Dumbbell squats and barbell squats can both be excellent forms of exercise for improving overall body strength, endurance, and health. However, each type has its pros and cons depending on one’s own personal goals and preferences. For example, dumbbell squats may be a better choice for someone who wishes to focus more on building leg strength, while barbell squats may prove more beneficial for someone who is hoping to gain overall body strength or build shoulder strength.
With many different squat variations available to suit people at all levels, it can be helpful to do your research and learn about form before diving in. This handy guide by Strength Ambassadors is here to help you learn more about the dumbbell squat vs the barbell squat, plus key variations of these squats to figure out which is right for you.
Dumbbell Squats Explained
What is a Dumbbell Squat?
The dumbbell squat is a common weight strength training exercise that is primarily performed with two dumbbells, usually held by the sides or on the shoulders. The workout primarily targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings in your upper leg. It can also target muscles in your shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips, groin, calves and abs depending on how you perform the movement.
Dumbbell Squat Benefits
Dumbbell squats are great for developing core strength to strengthen and stabilise muscles that support heavy lifts like the bench press or overhead press. Even if you’re not a powerlifter or Olympic lifter, dumbbell squats can be used as a complementary exercise to barbell squats to help build stability, muscle and strength in the legs. This exercise also builds functional strength for all sorts of general lifting activities in day-to-day life and can also boost general mobility and stability.
Dumbbell Squat Considerations
You can perform dumbbell squats in many different variations, all with different advantages. These include the single-arm overhead dumbbell squat, the dumbbell front squat and the standard dumbbell squat. Which variation is right for you will depend on your goals and what kind of functional strength you want to build. But for a beginner, we recommend starting with the standard dumbbell squat.
How to Perform a Standard Dumbbell Squat
- Stand with your feet on the floor and hip-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your hands by your sides.
- Slowly drive your hips down, squatting as low as you can go while keeping your back straight and core tight. Hold for a moment at the deepest point of the squat, then use the strength of your leg muscles to lift yourself back up into a standing position.
- Repeat for the desired reps.
Barbell Squats Explained
What is a Barbell Squat?
The barbell squat is a full-body compound exercise that targets the muscles of the buttocks, thighs and hips. It’s a great move for strengthening the legs and butt. The barbell squat also effectively works the quads, meaning you should really feel it in your lower body.
Barbell Squat Benefits
The barbell squat can increase lower body strength as well as improve the coordination of muscles used during dynamic movements. The barbell squat movement mimics many everyday actions such as sitting down or getting up from a chair, or lifting heavy objects, so it is a great exercise to build functional strength. It can also be useful for increasing athletic performance across multiple disciplines.
Barbell Squat Considerations
If you’re looking for a compound exercise to tie in building upper body strength with lower body strength building, a barbell squat could be more suitable for you than a dumbbell squat. Which type of barbell squat variation you choose will depend on other factors, like what type of functional strength you want to build. It’s important to consider your fitness level and goals when considering which type of squat is right for you.
The barbell squat can be a challenging exercise. However, there are many different variations of the barbell squat that can be adapted to different skill levels, fitness levels and your specific goals and training needs. Just like dumbbell squat variations, these barbell squat variations also come with different advantages, challenges and techniques. If you do decide that a barbell squat is right for you, you should ensure you consider safety precautions.
If performed correctly with the right alignment, barbell squats should not be dangerous. According to Muscle and Strength, If you want to avoid injury from barbell squats, you should simply follow these four tips:
- Ensure that you warm up properly
- Take the time to learn proper technique and theory
- Use a weight that you can actually handle
- Have an experienced trainer, spotter and/or safety catches
How to Perform a Standard Barbell Squat
- Approach the barbell rack and grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a ‘shelf’ for the bar to rest on the back of your shoulders.
- Smoothly lift the bar out of the rack and step back, with your feet around shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing outwards.
- Feel the floor through your whole foot. Bend at the knees and hips to squat, keeping your core braced. The squat depth you should aim for ideally is when the crease of your hip is below the top of your knee. Keep your torso straight, and avoid collapsing your core or chest.
- To complete the movement, drive your feet into the floor and return to standing position. Walk into the rack to release the bar safely.
Looking To Build Strength With a Range of Expert-Led Classes and Courses?
At Strength Ambassadors, we pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of building functional strength, which includes figuring out which squat is right for you and working it into your exercise routine. With a range of expert-led classes and services available, we provide an option for anyone that wants to level up their workouts. Contact us today for more information.