Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
RobConnor

The Dumbbell Squat - Build Mass & Avoid Injury

Recommended Posts

Before we get on to the dumbbell squat, I wanna first talk about squats and why you should be doing them.

As I’m sure you already know, squatting is often referred to as ‘the king of exercises’ for building mass. Many assume that this title is earned in reference to the squat’s ability to build huge leg muscles.

However, as well as being the #1 exercise for building the quads & glutes, squats also help stimulate growth in all the major muscle groups.

I could go on about the numerous reasons why every bodybuilder should include squats in their routine but hopefully you don’t need convincing.

If you wanna get big - squat- it’s as simple as that.

The Dangers Of Barbell Squatting

However, for some, loading a heavy bar onto the shoulders and squatting till you feel dizzy can present a bit of a safety issue. For those that train at home or indeed without a training partner then squatting can be viewed as somewhat dangerous.

There’s significant risk of running out of steam and struggling to rerack the bar.

For the lone trainer, heavy barbell squats are something that should only be attempted with a good quality power rack with safety bars. Too many times in the gym I’ve witnessed some poor guy struggling to get the bar back onto the rack after completing one rep too many.

Even with suitable equipment, if you fail to make the squat and drop the bar, there’s still a risk it could go wrong and you end up inuring yourself. At the very least, you’re gonna have to unload, lift the bar back onto the rack and reload. If that’s ever happened to you then you’ll know how much this can knock the steam out of the preceding squats sets.

The Dumbbell Squat - The Safer Alternative

A fantastic and much underrated alternative to the barbell squat is the dumbbell squat. It’s often seen as the poor cousin to the barbell ‘king’ but for some, it can actually be the superior exercise.

For the newbie, home trainer or the experienced trainer without access to a spotter or suitable power rack, the dumbbell squat makes a superb alternative to the barbell squat.

With the dumbbell squat, you have pretty much all of the mass building aspects of the barbell squat minus the safety issues. The exercise begins and ends with the weights on the floor, a far safer alternative to the’ top loaded’ barbell squat.

With the dumbbell squat, if you find yourself struggling to make the final rep then it’s far easier and safer to simply end the rep and return the weights to the floor.

Performing The Dumbbell Squat

  • Take a pair of medium weight dumbbells and align them in parallel, either side of you
  • Position your legs a little over shoulder width apart
  • Point feet directly forward or slightly out
  • Kneel down and take a grip of each dumbbell
  • Once you’re happy with your grip, push up with your legs, keeping you back straight
  • Once completely upright, pause momentarily before lowering back to the start position

I’ve scoured the net to find you a video that best demonstrates the dumbbell squat and found the short demo below. I’m a little camera shy myself but perhaps one day I’ll do my own video demonstration.

My Top Tips For Performing The Dumbbell Squat

  • Make sure your feet point either directly ahead or slightly outwards but never inwards. An inward turn can place disproportional stress on your knees.
  • Whatever foot angle you find most comfortable it’s imperative that you maintain the same angle for both feet. Different angles can place uneven load on one knee – not good.
  • When lowering, your knees shouldn’t extend ahead any further than the end of your toes.
  • Ensure your back remains at a constant angle to your body during the squat. You want the power to come from your quads (and hip flexors) not your back. Plus altering the angle places extra load on the lower back.
  • Rather than trying to lift the bar, focus instead on pushing your legs down into the ground. You’ll find this actually makes the lift ‘seem’ easier. Plus, this approach also help you maintain proper form with a straight back by thinking about your legs pushing rather than your body lifting
  • Given the similarity with the deadlift, you may feel a tendency to lean back slightly at the top of the movement as many people deadlifitng do. Please don’t do this. Arching backwards places unnecessary stress on the lower back. Arching back is performed by power lifters in competition to satisfy the judges that a full standing position was reached. Unless you’re a competitive power lifter, please don’t lean back.

I hope this article has revealed to you the many safety advantages of the dumbbell squa over the traditional barbell squat, especially for lone trainers. Remember, when it comes to weight lifting, your ability to avoid injury is one of the biggest factors in determining your progress.

Edited by RobConnor
Line spacing

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article mate. I for one, having done my squats at 7.30 this morning, can vouch that db squats can be a solution for people with back injuries and imo work just as well.

Bb or db....the main point is that if you want to progress overall, squats are a must.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article mate. I for one, having done my squats at 7.30 this morning, can vouch that db squats can be a solution for people with back injuries and imo work just as well.

Bb or db....the main point is that if you want to progress overall, squats are a must.

Too right dude, BB or DB, don't matter, just squat!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been stuck down below parallel on a few occasions lol, usually have a spotter but sometimes you have to go for it without one, nightmare if you come unstuck!

A good alternative and it's always good to mix up your training.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a big fan of DB squats. The safety factor is important to me - I workout alone in my garage late at night and don't like having a BB over my head. And ... they're effective :) DB squats plus deadlifts hit my legs pretty well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i find the dumbells hit my outer knee on the way down and i have to hold them out more, which is causing my shoulders to ache a bit

any tips?

Yes, the DB squat can become cumbersome especially when you start handling heavy weights (or you only have access to large plated dumbbells!). That’s why I tend to use the DB squat for lighter weights\higher reps or when I simply fancy a change.

Couple of things you could try:

  • If you’re using dumbbells you load yourself you can try using smaller plates (i.e 4x5Kg instead of 2X10kg) to give a little more clearance around the knees. Or simply load the plates smaller plates closer to the handle - this may give you a bit more room when passing the knees.
  • Try using straps. Not having to put much effort into gripping the dumbbells will make it easier to ‘twist them as they approach your knees.
  • ‘One legged’ DB squats make it much easier to manoeuvre the single dumbbell past your knee on the way up and down. You’ll need to hang onto something with your spare arm (rack or bench). Using one leg brings it own problems and things to watch for (might write an article on this one day) but if you find using two a problem it’s worth trying.

Just like every other exercise, the DB squat may simply just not suit you, if it causes you problems and you can’t seem to work around them then you need to find an alternative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've just got some DB and a Bench coming to my house so I can start training again as I've been on an enforced break since October. My ms has affected my walking so I am bringing the gym to my house and this will be the perfect solution to mean I can get some Squats in. I only use light weights anyway as they're weak so this will be perfect!!

Reps

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the DB squat can become cumbersome especially when you start handling heavy weights (or you only have access to large plated dumbbells!). That’s why I tend to use the DB squat for lighter weights\higher reps or when I simply fancy a change.

Couple of things you could try:

  • If you’re using dumbbells you load yourself you can try using smaller plates (i.e 4x5Kg instead of 2X10kg) to give a little more clearance around the knees. Or simply load the plates smaller plates closer to the handle - this may give you a bit more room when passing the knees.
  • Try using straps. Not having to put much effort into gripping the dumbbells will make it easier to ‘twist them as they approach your knees.
  • ‘One legged’ DB squats make it much easier to manoeuvre the single dumbbell past your knee on the way up and down. You’ll need to hang onto something with your spare arm (rack or bench). Using one leg brings it own problems and things to watch for (might write an article on this one day) but if you find using two a problem it’s worth trying.

Just like every other exercise, the DB squat may simply just not suit you, if it causes you problems and you can’t seem to work around them then you need to find an alternative.

This is the one comment I was going to make after reading your (very good) article - DB squats do become cumbersome when heavier weights and larger plates are required.

That said, lighter weight/high rep squats are I think much under used and underrated as serious leg building exercise - many of the old timers did twenty plus rep sets of squats, and multiple sets to failure in that rep range can turn a man into a crying baby (they do for me anyway :lol:)!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

will give these a go as been advised to avoid a bar on my back due to 2 prolapsed discs and this will allow me to squat again - also if staying light super set these with deep lunges to blitz the quads

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bar squatting is fvcking uncomfortable... I always used to do DB squats... You can still hold the same weight and you're achieving the same purpose at the end of the day....

Maybe if your a beginner, but even intermediate who can for example squat comfortably with 100kg it going to have problems holding a pair of 50kg dumbells.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With knee problems dumbbell squats are far safer for me. I felt fvcked after these the other day.

I know it's an old thread, didn't see the point in starting a new one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good article, i love DB squats, Theres is a lot of weeks i dont squat now due to doms effecting my kickboxing but the weeks i do i do DB squats and **** me they burn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×