But honestly BOTH should be included in your workout routine if you want a strong core, glutes and legs.


While often the Squat is touted as the best glute move and you see photos of women with great butts all squatting, the Squat is NOT superior to the Deadlift for glute development.

Because the Deadlift is a hip hinge movement, it is better for glute development. 

However, if you want to grow and tone your entire leg, you may want to do the Squat instead of the Deadlift. The Squat will hit the glutes, hamstrings AND quads, especially the quads. While the Deadlift may hit the glute and hamstrings more, it doesn’t work the quads.

You may also determine which move is better based on injuries or even your mobility.

If you have knee pain, a Deadlift Variation, especially a Straight Leg Deadlift, may be better because it will not only build your glutes to help prevent knee pain in the future, but also requires you to bend your knees very little, putting less strain on them.


Ali Deraney