Rotating Exercises, Squats & Deads in the Same Week

Question: Jay,

Two quick questions regarding the squat and deadlift and rotating these lifts.

1. How does rotating through several lower body lifts affect your muscular development over the long term?

I know that it is a great way to build well rounded strength and keep your CNS refreshed so you can go hard on lifts, but would focus on one variation and doing longer programming methods result in more size and strength?

2. Also, it seems from your last few programs that you’re not big on squatting and deadlifting from the floor in the same week. Are you starting to get the sense that more than what most intermediate level guys can recover from?



Answer: For muscular development it probably won’t make much difference. Bodybuilders use a variety of methods and exercises. But if you are just concerned with improving your back squat it’s probably better to work strictly on that lift with varying loads, percentages and intensities throughout the year instead of doing box squats, front squats, safety bar squats, etc.

To get better at something you need to do it often. So squatting three times per week until you were fairly strong would be a good idea. Once you start moving some very big weights you might want to back off on the frequency a bit just due to the long term wear and tear it may have on your body.

Of course, Olympic lifters squat every day and it can be done with outstanding results. It just really depends on the individual, the recovery ability, the boredom factor, etc. Plus no one really knows what the long term damage may be from loading your spine and knees with three to five hundred pounds multiple times per week. It’s really a guessing game and your call at that point.

If a big squat is important to than you need to squat often for a few years. After that you can decide what you want to do going forward.

Now, to address your second question I will start by saying that most people recover very poorly from squatting because they do it improperly. 99% of all people technically shouldn’t be squatting without first correcting asymmetries, improving flexibility and mobility, doing some unilateral training to improve stability, etc.

This process should take 12-24 weeks. I know that sounds like an incredibly long time but three to six months isn’t really too long to sacrifice if you intend to be doing this stuff for the next 30-50 years. Believe me, it’s way smarter to take care of it up front than to wait for the injuries to start creeping up and being forced to add mobility work instead of doing it by choice from the get go.

After that initial pre-squat period I’d say that about 80-85% of people could probably do a  heavy back squat with good form and do so safely.

The remaining 15-20% probably will never be able to squat without some lumbar flexion or other issues that can lead to long term injuries. Now, that’s not to say those people won’t squat or can’t squat, it’s just that if they want to remain healthy for the long term and not be hobbling around beaten, broken and scarred like so many lifters in their 50’s and 60’s it’s not in their best interest.

Remember, if you’re not a powerlifter you don’t need to do exactly what they do. There are always other options.

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IF you can squat properly (high bar, Olympic style below parallel with no tuck) you can do it three times per week with very minimal recovery issues as long as you take your time slowly building up to it. I’d recommend something like a heavy, light, medium scheme as Mark Berry advised back in the 1930’s.

If you choose to do a low bar squat with a wide stance your shoulders, elbows and hips will get too beat up to squat multiple times per week and I wouldn’t even entertain the thought.

The deadlift is a whole different animal. Pulling a straight bar from the floor crushes you and impairs your ability to do anything else very effectively for the next few days. With the lower back strain you’ll be experiencing from deads it’s harder to squat, overhead press, bent over row and do just about any other standing exercise.

More effective than eliminating the combo of the two in the same week is the total removal of straight bar deads from the floor (except for a rare testing day if you were interested in that) and the minimizing of heavy pulling for guys who are strong and have been training for a while. Lighter pulls like high pulls and shrug pulls from blocks are more effective for those guys, with the heavy stuff snuck in on occasion.

Nowadays I’d recommend guys that can pull 405 for 5 from the floor instead do sets of 335-405 off of rubber mats stacked 4-8″ high with absolutely picture perfect form and no lumbar flexion or grinding AT ALL. That means when you initiate the pull you don’t start by raising the hips first or by first slipping into a bit of lumbar flexion.

If you deadlift like that it’s far safer. And think about it… even though you’d be using weights that are far below your max you’re still using a weight that is much heavier than any other back exercise you could do. If instead of using 405 on the deadlift you did 355 with perfect form it’s still significantly more weight than you could ever bent over row. So you’re getting the benefits without the negatives.

Remember, submaximal training is what leads to maximal results.

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