Lifting Variations That Will Improve Your Squat and Deadlift

When performing the big barbell movements, there’s debate as to which method is most effective.

So which movement should you train?

The real answer: all of them.

Deadlift: Sumo vs. Conventional? 

Squat: High Bar or Low Bar?

Let’s define the terms. Sumo deadlifts are done with a wide stance, arms placed inside the knee, and places a high demand on the quads and adductors. This also takes a shorter bar path from the floor to the lockout. Conventional deadlifts are done with a close shoulder width or narrower stance, arms outside the knee. This places a higher demand on the posterior chain and also has a longer bar path from the floor to lockout. 

For squats, a “low bar” setup will have the bar placed on the rear delts, which benefits lifters that have wide hips and a shorter torso, while the weight position also helps push the hips down into the proper depth. “High bar” position keeps the bar on the traps, and benefits lifters with longer torsos, as this stance keeps the chest more upright and avoids a breakdown in technique. 

We’ll tackle the obvious points first. If your goal is exclusively powerlifting – moving the maximum amount of weight possible, in the most efficient way – then it benefits you to choose the stance that best fits your build. For most, this means taking a stance that allows you to move the weight in the most deliberate and explosive way possible without exerting any unnecessary energy.

Where the argument for or against one stance falls off, however, is the benefits of training each movement for their intended purpose. Use the alternate stance to become stronger overall. 

Want to move maximum weight? Choose the stance that fits your anatomy. Then train the opposite stance in accessory/secondary movements, tackle weak points, and build up the stabilizing muscles that are underutilized in your primary lifts. 

Try this on your next squat and deadlift program:

Primary Movement (most efficient)

2-3 warmup sets, 6-8 reps

5 working sets, 4-6 reps, 70-75% of 1RM

Secondary Movement (weaker stance)

Higher rep range (8-10 reps), moderate weight (60% or below)

Tempo Squats, Pause Squats, SSB Squats

Deficit Deadlift, Block Pulls, or Paused Eccentrics

Repeat until you’re stronger.