Which should you choose? Which exercise will give you the best results for your time invested? Let us take a look at this comparison…
- Quad Focus. If you are hoping to strengthen your quads first and foremost, you will want to opt for a squat focus as often as you can. Focussing on squats will naturally mean you will hit the quads primarily, with your hamstrings and glutes coming in second. While both compound exercises will hit the whole body when one is the priority you have to consider which one is going to be worked mostly in each movement you do.
- Posterior Chain Focus. If, on the other hand, you want to work on the posterior chain, deadlifts should be your go-to. You will feel yourself hitting the back, glutes, and hamstrings in every deadlift you complete.
Injury Risk. You will need to think carefully about your current injury status and any risks you may have for injury. Do you work in an occupation where you are at risk for specific injuries? If so, select the exercises in your workout accordingly.
Deadlifts put you at a higher risk for low back injuries while squats will put you at a higher risk for knee injuries. If you suffer pain in either of these areas, be mindful when doing these exercises.
Cardiovascular Fitness. If you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness level, squats for most people are what will do this best. You will move through a broader range of motion when doing the squat: you will engage your heart more.
Also, you can get your heart rate up quite high by doing a set of 100 bodyweight squats, but if you were to do a set of a 100 lightweight deadlifts, you would likely not feel the same.
To get your heart rate up on deadlifts, you typically have to be lifting more weight.
Calorie Burn. Finally, regarding overall calorie burn, squats will come out slightly ahead because you move through a broader range of motion with this exercise and, therefore, burn more calories with every inch of the movement pattern.
All in all, both exercises will come reasonably close regarding total calorie burn, so it is not wise to choose one over the other based on this.
There are the main points to think about when setting up your workout plan. Ideally, you will include squats and deadlifts in your program for optimal results.