Dumbbell squatting exercises are an excellent way to get strong and muscular legs. Often times people only know one or two variations and repeat the same movements over and over, that’s why we created this list of the 12 best dumbbell squat exercises for you to add variety to your training whilst moving towards your goals.
No spam – just thoughtful training advice
As the dumbbell is such a versatile tool it can be used to create a large variety of exercises. This is a great way to keep training fun and interesting. As consistency is the most important aspect of building a successful training practice, finding exercise enjoyable is very important in order to build this consistency.
Another reason that it’s beneficial to used dumbbells squatting variations is the amount of unilateral options that are available. Unilateral strength training is beneficial for both athletes and general population clients due to the increased in stability required to control them.
Adding volume to the squatting pattern through dumbbell variations like walking lunges or squat in lunges can be a very effective way to create high volume training without putting too much stress on the rest of the body. If your primary squatting variation for the week is a back squat, using a secondary dumbbell variation is an excellent way to increase volume for muscle growth.
Try and target the legs for 8-12 sets per week for optimal strength gains or muscle growth depending on what your goal is. This is a generalisation and depends on the person, but if your consistently staying within these parameters you will see progress towards your goal.
Use progressive overload with dumbbell squatting variations will be an excellent way to ensure you are moving towards your goals. Progressive overload is a simple principle of increasing the stress of an exercises over time. This can be from either increasing the wight used or increasing the volume through adding sets and reps. This is a slow process and doesn’t always require weights to be increased week by week.
Finding a good starting position puts you in good sted for the rest of the movement and starting in a bad position will make it almost impossible to perform the movement with the desired form. Take the dumbbell b-stance squat for example, if you don’t find the correct starting position for this movement then the entire exercise will be off.
Knee path during the squat will be very important in order for the movement to create a stress on the desired musculature. This mistake is often created by poor exercise selection, if someone is given an exercise which is too challenging then this mistake will often occur, a good example of this is a dumbbell step up, when performed with a weight that is too heavy, maintaining correct knee path with be too challenging.
By shifting your weight either onto the heel or the toe you will make it very difficult to successfully perform the squat movement pattern. By keeping the weight through the middle of the foot you will be able to stay balanced and perform the movement pattern correctly.
Performing repetitions with too much speed will reduce the time under tension and often illustrates a general lack of ability to control the movement properly or to endure the discomfort of the exercise. This is often seen with rear foot elevated single leg squats also knows as Bulgarian split squat, when they get hard and uncomfortable, people rush through the reps, to the detriment to the adaptation. Endure the discomfort and perform each exercise correctly.
Dumbbells can make up a large part of your entire training regime. They are particularly effective as secondary exercises as they can be used to create a lot of volume. For advanced individuals using a barbell for your primary exercises will likely be beneficial, that being said, having a dumbbell exercise as a primary every now and then can be beneficial.
Make sure you use dumbbell exercises that your capable of performing with good technique. Some of the exercises in this list as designed for advanced individuals and if performed by beginners they will not create the desired stimulus.
They can also be great for cardiac output circuits or high intensity interval training. Movements like dumbbell walking lunges or dumbbell thrusters can be great for either increasing the heart rate or keeping it high throughout a tough circuit. The exercises in this list a more designed for strength training, but that doesn’t mean some of them wouldn’t be appropriate in a cardiovascular circuit.
Squatting with dumbbells is very effective and has been shown to be a successful way to gain strength and muscle mass.
Yes. You will be able to generate enough of a stimulus to create an adaptation for hypertrophy with dumbbells.
No. No exercise is better or worse. Barbells lifts are much better at specific goals like increasing strength as they are much more practical to load. That being said dumbbell squat variations may be just as effective for muscle growth.
If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.
This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.