There’s a reason trainers call the squat the king of lower body exercises: No other move engages more muscle below the waist.
The dumbbell squat targets the quads and glutes, but also works the hamstrings and calves. When you perform the exercise correctly, you also enlist a suite of stabilizing muscles.
How to Do the Dumbbell Squat With Perfect Form
- Stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position.
Expert tip: The most important skill you can master for any squat variation — regardless of whether it involves a dumbbell, barbell, or any external weight at all — is the “hip hinge.” Instead of bending forward at your waist as you lower yourself, start by pushing your hips back, as if you were closing a car door with your butt.
Doing so will help ensure that you “sit back” into the exercise, engaging your powerful posterior chain muscles and minimizing the stress on your spine. The result: greater power, better form, and a lower risk of injury.
How to Make the Dumbbell Squat Easier
Use lighter weights, or do a half squat, slowly working your way down to a full squat as your strength and mobility improve. Another option: ditch the dumbbells and do a squat without weights (also known as a bodyweight squat).
How to Make Dumbbell Squat Harder
Use heavier weights, or do a Bulgarian split squat, elevating one foot at a time on a bench behind you (do equal reps on both legs).
The Dumbbell Squat vs. the Barbell Squat
Should you always choose dumbbells over a barbell? Both dumbbell and barbell squats are excellent strength and muscle builders. You can typically go heavier with a barbell squat, but there are more dumbbell variations.
In short, there are benefits to both dumbbell squats and barbell squats, and a balanced strength program can (and often does) include both — especially if you work out in a gym.
We prefer dumbbell squats at OpenFit because they’re more accessible for people who prefer to work out at home. All you need are two dumbbells. With barbell squats, you need a bar, plates, and a rack — unless, of course, you have two very strong, very patient friends who can do the job of a rack.