Why your athletes need to do more than just squat and deadlift

As someone who works in a gym setting day in day out, it is pretty easy to accept that I enjoy strength training (like, a lot). Strength training is, in my opinion, the most effective means of increasing physical performance and building a high resilience to injuries.

And I know many coaches would agree.

As a result, due to this affinity for strength training, most of us gravitate towards trying to improve the big 3 (Squat, Bench, and Deadlift).

Hunter Bennett Performance

Which is fine. The gym is our domain. It is where we work, where we train, and where most of us learn and hone our craft.

There is no reason not to good at demonstrating strength in our domain.

The issue is when this style of training seeps into the programs of our clients.

This does not matter whether they are high level athletes or 80 year old retirees. Unless they are powerlifters, they do not need to become incredibly strong in these particular movements.

While these movements are important (with particular emphasis on the squat and deadlift, and their role as fundamental movement patterns), and should make up a large portion of your clients training, they are not the be-all-end-all.

Most of your clientele are not competitive powerlifters, they have individual needs that need to be addressed, and as such should receive individualized programming to meet those individual requirements.

For those from athletic populations, having a high level of relative strength is important, but once that has been achieved do they actually need to get stronger? The difference between a 2 x body weight deadlift and 2.5 x body weight deadlift on performance will be minimal. Once they have appreciable levels of strength, it is time to focus on improving other qualities, such as power.

Not to mention that athletes need to be resilient to injuries, have single leg stability and single leg strength, have the ability to run fast, jump high, and change direction rapidly (just to name a few) – and if you think that this can be accomplished by only squatting and deadlifting then you are very, very wrong.

Yes those movements can contribute to improving those physical qualities, but they are a very small piece of the puzzle.

This holds very true for those from the general population as well.

While the squat and deadlift are important movement patterns that need to be learned and trained, it is our job to get our clients moving and feeling (and often looking) better. This does not mean they need to deadlift 3 x bodyweight.

Sure, strength is important – it builds tissue resilience and will stave off age related declines in function – but building strength in different movements such as single leg squats, rows, and single arm pressing variations is important as it builds well rounded and resilient individuals who can handle anything that life throws at them.

Furthermore, these same clients are most likely training not only for health, but to improve body composition as well. And while squats and deadlifts have the potential to increase muscle mass, again they are only a small component of a much bigger picture.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love squats and deadlifts. They are important movements that need to be trained and learned, but they are not the only thing that needs to be trained and learned.

People have individual needs that need to be addressed, and it is extremely naïve to think that all of these needs can be met by merely squatting and deadlifting.

Program to the requirements your clients, not to your own personal preferences.

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