7 Best Dumbbell Squats To Build Muscle & Strength

If you’re trying to enhance your squat, however don’t suppose that dumbbells might help get you the place you wish to be – suppose once more. Dumbbells are for excess of simply bicep curls, and so they can have a big effect on the event of decrease physique hypertrophy and power.

While we would usually suppose that squats and barbells are the most effective mixture, dumbbells have their place as nicely. Dumbbells can considerably change the dynamics of your squat programming.

In this publish, we’re going to take a look at the next:

What are dumbbell squats (and totally different holding positions)
How to do a dumbbell squat
Common errors when squatting with dumbbells, and the right way to keep away from them
Benefits of incorporating dumbbell squats into your routine, and the muscle mass that you’ll work alongside the best way
Best dumbbell squat variations
Different coaching variables and methods to progressive overload

Let’s get began!

What is a Dumbbell Squat?

A dumbbell squat is simply because the identify implies – a squat carried out whereas holding dumbbells for added resistance. With the dumbbell weight of your alternative, you’ll sit down and barely again right into a squat place after which press by the heels of your ft to return to a standing place, all of the whereas sustaining management of the dumbbells.

With dumbbells, you have a number of totally different holding positions that you are able to do, comparable to:

Arms prolonged all the way down to your sides
Goblet place (held up close to the entrance of your chest)
Front rack place (resting up close to your shoulders)
Overhead place

Changing the kind of holding place can have an effect on each the problem degree of the train, how a lot load you possibly can deal with, and the secondary muscle mass being labored. 

Besides dumbbell holding positions, you even have totally different variations of squats which alter the muscle mass labored attributable to physique positioning, comparable to:

Sumo squat
Split squat
Side squat

And these variations even have totally different grip positions and there are additionally loads extra varieties of squats you are able to do (i.e. plie squats or Bulgarian break up squats)…

We will contact extra on these totally different squatting variations additional under.

How to Do a Dumbbell Squat:

Before you start the usual squat (ft about hip-to-shoulder width aside), select your grip…

As listed above, there are a number of methods you possibly can maintain your dumbbell.


dumbell goblet squat

The goblet place will certainly problem your core and higher physique to remain upright as you decrease your self into your squat. Ensure that you may maintain each heads of the dumbbell accurately – having the deal with parallel with the ground – or that you may maintain onto one head of the dumbbell and have it positioned vertically as you squat.

If you like to make use of two dumbbells to extend the load, you possibly can select the…

ARMS TO SIDES (best grip possibility):

squat with dumbbells

If you select to carry your dumbbells by your sides (usually positioned on the outsides of your thighs), then you possibly can seize them off the rack earlier than starting your squat, or decide them up off of the bottom as you dip into your first squat.

Regardless of the place the weights are once you start, you wish to be certain that your shoulders keep down and again (versus hunching ahead) and your arms keep prolonged. The dumbbells can graze your legs as you progress up and down, however you don’t need them bumping into your thighs and bouncing far and wide.

RACKED POSITION (hardest of the three):


If you wish to maintain your dumbbells within the entrance rack place, both clear your dumbbells up from the ground, or seize them off the rack. Regardless, you’ll want to make sure that you’re correctly cleansing them up into the entrance rack place with out inserting your self in harms method, particularly if the dumbbells are on the heavier aspect.

The entrance rack place ought to have your elbows pointing ahead, with the again of your arms parallel with the ground. If that is uncomfortable or should you’re coping with a doable wrist damage, inserting the dumbbells in your higher shoulders/traps and resting them there (whereas nonetheless holding onto the top of the dumbbell that’s closest to your chest, if the handles are in your shoulders) will be useful as nicely.


overhead dumbbell squat

This is extra of a speciality squat maintain variation, however however, a good way to construct whole physique, actual world power in addition to enhance mobility. This can be by far the toughest variation to load closely and most will do greatest to make use of a light-weight to reasonable load. 

Make word that the goblet and racked place would require extra higher physique work than the arms prolonged all the way down to the aspect maintain (comparable to your core, again, and arms) to maintain the dumbbells in place and your torso upright…

Now, on to the squatting motion sample…

Regardless of how you might be holding your dumbbells to your squat, the motion mechanics of the squat stays the identical:

squat with dumbbell

To start, begin along with your ft about hip-width aside, or just a little wider if needed. Bring your shoulder blades down and again, with chest excessive and core engaged.

From right here, carry your hips down and again as you bend on the knees, such as you’re going to be sitting on a bench or chair; decrease your self down till your thighs are parallel with the bottom. Alignment of your ankles, knees, and hips shouldn’t shift as you decrease your self into your squat.

At the underside of the motion – and nonetheless with chest excessive and core engaged – press by your heels to return to a standing place, squeezing your glutes on the best way up till you attain full extension.

Keep a agency grip on the handles of the dumbbells as you progress by your squat, making certain that they keep regular through the train.

Dumbbells can mess along with your stability and make your coordination really feel off, particularly in case you are used to doing simply body weight squats and even barbell squats.

So, get snug with holding dumbbells whereas squatting, because it’s important you keep good squatting type.  

Common Mistakes When Squatting with Dumbbells

Now that you know the way to do a dumbbell squat and a few of the choices out there to you with reference to holding onto your dumbbell(s), let’s check out a few of the most typical errors that you simply’ll discover with this train!

ROUNDING THE BACK & SHOULDERS: Dumbbells add a particular problem to squats – particularly because the added resistance can play along with your coordination, stability, and type. Rounding of the again and/or shoulders is a quite common mistake with dumbbell squats (and even squats with none additional weight). Make certain that your type and method for an everyday squat is the place it must be earlier than including any resistance, after which slowly add weight as desired. Rounding of the again and shoulders is often attributable to a scarcity of core power, or including an excessive amount of weight too rapidly. If it helps, squat with a mirror with the intention to hold tabs in your type and see the place disengagement occurs as you progress. And bear in mind, hold that core tight, shoulder blades retracted, and glutes engaged!
KNEE VALGUS: A time period incessantly utilized by health specialists, knee valgus happens when the knees bow inward towards one another. While this will happen throughout different actions (and even simply in static posture), it will possibly usually occur throughout a dumbbell squat, particularly if the dumbbells are by your sides along with your arms prolonged. This then locations pointless stress on the skin of the knees, and may trigger ache or damage if left unattended. While this isn’t all the time a problem attributable to motion (genetics usually performs a component as nicely), specializing in strengthening the hips and bettering power and vary of movement inside the hamstrings, quads, and ankles will be helpful as nicely.
RAISING ONTO TOES: Another frequent mistake seen with or with out the usage of dumbbells in a squat, elevating up onto the toes throughout any level of a squat can sign a number of issues. For one, there are fairly a couple of muscle mass which might be underactive once you drop down right into a squat and also you’re balancing in your toes – and your glutes are one in every of them! Sure, you may be capable of sink a bit decrease in case your weight transfers to your toes, however the brunt of your weight will then be in your calves…and possibly not comfortably. If you discover that you’re arising onto your toes as you decrease your self right into a squat, reassess and actually concentrate on urgent by the heels whereas protecting your complete foot planted on the bottom. This could be a problem for some, particularly if that squat type has been current for some time. Single leg squats could be a doable strengthening train should you discover your heel(s) rising throughout a squat!

how to squat with dumbbells

Benefits of Dumbbell Squats

Squats in and of themselves present huge advantages to the person; not solely are they thought of a purposeful train, however they’re additionally a compound motion – using a number of totally different joints and muscle mass within the physique directly. Let’s take a look at another advantages of dumbbell squats:


Dumbbells present unimaginable freedom of motion. Not solely are you able to alter the problem by merely selecting a better or tougher holding place, however you may have a number of extra variables to mess around with comparable to physique positioning and unilateral coaching. You can simply shift your foot placement and weight load placement, in addition to prepare with one dumbbell or two.

With the flexibility and selection that you may have with dumbbells, in addition they stimulate metabolic and mechanic overload, which might increase the dimensions of muscle mass. Dumbbells additionally assist in growing the activation of muscle mass inside the physique, bettering intramuscular coordination – particularly if used throughout compound actions. Along with with the ability to use them nearly wherever, dumbbells are a improbable addition to a lifting program.


Not solely are you able to progress by way of simpler to tougher squatting/grip variations with dumbbells, however you may as well accomplish that with weight load. Dumbbells beginning weight can be a lot lower than a barbell, so should you solely needed so as to add 5-10 kilos to your squat to begin, then work up from there, dumbbells permit that. 

Of course, barbells have the next ceiling when it comes to weight load, however dumbbells present a better versatility when it comes to load. 

For most individuals, dumbbells are greater than sufficient to get to the power degree they need and to construct the legs they need (research on hypertrophy with decrease hundreds). However, should you did wish to begin squatting actually heavy, in some unspecified time in the future you will must improve to a barbell. HOWEVER, that does not imply you will be finished with dumbbells perpetually. Dumbbells can all the time have their place for squats, comparable to should you needed to do a superset, accent work, a circuit exercise, or HIIT-style exercise.


Dumbbell squats goal the decrease physique, particularly the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But the core can also be working time beyond regulation in a dumbbell squat simply to maintain these dumbbells in place and to take care of good type.

Activation of those decrease physique and higher physique muscle mass interprets to improved efficiency with actions of each day dwelling, and may improve sports activities efficiency as nicely. Squat power could make it simpler to carry up your youngsters, sit down on the ground and get up extra effectively, and let you carry heavier objects safely (and accurately)!


As you begin to use heavier dumbbells, this turns into extra obvious. Just holding onto dumbbells whereas squatting will assist you to to construct unimaginable grip power, which is a vital part of health. If you do not know the significance of grip power and why you need to take it severe, then you should learn this text we wrote on grip power. 

Muscles Worked in a Dumbbell Squat

While it might sound apparent what muscle mass are labored in a dumbbell squat, let’s check out a few of the main movers!

Glutes: Also often known as the buttocks, the glutes are composed of three totally different elements (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus). These muscle mass assist in extension and rotation of the hips, in addition to stabilizing the hips.
Quads: Located on the entrance of your thighs, the quads are damaged into 4 separate elements (rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and vastus lateralis) and assist in extending the knee joints.
Hamstrings: Located on the again of your thighs, the hamstrings have three totally different elements (bicep femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus). These muscle mass work collectively to assist prolong the hips, in addition to flex the knees.

The calves are additionally being utilized in a dumbbell squat, as is the decrease again and muscle mass inside the core. Muscles inside the higher again and arms are additionally working, if you are sustaining a strong grip in your dumbbells!

Then, you may have totally different variations of squats that may let you goal your muscle mass otherwise…

Dumbbell Squat Variations

We will not go in-depth right here, however we’ll present you many good squatting variations and the way the muscle mass labored are affected. We advocate switching issues up and/or including these to your routine as nicely. This will permit for extra well-rounded improvement in power, hypertrophy, and athleticism. 


dumbbell sumo squat

While sumo squats work your legs and glutes similar to common squats, the train emphasizes your aspect glutes/hip abductors (gluteus medius & minimus) in addition to your inside thighs.

With sumo squats, you may have totally different holding positions, comparable to with arms prolonged down between your legs (will be finished with one or two dumbbells), goblet, or entrance racked as nicely (and even overhead).


dumbbell squat variations

Dumbbell break up squats additionally work your legs, glutes and calves, however they place better emphasis in your glutes and quads (significantly the realm of the quadriceps across the knee) in addition to core power & stability. They will even work your calves to the next diploma merely for stability functions.

You can have each ft flat on the bottom or increase the entrance one as much as improve the problem by way of elevated vary of movement. 

Holding place choices are the identical as the usual dumbbell squat.


dumbbell side squat

Like sumo squats, aspect squats place focus in your hip abductors and hip adductors. Side squats additionally improve the activation of the hamstrings greater than an everyday squat. You will not be capable of go almost as heavy with the aspect squat as you possibly can a sumo squat although, however the train is significantly harder as a result of vary of movement and hip mobility wanted. Start gentle with this one (and even simply your individual body weight). 

Goblet or entrance racked with be the most effective dumbbell holding positions for aspect squats.

Other good dumbbell squat variations you possibly can look into are:

Plie Squats
Heels Elevated Squat
Bulgarian Split Squats
Box Squats
Single Leg Box Squats
Pistol Squats
Jump Squats
Squat Thrusters
Clean Squats
Swing Squats

But for now, those we went by are the most effective to begin and are greater than sufficient when it comes to variability for power and constructing muscle.

Training Variables (Volume & Frequency):

The method that you simply select to include dumbbell squats right into a routine can be based mostly on objectives, present health degree, and present and previous damage historical past, simply to call a couple of elements to contemplate. However, there are some issues to bear in mind concerning coaching variables.

Reps and units: The dumbbell squat is a compound motion, so beginning with decrease weight and decrease reps isn’t a foul factor – particularly if you should be certain that your type and method keep on level. Once you’ve obtained the motion down, then reps of 12-15 for 2-3 units with a lighter weight is the place you’ll wish to be to develop endurance inside the decrease physique. If your aim is extra alongside the strains of power and mass, then 8-10 reps for a span of 4-5 units with a heavier dumbbell is extra preferrred.

Rest: Taking time for restoration is crucial, particularly in case you are recovering from an damage or are model new to understanding. You don’t must do dumbbell squats each day – in spite of everything, these muscle mass want time to restore and rebuild! Work this motion right into a routine the place you may get a minimum of 24 hours of down time in between exercises; no must go overboard on back-to-back squat days.

Progressive Overload with Dumbbell Squats:

It’s really fairly straightforward progressive overload with dumbbells. Before shifting on to more difficult actions, be certain that your type and method are right!

One of the primary methods that you may make the dumbbell squat more difficult is to extend the burden of your dumbbells. This needs to be finished incrementally, and never in large steps. Your core and general stabilization might want to study and regulate to new weight, and your legs will definitely really feel it!

Another development you can also make with dumbbell squats is to work on the unfavorable, or the eccentric part of the motion. This basically signifies that as a substitute of taking a rely or two to drop down into your squat, you’re extending that out to a few, 4, and even 5 counts. If finished accurately, this added time beneath rigidity could have you working a lot tougher than you had been earlier than!

If you might be wanting so as to add different actions into your routine (and also you positively ought to), then working the dumbbell units right into a strong program is one other option to progress – particularly should you work them right into a routine just like a superset. For instance, do a set of dumbbell squats, instantly transfer right into a set of lunges, and you then’ll be proper again to the following set of squats for a given rep scheme and/or time.

Related: Progressive Overload Guide

how to do dumbbell squats


The dumbbell squat is a extremely versatile compound motion that may enhance your performance all through actions of each day dwelling – all whereas offering a wonderful base of power and stability to your decrease physique and core. Incorporate dumbbell squats into your program and you might be certain to reap the advantages.

More Dumbbell Training Resources: 

21 Dumbbell Exercises You’ve Probably Never Done

17 Best Full Body Dumbbell Exercises

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