Top 3 Powerlifting Exercises: Squat, Bench Press & Deadlift

There are three significant exercises in weightlifting that all gym enthusiasts focus on and think about.
The big three of weightlifting are:

  1. Squat
  2. Bench press
  3. Deadlift

Determining which exercise produces the best results is a bit difficult since each has its benefits and shortcomings. Also, your choice of exercises will ultimately depend on your workout regimen and goals.
Let's briefly explain the big three of weightlifting and narrow down the essential advantages and disadvantages of each lift so that you can pick and choose wisely based on your preferences.



The squat is one of the fundamental compound exercise movements. Almost every gymgoer has tried squats and every fitness instructor will recommend squats along with other exercises for everyone - newbies and experienced people alike.

Squats - Powerlifting Exercises

It is well-known that combining squats and deadlifts can be a great exercise mix executed in all gyms. This kind of workout is not only useful when a person wants to target various muscle groups, but it is also great for muscle growth in general.
The best part about squats is that they don't require extra equipment. However, special squat equipment allows you to kick things up a notch, and increase efficiency and exercise difficulty.
The best squats one can do are deep squats. And while beginners don't have to force deep squats right away, they do have the biggest impact. 

Exercising squats has significant full-body benefits that a lot of people are not aware of.

Squats are not only great leg exercises, but they also help with:

  • Overall physique
  • Posture and mobility
  • Burning fat effectively
  • Toning the whole body

Some cons of squats include:

  • Possible injuries due to a bad form
  • Overtraining can be harmful
  • Increased safety when working out under heavy weights


Bench press

The bench is probably the most famous exercise in the world of fitness, and it has helped millions of bodybuilders improve their chest muscles.
However, this exercise can also target other muscles. Numerous muscle fibres are put to work while performing this exercise, making the bench press invaluable for every fitness enthusiast.

Bench Press - Powerlifting Exercises

The bench press is a compound exercise, which means that more than one target group is under tension. In this case, the chest muscles are being improved along with shoulder muscles, triceps, and even neck and back muscles.
The bench press equipment is not too expensive, and it is worth every dollar invested since it boosts efficiency quite significantly. There are a number of variations of bench press, while the most common are straight, incline, and decline, all of which can be done with a barbell or dumbbell.

The most important advantages of bench press include:

  • Targeting multiple muscle groups
  • Easy to vary the grip
  • Convenient for varying between small and large pectoral muscles

On the other hand, the disadvantages are:

  • Spotter is often necessary
  • A lot of pressure on the shoulder joint



Deadlifting is adored among fitness enthusiasts and some even claim that it is the most popular powerlifting exercise, since it targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Deadlift - Powerlifting Exercises

However, this exercise is rather difficult, as the movement requires grit and a lot of strength. The deadlift and its variations are perfect for athletes because they activate hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps.
These muscles are vital for sports such as football or rugby. Additionally, they are crucial in endurance sports such as swimming, cycling, and running. The deadlift is also considered to be one of the three core exercises in any strength training plan.
Deadlift brings many benefits to athletes, especially if they use reliable deadlift equipment.

These are the key advantages of deadlift:

  • Combines back, torso, and leg muscles
  • Best hamstring and back builder
  • Great for agility
  • Helps strengthen core muscles

However, keep in mind that there are also some things to watch out for:

  • Movement is hard on hips, knees, and ankles
  • Easy to overtrain
  • Less muscle engagement on the way down


What are the differences?

The bench press focuses on upper-body muscles, including chest muscles, triceps, and stabilising muscles in the shoulders. Even though it is one of the main three lifts in powerlifting, it targets the upper body.
On the other hand, there are fewer but still significant differences between the deadlift and squat. First of all, the deadlift is considered to be a more rearward movement, focused on the back. Squats will work on the back, but the move involves quad mostly.
So, the fundamental difference is that a squat is a squat movement while the deadlift is a hip hinge movement. Even though they both target leg muscles, they are different.
The squat focuses on the knee band when a person drops down to the ground to work the legs, while the deadlift focuses more on hinging at the hips to target the glutes.


Is there a hierarchy of exercises?

Since the human body uses five calories of energy to consume one litre of oxygen, exercises that involve more muscle tissue require more oxygen. That is how the body increases its net energy expenditure.

A Hierarchy of Powerlifting Exercises

Compound exercises, such as the big three lifting exercises covered in this article, improve the overall intermuscular coordination. That is why the focus is placed on the function and timing of multiple muscles around joints.
Squats, lunges, and even deadlifts require hip movement to be coordinated with other body parts moving too. Ultimately, that impacts how all of the muscles work together to produce and control force.
Additionally, since compound exercises elevate the heart rate, they are considered suitable for cardiovascular health improvement. The benefit of this is the improved ability of the heart to work as a blood pump. For instance, squats to shoulder presses, medicine ball chops, or burpees, are all examples of compound exercises that involve large amounts of muscle tissue.
All of these push the heart to pump blood to keep the muscled fed and active.
Finally, compound exercises are a form of dynamic flexibility. Since an athlete is engaging in a range of different emotions, that can be considered dynamic stretching. Once multiple compound exercises get combined into workout routines successfully, the improvement efficiency gets boosted too.


Does a person's height matter?

Even though being tall is considered to be a blessing in many sports, that may not be the case when it comes to lifting.
In weightlifting, shorter individuals have an advantage over the taller ones (6'2'' and over). This is simply because certain exercises favour their biomechanics.
Since taller men have long limbs, they need to sustain weight over larger ranges of motion, which makes them more susceptible to injury than shorter people.


What can you do in order for your squat to catch up with the deadlift?

It may seem like squats are a bit harder than deadlifts, but when you break down the movements, squats have several distinct mechanical benefits. These usually deal with freedom for forward knee travel in the squat and the momentum that is built up at the same position where a deadlift would be started from a dead stop.
Hence, one important reason most people deadlift more than they squat is that the bracing pattern for deadlifts comes more naturally. Also, the deadlift is more tolerant of thoracic flexion than the squat.
When you activate your core muscles before you squat, you can build up confidence with the movement pattern.
So even though your squat will likely never catch up with the deadlift completely, by strengthening the core, working on bracing patterns, you can close the gap considerably.


Final thoughts

Even though single-joint exercises are suitable for people that have the inclination or time to sculpt the perfect body, they are not efficient for maximising the calorie-burning effects of workouts. 
That is why you should incorporate compound movements into your workout, and the big three lifts will definitely get you one step closer to the physique you desire.


Category: Building Muscle

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