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Are the Squat, Bench and Deadlift Essential for Muscle Growth?

The answer might surprise you.

Are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth? Continue scrolling to find out.

The big 3! Squats, bench presses and deadlifts are considered by many as the top three compound exercises in bodybuilding and are also necessary for making gains.

But is that true? Are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth? To answer this better we turn to Dr Mike Israetel.

Mike Israetel has a PhD in Sport Physiology and is the co-founder of Renaissance Periodization, a YouTube channel focused on hypertrophy. He is well respected by the fitness industry and the bodybuilder community.

He posted a video with the question: are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth? Below you will find his answer.

Ultimate 100 Rep Glute Workout Reasons Why You Need Strong GlutesSource: Your House Fitness

Are the Squat, Bench and Deadlift Essential for Muscle Growth?

Right from the bat, Mike Israetel says it is a myth that you must do these three exercises for maximum hypertrophy.

The first big problem with this mentality, according to Mike, is that you “have to do them.” Many times, people will add these exercises to their program even if it doesn’t go well with their bodies at all – no mind-muscle connection, pain in joints, and so on.

This “must include these exercises” mentality often results in greater fatigue, higher injury risk and displacement of more effective choices. What other effective choices? Hack squat, incline press and bent-row are the ones Israetel exemplifies.

Hacks for Bigger LegsSource: Anastase Maragos / Unsplash

Are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth? No. In fact, Israetel goes beyond and says that there is not a single “must-do exercise.” People should choose exercises that they are comfortable with and that can be consistent.

In his opinion, you should choose between being a hardcore gym goer or getting the most effective stimulus with the lowest fatigue.

Check out Israetel’s full explanation of the question: are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth?

VIDEO – Are the Squat, Bench and Deadlift Essential for Muscle Growth?

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Compound Exercises

The squat, bench and deadlift are compound exercises. If you’re looking to get in shape, this list of compound exercises will help you do so. Compound exercises are effective for building strength because they work multiple muscle groups at once. They also recruit more muscle fibers than isolation exercises do. This means that compound moves build muscle faster and burn more calories over time. Ready to start getting fit? Here are some compound exercises you can add into your workout routine:


Squats are a great exercise for building your legs, butt, and abs. They’re also the most basic compound exercise you can do. If you want to build muscle mass and strength, squats should be at the top of your list of exercises—and there are lots of different squat variations to choose from!

The squat is performed by bending down with your back straight and lowering yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor or lower, then standing back up again. There are several different types of squats.


The deadlift is a compound exercise that works several muscles in your body. It targets your core, legs, back and grip strength. The deadlift is one of the best full-body workouts you can do to build muscle mass and burn fat.

deadlift variationsSource: Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

The deadlift also helps with other exercises such as squats, lunges and rows. If you want to improve your performance on these types of exercises then adding in some heavy deadlifts will help build up those muscles needed to get better results from those exercises.

If you are new to weightlifting or have never done any kind of workout before then I would suggest starting with lighter weights until you get used to how it feels when using heavier weights in order not hurt yourself by doing too much too soon!

Barbell Overhead Press

  • Start with a barbell in the rack at shoulder height.
  • Unrack into the front rack position
  • Lift the barbell up above your head, keeping it at arms’ length and using only your shoulders to lift it. This is also called a shoulder press or military press.


Pull-ups are a great exercise to include in your workout routine. They can be done using a chair or tree branch, and they work the back, biceps, lats and abs.

squat, bench and deadliftSource: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

You can also modify them to make them easier if you are just starting out on pull-ups or you have a specific injury that prevents you from doing the full movement of pulling yourself up with your arms. In general, the more challenging version is better because it will build more muscle mass throughout the upper body area by increasing strength in those muscles over time.

A good way to start developing some basic fitness levels before tackling this challenge is by doing inverted rows on an incline bench at home or at the gym; this will help strengthen core stability as well as arm strength for pull-ups later down the line.

Bench Press

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises among weightlifters. It works the chest, shoulders and triceps.

man trains to get a stronger bench press with spotterSource: Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

To do the exercise: lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Grasp a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and lower it toward your chest until it touches (about halfway down). Then push it back up to its original position. You can also use dumbbells for this exercise; just remember that you’ll have to increase or decrease the weight accordingly depending on which version you’re doing (the grip will be different).

These compound exercises will get you in shape quickly.

Compound exercises are the best way to get in shape quickly. They work multiple muscle groups, which helps you build strength faster and increase your muscle mass. As a result, compound exercises are the best way to burn fat and increase your overall fitness level.

So, are the squat, bench and deadlift essential for muscle growth? According to Dr Mike Israetel they are not, but they can definitely help you achieve the fitness level and looks that you want.

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