Last updated on July 28th, 2021 at 04:14 pm
Ever wondered if squats and deadlifts are enough for legs?
It may be true that variety is the spice of life, but when it comes to training, less is often more.
So, do you really need to be performing a ton of leg exercises in order to stimulate growth?
Or are the “Big Two” enough?
Are Squats and Deadlifts Enough For Legs?
Squats and Deadlifts are enough for overall leg development as a beginner. These two exercises will provide sufficient stimulus for growth in the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Plus, they will also target the hip flexors, lower back, and calves. However, it is recommended that you perform more accessory work as an advanced lifter.
Squats and Deadlifts Are Enough For a Beginner
Whether squats and deadlifts are enough for overall leg development will very much depend on where you are in your fitness journey.
I agree that these two exercises are more than ample for a beginner.
And by beginner, I mean someone who is yet to reach a training plateau.
With that being said, it can be difficult to work out whether you really have actually hit a plateau yet.
When it comes to the squat and deadlift, you should typically progress on the exercises every single week.
This could mean adding more reps, or the more popular choice of adding more weight to the bar.
Most gyms have weight plates as low as 1kg or 2.5lbs, which is ideal for adding additional weight on a weekly basis.
Well, it’s ideal for adding weight every week for the big lifts.
You will definitely hit a stalling point much quicker if you’re adding this weight regularly to a bicep curl.
When a Plateau isn’t a Plateau
However, once you’ve been training for a while you’ll get to the stage where you find you’re unable to add weight to the bar.
You may find it impossible to increase a lift by even one rep.
But, this doesn’t mean that you hit a plateau yet.
I would class a beginner as someone who has less than 12 months lifting experience.
The reason being that even once you hit a point where you think you can’t lift any more weight, this may not actually be true.
Most beginners could easily take a week off when they are at this stage, then come back and find that they are able to add even more weight to the bar.
So, if you’re still at this stage, then yes squats and deadlifts are enough for legs.
You are using the two biggest lower body exercises.
The squat and deadlift will provide sufficient stimulus for your muscles to keep growing.
Plus, you can apply progressive overload, in terms of reps or weight, for quite a long time compared to an advanced lifter.
Squats and Deadlifts Are Enough If You’re Strapped For Time
There are times even as an advanced lifter when squats and deadlifts are enough for legs.
Not everyone has the time to hit the gym for an hour or two a day, 5 or 6 times a week.
Life has a tendency to get in the way.
We all have different responsibilities, and more often than not we have to work our training around these.
If you have a partner, children, and a busy work and social schedule then you’re going to have to make some sacrifices in life.
Unfortunately, this could mean how long and how often you’re able to train at the gym.
However, I don’t view this as a bad thing.
In fact, some of my best workouts are typically when I’m short on time and I know I need to get in, do my thing, and get out as quickly as possible.
It’s at times like these that I am ultra-focused on my workout, and I usually concentrate on the lifts that give me the biggest bang for my buck.
And they don’t get much bigger than squats and deadlifts.
So, if you find that time is at a premium, then squats and deadlifts are definitely enough for legs.
Squats and Deadlifts – Simeon Panda & Chanel Coco Brown
Squats and Deadlifts May NOT Be Enough Depending on Your Goals
Let’s look at the other side of the coin now.
As an advanced lifter with plenty of time to train, the Big Two may not be enough for your leg development.
Perhaps, you play a particular sport which requires exceptional strength, mobility, flexibility, and endurance in the legs.
Now I’m not going against what I’ve said already, squats and deadlifts are without doubt the best leg exercises going.
However, depending on your goals you may need to mix it up a bit.
You may need to add some accessory work to shore up your weak points.
Maybe leg explosiveness is more important to you than just pure strength.
It could be a case that you need your legs to work at optimum level for 60, 90, 120+ minutes in order to succeed in your chosen sport.
Basically, there could be hundreds of reasons why squats and deadlifts will not be enough.
If this is the case then it may be time to add some additional exercises to your arsenal.
What Exercises to Add to Squats and Deadlifts For Better Leg Development
There are literally thousands (if not more) great leg exercises you could be doing.
Single Leg Exercises
For me, my first port of call is always single leg work.
I have a particular penchant for walking lunges, steps ups, and I love the Bulgarian split squat.
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I also believe that the glutes are probably one of the most important (if not THE most important) muscles to train.
I mean, the glutes are the biggest muscle in the body, so it makes sense, irrespective of your goals, to train the glutes.
Whether you want to get stronger, bigger, or burn body fat, training the biggest muscle in the body will help you achieve this.
I would say my go to exercise for glutes is the hip thrust.
I will perform the hip thrust with a variety of weighted objects, with my own body weight, with both legs, or as a single-leg exercise.
The possibilities are endless.
With that being said, there are just so many glute exercises to choose from.
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The calves are a tricky body part.
Possibly the hardest body part to grow.
You will definitely stimulate the calves with squats and deadlifts, but it’s highly unlikely that your calves will blow up with just the Big Two.
If you want to concentrate on growing your calves then you’ll definitely need to perform specific exercises for them.
Then again, I know of people who have huge calves and yet they never train them.
Damn you genetics.
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Quads and Hamstrings
The quads and the hamstrings are what many of us seem to concentrate on when it comes to leg training.
And you’ll definitely get stronger and bigger in these areas with squats and deadlifts.
However, many of us choose to turn to machines to isolate these muscles more and hopefully promote further growth.
The leg extension, leg curl, leg press, hack squat, to name a few.
You could even do different types of squats and deadlifts to target these muscles more than the standard variations.
The front squat is a fantastic quad builder and it really does isolate the muscle really well.
The same can be said of the Romanian deadlift or the stiff-legged deadlift when it comes to your hamstrings.
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The Perfect Leg Workout to Build Strong Legs
Are squats and deadlifts enough for legs?
As with most things the answer is, it depends.
I will definitely say that the Big Two are enough for leg stimulation and development if you are a beginner.
Furthermore, if time in the gym is an issue, you’re better off focusing on the squat and deadlift.
However, as an advanced lifter, or if you have specific sports-related goals, then variety will be more advantageous.
That being said, if you want an impressive set of wheels, then the squat and deadlift should be a regular part of your training anyway.
Chris Wilson, head coach at Critical Bench, has created a workout program that focuses on only THREE exercises.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, the squat and deadlift are 2 of these exercises.
Chris claims that you could add up to 14lbs of lean muscle in 60 days by just using these three exercises.
See what I thought about Chris’s program in my Anabolic Aftergrowth Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.