The squat and deadlift are similar exercises when examined in the context of weight training, but very different when considering the squat to be a separate exercise outside the realm of weight training. A squat, in other words, can be performed effectively and with good results without the use of weights and a barbell. The squat and deadlift are both commonly performed with weights, however, so the distinction between them is often unclear. In the simplest terms, the squat and deadlift differ only in the motion through which a lifter gets the weights in his or her hands and lifts the weights while raising the body to a standing position.
Both the squat and deadlift are difficult exercises that should be performed with a spotter nearby, because both exercises require the lifter to get into a position he or she will need strength and agility to get out of. When performing a squat, a lifter will squat down into a near sitting position, grasp the barbell with both hands, and lift into a standing position while holding the barbell. When performing a deadlift, the lifter will bend more at the hips, lean down to pick up the weight, and lift it into a standing position.
The squat and deadlift also differ in the variations of the exercise. A squat can be performed with the help of a special weight rack that allows the lifter to put the weights on the shoulders. Once the weight is in position, the lifter, grasping the barbell with his or her hands, can lower him or herself into the squatting position, then rise back up to standing. After several repetitions, the lifter can then place the weights on the rack and step away from the apparatus without having to get the weights back to the ground.
The deadlift is only performed with the weight on the ground in front of the lifter. While the motion is quite similar to a squat — the lifter bends at both the knees and the hips — the lifter does not squat as far down. The goal instead is to lift a larger amount of weight into a standing position, but the weight is never lifted with the arms above the thighs. The arms hang "dead," never reaching upward with the weights. When performing squats, a lifter often lifts the barbell above the thighs to a higher position near the clavicles.