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Acute Neuromuscular and Endocrine Responses to Two Different Compound Exercises

Squat vs. Deadlift

Barnes, Matthew J.1; Miller, Adam1; Reeve, Daniel1; Stewart, Robin J.C.2

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: September 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 9 - p 2381–2387
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002140
Original Research
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Barnes, MJ, Miller, A, Reeve, D, and Stewart, RJ. Acute neuromuscular and endocrine responses to two different compound exercises: squat vs. deadlift. J Strength Cond Res 33(9): 2381–2387, 2019—Anecdotally, it is believed that the deadlift exercise brings about greater levels of central fatigue than other exercises; however, no empirical evidence exists to support this view. In addition, little is known about the acute endocrine response to heavy deadlift exercise and how this may differ from other similar compound exercises. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify and compare the acute, neuromuscular and endocrine responses to squat and deadlift exercises. Ten resistance-trained males completed 8 sets of 2 repetitions at 95% of 1 repetition maximum. Maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) force of the quadriceps, along with measures of central (voluntary activation [VA] and surface electromyography) and peripheral (electrically evoked control stimulus) fatigue were made before and 5 and 30 minutes after exercise. In addition, salivary testosterone and cortisol were measured at these same time points. MVIC was reduced after the completion of both exercises (p = 0.007); however, no difference between exercises was evident. Similarly, although VA changed over time (p = 0.0001), no difference was observed between exercises. As a measure of peripheral fatigue, force from the control stimulus changed over time (p = 0.003) with a greater decrease evident after the squat (p = 0.034). Electromyography was reduced over time (p = 0.048) but no difference was seen between exercises. No change was seen in testosterone and cortisol. Although a greater absolute load and larger volume load were completed for the deadlift, no difference in central fatigue was evident between the 2 compound exercises. The greater peripheral fatigue observed after squat exercise may be due to the greater work completed by the quadriceps with this exercise. These results suggest that separate periodization, tapering, and programming considerations may be unnecessary when using the squat and deadlift to develop muscular strength.

1School of Sport and Exercise, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; and

2Universal College of Learning, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Address correspondence to Matthew J. Barnes, m.barnes@massey.ac.nz.

Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.