Squat-Stance Deadlifts for Strength, Size, and Performance
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
A year ago I published an article on the topic of Squat Stance Deadlifts on T-Nation as well as several other larger articles relating to this topic on my own website. Since that time I’ve literally had hundreds of people personally express to me either through email or social media the incredible results they’ve achieved by using the squat-stance deadlift as their primary method of pulling. Often times these individuals have contacted me with sincere gratitude and thanks for saving their deadlift career.
Not only has it allowed many lifters to perform the deadlift pain free (often times after years of battling with injuries and inflammation associated with other deadlifting variations) but many lifters have reported hitting significant PR’s (5-10% increase) after only a few sessions of implementing the squat stance deadlift. Even if you’re a skeptic you owe it to yourself to at least give the squat stance deadlift a try as you have nothing to lose but potentially much to gain.
Accommodating Resistance Variations for Athletes
Here are some of my football athletes performing band resisted speed repetitions of the squat stance deadlift as we prepare them for the 2017 NFL Combine.
Also notice the controlled eccentric tempo they use rather than the common free-fall method. I’ve seen this and other squat stance deadlift variations have a tremendous impact on sprinting speed and jump performance (vertical and broad), which is something these athletes are heavily focused on.
In addition using accommodating resistance on squat stance deadlifts (or any other movement) allows the lifter to handle incredibly heavy loads at the top of the movement as the bottom is relatively deloaded in comparison to the finishing position. Besides decreasing strain to the spine and improving deadlift mechanics, the hypertrophy stimulus this has on the entire body particularly when combined with squat stance deadlifts is potent to say the least. This particular band resistance protocol I have my athletes using is quite unique in that it only requires one band to be placed across the bottom pins of a squat rack. This eliminates the need for a fancy band-resisted deadlift station that many powerlifters use.
Additional Benefits of the Squat Stance Deadlift
The squat-stance deadlift (similar to the semi-sumo deadlifts used by Ed Coan) represents a variation that falls somewhere in between the sumo and conventional techniques. In many cases the squat-stance deadlift allows the lifter to pull with the strongest, safest, and most efficient biomechanics. In addition, both conventional and sumo deadlifts each have their own unique benefits yet also their own specific weaknesses. The squat-stance deadlift essentially combines the benefits from both the sumo and conventional deadlift while eliminating the inherent weaknesses of each.
With that said the benefits of the squat stance deadlift are similar to those associated with the trap bar deadlift, particularly factors dealing with safety, natural body mechanics, and center of gravity positioning. However, the squat stance deadlift has even better transfer to one’s actual squat (it’s essentially the same movement as a squat) not to mention it’s a variation that can legitimately be employed in powerlifting circles (obviously something the trap bar deadlift doesn’t possess).
The ImportanCE of Foot and Ankle Positioning
Unless you’re an aspiring ballerina performer, a relatively straight foot position (0-10 degrees toe flare) is something that should be used on nearly all exercises including the squat stance deadlift (as well as other deadlift or squatting variations). That’s because it helps to promote the most functional, natural, and athletic body mechanics. Additionally, it maximizes foot and ankle activation, which is critical for overall movement mechanics as it increases neural signaling and body alignment throughout the kinetic chain.
Many powerlifters use an excessive toe flare on the squat or sumo deadlift which ends up destroying their natural lower body mechanics. Because their feet and hips have spent so much time in excessive external rotation this becomes their go-to movement strategy for any lower body movement including walking and overall gait mechanics. Over time this can lead to a variety of lower body impairments and pain-related syndromes including chronic hip inflammation and low back issues.
In reality once the lifter learns how to activate their feet and ankles properly, the relatively straight foot position (0-10 degrees of flare) will actually produce the greatest strength increases. If it feels unnatural it’s because your feet and ankles are weak and dysfunctional and therefore need to be trained with appropriate neuromuscular re-education techniques. This is a topic that should not be overlooked (which it commonly is) as I’ve seen this make or break functional movement patterns in my own athletes and clients.
General Body Mechanics
The lower body mechanics used during the squat stance deadlift will be nearly identical to a low-bar squat. Focus on pushing the knees out and keeping the hips pushed back as far as possible while still keeping the chest out. Focus on keeping a natural but not excessive arch throughout the spine while keeping the head in a neutral position.
The torso will be bent over approximately 45 degrees which maximizes the ability to cock the hips back fully at the bottom (hip flexion) while minimizing sheer stress on the spine. This ideal position seen in the squat-stance deadlift is something that cannot be duplicated with either the conventional pull or sumo deadlift.
Eccentric and Negative Accentuated Deadlifts
Most powerlifters would cringe at the idea of performing eccentric or negative accentuated deadlifts. That’s because sumo and conventional deadlifts are not conducive for using accentuated negatives, as the body is not in an ideal position to absorb force during lengthening contractions. Unfortunately this greatly reduces the strength and hypertrophy stimulus of the deadlift as eccentric loading is perhaps the single most potent growth trigger we know of.
The squat-stance allows the lifter to apply negative accentuated training in a safe and effective manner to the deadlift as the movement is very conducive for performing eccentric motions due its extremely natural and familiar position. In fact the negative/lowering phase is nothing more than the eccentric portion of a squat, which every lifter should be more than accustomed to. In reality if you don’t have the capability to control the negative/eccentric phase whether it’s that of a deadlift or any other movement you probably have no business using the amount of weight your handling.
The squat stance deadlift is particularly effective when combined with eccentric isometrics.
This method is highly potent for stimulating full body hypertrophy as the intensity of contractions in the lengthened position combined with constant tension and occluded stretch make this a difficult combination to beat in terms of mass building techniques. Furthermore the eccentric isometric allows the lifter to fine-tune their body position and movement mechanics as emphasizing the stretch promotes increased sensory feedback from muscle spindles (intrafusal muscle fibers) and other proprioceptive mechanisms. In other words if you lack kinesthetic awareness and proper body mechanics on deadlifts then applying the eccentric isometric protocol to the squat stance variation will provide an immediate solution.
Note on Accommodating Resistance
The use of accommodating resistance can also be applied to squat stance deadlifts in the form of chains as well as reverse band variations. Just be sure to keep a neutral spine with the shoulder blades retracted and depressed throughout the movement as anything less can place undue strain on the spine and the shoulders.
Read more about the Squat Stance Deadlift Here