Squat vs. RDL and SDL - Important


I can romanian deadlift and stiff-legged deadlift as much as I can back squat. Is this indicative of anything? Are my quads and hamstrings well-balanced? Or does this indicate an imbalance in one or the other? Or does it indicate nothing at all?

Neither lifts are at all impressive. My back squat is about 220, and that is more or less what my RDL and SDL’s are.

Thanks for your help.

By the way, I meant to put a “?” after “important” in my title, because I’m asking if it’s important, not demanding that everyone else look at my thread. :o

How long are you in the gym? Just started? Maybe it is because of technique (skill), bodytype etc… Just thoughts!

I am a competitive swimmer, and I’ve been lifting quite awhile - 13 years. However, I didn’t do much for legs at all until a few years ago, and I go months at a time without lifting at all during the serious swim season.

You might just have a strong back and weak hips. Do you have any idea what you deadlift? This would be another indicator of a strong back. Also, are you flexible enough to maintain your arch in the bottom of your squat? I think the SLDL, RDL, and DL require less flexibility so while you may be able to achieve the optimal positions in those, in the squat it is a different story.

I used to have around 315 parallel squat and i could do 315 for up to 6ish reps i think in the SLDL/RDL. Although, one could argue my deadlift was a SLDL, which was around 450. I think this was a combination of weak hips and lack of flexibility.

Thanks for your response!

I deadlifted 340 back in September/October, though I could not lift that much now.

You bring up a good point - I suspect that my back is much stronger than my quads. When my squat form goes off, my body is always pitched forward and I finish the lift with my back. That means it’s time to stop! :eek:

I don’t think my flexibility is an issue. As a swimmer, I stay fairly limber, and my hip flexors are not very tight.

My quads are very weak, though. However, it sounds as if your RDL/SLDL was measurably bigger than your back squat, so having a larger RDL/SLDL is okay, perhaps even desirable.

Any thoughts?

A couple of things to think about:

As for your flexibility, I think its more of an issue of hamstring flexibility with the squat. I don’t think swimming really helps with this as the ROM of the kicks arent great enough. The hip extension of the kick seems enough to stretch the flexors/abs out but the hip flexion does not come close to the full ROM that the hamstrings will allow. Try doing a bodyweight half squat next to a full length mirror. If you lose your arch then you dont have optimal flexibility for the squat. However, as a swimmer taking the time to increase this flexibility might take away from swimming. What do you think?

I don’t know if its necessarily desirable to have a big SLDL/RDL/DL compared to your squat. Most people I have seen can DL more than they can squat. However, if you have a gut, or use powerlifting equipment to give you rebound out of the bottom of the squat, then you will squat more most likely. And then there are the people built to DL. Being lean, and having big hands, long arms, long legs all help. So, it is possible you are just built to do the DL.

So, it might not be so much that your hamstrings are weak but, if you think of the squat in parts, i.e. bottom, middle, top, I would guess that you are weaker at the bottom, from what youve told me. Flexibility will help this if it is an issue but also ass to grass squats (or at least below parallel a few inches), or unilateral exercises can help with that rebound out of the bottom.

Not to hijack this thread but, I was wondering mikeh, if you think increasing max strength is as applicable to swimming as it is with sprinting? It seems like it would be more important as you are using the upperbody more and you are moving through a more resistant medium obviously. thoughts?

If your RDL is as much as your back squat, it could be squatting form that is holding you back (in your squat lift). In most cases, one’s RDL and SLDL are waayyy lower than their basic deadlift.

When performing back squats, are you utilizing your lower back? Are you lowering yourself properly with a tight, flat lower back and are you fully compressed with a big breath?

There are two ways to lower yourself into a back squat. Passively, by giving in to gravity and just falling under the weight, which is what most folks do; or by actively pulling yourself down against the resistance of your own muscles, which is what big squatters do. Take a big breath, stay tight on the way down. This “negative” movement, loads elastic energy into your muscles and tendons while helping to brace yourself for the exposion upwards. Try these ideas and watch your back squat instantly improve.

With these lifts and a strong back it’s not a hip, but a quads problem -if not technique, you know…

I don’t necessarily think that long levers are an advantage to deadlifts -rather a disadvantage…

Lastly, better have someone else look at you rather than looking at your self in a mirror; it’s kind of dangerous -especially if looking sideways :slight_smile:

Thank you for your thoughts! Regarding flexibility, your thoughts about the swimming kick not being a full ROM for the hamstrings are correct. My hamstrings are a bit tight and sore right now, but I never have great hamstring flexibility. I do start to lose my arch, even on lifts that are not 100% 1RM. So I will take your advice and work on that.

As for swimming, I do think that squats are a great exercise for just about the whole body, stomach down. I need lower body power for my dolphin kick. But really I just enjoy doing them and trying to better myself. I have benched 265, so you can see that my lower body is dramatically out of kilter with my lower body.


Forgot one thing - I am rather tall (6’0 feet), and my arms from fingertip to finger tip are a couple of inches longer than that. Probably I am made, to a certain extent, to deadlift.

Thank you for this advice. I will try that at my next workout.

I suspect quads are a part of my problem - I think mine are quite weak. Yes, I’ve noticed that about the mirror - that can get complicated!

Mikeh,in your experience how the two lifts ( DL and Squats) correlate with happenings in the water - influence positively or negatively your swimming?

I have found that the deadlift helps in the dolphin kick, making it faster and more powerful. The squat may do something similar, but I’m not sure just yet.

All competitive swimmers should really focus on the double leg squat. I’m a huge fan of dead lifts as well, so I think they should be included, but I’m sure someone could argue against that. For swimmers, these lifts are not designed to really help the kick, (not commenting on the dolphin kick as I’ve never performed it), but more to really excel, and explode both of the starting block, and the walls during turns. I was under the impression that ones start, and the forces produced during the turns were responsible for more than half of their time, which is why as a swimmer, I would really hammer out the heavy, double leg movements.

Deadlift helps overall body strength and teaches to manage high tension levels delivered over a wide bodily area (many muscles).
In my experience it may contribute to improvement in swimming sprint speed in the water,even more than in starting from the block itself (a skill which for rather similar characteristics of the movement may actually suffer during DL based heavy max strength phases).
Extremely effective,but very stressful on the nervous system,and difficult to manage in its interplay with other components in training design.

Improvement in max low rep ranges (<3)and singles in the full squat quite directly helps not only the power of the kick but also its endurance…
Not really a surprise around here…

Less stressful overall,I have managed to use it for long periods of time with my swimmers with continuous rather consistent improvements.

When incorporated in weight training programs for swimming,I always noticed and managed to achieve impressive gains in my athetes’ DL or Squat when used one in place of the other,to a much lesser degree when used concurrently in the same program,the concurrent use option usually reserved to higher level athletes for load distribution reasons.

Also,the pull vs. push characteristics of the two lifts offer an interesting pool of options in training design,particularly when a sport with such a dramatic upper and lower body involvement is concerned.

Your thoughts?

Does this mean you prefer to completely exclude either DL, or Squat from the programme of an athlete not at the highest level? Or is it the emphasis that shifts?
Just to clarify this…


I agree that the classic deadlift is very taxing on the nervous system. I made the decision about 18 months ago to never engage in a hard sprint swimming training cycle and lift weights at the same time. I have never regretted it. I am lifting right now only because 75% of my swimming is aerobic, thus minimal taxing of the CNS. Once I start sprinting more often I will likely drop weights completely. Saves time too.

I did indeed notice the deadlift helping in my dolphin kick. The clean from the floor did so as well. But the clean is very hard on the CNS so you have to be careful.

Big Rock,

Thanks ofr your thoughts on the squat! Did 225x1 tonight, and had reserve for more. I did 245x3 RDL, which felt good too. I didn’t exhaust myself, and that is usually a good idea, especially when my pool workout is as hard as it was tonight!

Regarding the turns and starts, those would be most important in short races in 25 meter (or yard) pools. They do play a role in 50 meter races too.