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
My Tips For 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
- 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 squat 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.