T Nation

Dumbbell Squats vs. Barbell Squats


Are there any benefits of dumbbell squats compared to barbell squats?


I believe for alot of people the motion is alot harder to get deep with good form, because it will expose your weaknesses. Also, I think it is hard to get the stress primarily on the posterior chain with dumbell squats. It tends to be much more of a quad exercise in my opinion.

Dumbell Squats are a very nuts and bolts strength builder especially if you try to get to the floor with the dumbells, and since the bar is not just sitting on your back their is a tremendous amount of oblique trapezius and forearm emphasis.

Dumbell Squats are kindof like a deadlift squat hybrid, I think you get a similar loading of the upper body as you do with deads but I dont think it hits the posterior chain as much as even back squats do. Lets say a front squat deadlift hybrid.


I agree with this whole post. Similar application with a trap bar. I wouldn't call dumbbell or trap bar squats a replacement for deads or bar/back squats, but they are worth doing and a hell of a lot harder than you may think, especially if you keep the weight back by your ankles and go to at least parallel.

A definite quad shredder. You can also improvise and deliberately get more glute/ham involvement if you try, by lowering the weight more in front and not getting your butt so low.


I suppose one problem is that not all gyms have sufficiently heavy dumbbells.


It takes less weight than you may think for these to be brutally hard.


Sorry for the noob Q,

are these DB squats? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcL1QUJQVoc

I've done what are perhaps called "db front squats" where I hold the DBs up in front of my chest, what is this called?

Thanks in advance


Yep, that's the exercise I was talking about


one benefit to dumbbell squats nobody mentioned was the lack of spinal loading compared barbell back squats--a good exercise for when you need to give the spine a break. A friend a with pretty severe (congenital) lordosis doing these, and they give him no trouble.


Personally I always classified those as a deadlift variation. As far as I'm concerned, if you're holding the weight in your hands and down below your waist, it's a deadlift. If the weight is supported on your torso (even Zerchers fall into this category) or above your head (overheads), then it's a squat. But, hey maybe that's just me. I just find it easier to think in those terms.

Like someone said, dumbell squats are pretty much identical to trap bar deads, the only real difference is the equipment. It just doesn't make sense to me to categorize them as different exercises.

As far as the pros/cons, I'd say that the amount of weight that you can use on the dumbbell exercise may be limited by your hand strength (similar to barbell or trap bar deads), this may be beneficial for building grip strength. But, more than likely it'll also result in suboptimal loading of your lower body. With a barbell squat (back or front) the weight is supported by your physical structure, thus allowing for much greater loads to be utilized.

The dumbbell exercise does allow one to keep a very upright torso position however, so if flexibility is an issue, or one just can't get the hang of front squats, this exercise may be a good alternative.

I also agree about what was said about the dumbbell exercise being a good break from the heavy spinal loading associated with back and front squats. But, honestly if I want an exercise that really works the quads and places minimal stress on the spine I personally prefer pistols or weighted pistols.

Obviously the disadvantage with those is balance, so I'm not saying that there is any one "best" exercise either. Just preferences.

Good training,



When I have done DB squats in the past I didn't like it quite as much because it limited my range of motion, the dumbells hit the ground when I was at parallel (ish). Also I didn't feel the burn on my quads like I do with back squats. One variation I like is dumbbell front squats, where the dumbbells are sitting on your shoulders. Just gets harder getting them up in position as you go up in weight.


I use my trap bar on a platform to remedy the ROM issue.

@ Sentoguy:

We had a huge debate one time a while back about what exactly to call squat/deadlift movements with the weight hanging in the hands. Wadda blast, we never did get it settled to everybody's satisfaction, but in the end I guess it doesn't make any difference what they're called.

Using a trap bar with the weight back to the ankles and the thighs down to at least parallel with the back straight on a platform positively blowtorches my quads. Similar to barbell hacks which do the same, but go rough on my right shoulder.


Right on Trib. Guess I missed that one. :slight_smile:

I agree, it doesn't really matter what we call it, doesn't change how effective it is or what muscles it works.

Interesting suggestion to try trap bar deads (dumbbell squats/deads) off a platform, never tried that one before. I'll have to give it a shot sometime.

Good training,



This is one of them there exercises where it's "correct" to do them "incorrectly" in my opinion.

Seriously, strict squatting form on a platform to parallel at least. I'd go so far as to say that done with this way enthusiasm they're as brutal as regular squats.