Lab Rats Needed To Crown the “King” of Strength Exercises: Back Squat vs. Dead Lift vs. Thruster


By Rob Shaul

MTI is calling for remote lab rats for an upcoming, narrow and focused, 3.5 weeks, 5-day/week Mini-Study comparing the total body strength building capacity of the back squat, vs. the dead lift, vs the Thruster.

This mini-study will begin Monday, November 21, 2022. The deadline to apply is 1700 Mountain Time, Saturday, November 19, 2022.


A fun, but sometimes, heated, debate in the strength coach world is over what exercise is the “King” of non-olympic total body strength exercises. Many strength coaches crown the Back Squat, others the Deadlift, and myself – I lean toward the thruster.

We want to put this debate to the test using a focused 3.5 week, 5 day/week training cycle mini study.


Lab Rats will be broken into 3 groups: Back Squat Group, and Dead Lift Group and Thruster Group. All groups will complete a 1RM Back Squat, 1RM Dead Lift, 1RM Thruster, 1RM Bench Press and max rep pull up assessment, then each will complete different programming depending on their group. Below is the likely weekly schedule:

  • Mon: Heavy deadlifts or back squats or Thrusters (depending on group), + short work capacity
  • Tue: Tempo deadlifts or back squats or Thrusters (depending on group) + chassis Integrity
  • Wed: 45 min athlete’s choice endurance
  • Thu: Heavy deadlifts or back squats or Thrusters (depending on group), + short work capacity
  • Fri: Dynamic Deadlifts or Back Squats or Thrusters (depending on group)+ Chassis Integrity

Each group will perform its individual progression for 3 weeks, then on the Monday of week 4, each will re-test the 1RM and max pull up assessments..   Overall, this mini-study will last 3.5 weeks.

Cycle Duration and Schedule:

This MTI Mini-Study will take 3.5 weeks. It will begin Monday, November 21, 2021.  On the Monday of Week 4, December 12, 2022, lab rats in all groups will re-test the initial assessment.


What We Hope To Learn

(1) Which Exercise did the better job of building strength in the other exercises plus the bench press and max rep pull ups.


To Participate

  • You’ll need to commit to training 5 days/week, and follow the program as prescribed.
  • You’ll need to commit to only do this training 3.5 weeks – not additional training.
  • You’ll need the required equipment: Barbells, racks, plates, 40 or 60 pound sandbag, plyo boxes.
  • You’ll need to be an experienced, fit athlete.

We aim to limit the total number of Lab Rats 10-20 athletes.


Want to be an MTI Lab Rat?

Please email, and put “King of Exercises Lab Rat” in the subject line by 1700 mountain time, Saturday, November 19, 2022.

Please include:

  • Your age, height, and weight
  • What MTI Programs you’ve completed
  • Verify you have access to the required equipment, including a sandbag (60# men, 40# women)
  • Finally, please verify you commit to the 3.5 week, 5 day/week training cycle. (We’ll hold you to it.)

You’ll be assigned to a Group, and provided with further instructions.




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