We all know just how important leg day actually is, but with so many exercises and pieces of equipment to choose from, it’s hard to know what’s really best for building lower body strength. When it comes to squats specifically, you can practically do them with any gym equipment.
Below, we’ll review two of the most common methods of performing squats (dumbbell and barbell), the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which type we recommend.
Table of Contents
What Are Dumbbell Squats?
Dumbbell squats are essentially a regular squat that takes advantage of equipment modification. To perform a dumbbell squat, you’ll need two weighted dumbbells of equal weight.
Here is a breakdown of how to do dumbbell squats:
- Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp one dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your arms parallel to your torso, begin to lower yourself toward the ground and achieve a 90-degree angle in your knees.
- Maintaining balance in your knees and feet, push up off the ground to return to your original starting position.
3 Dumbbell Squat Pros
1. Great Exercise for Beginners
Perhaps the greatest benefit of dumbbell squats is the fact that they’re an easy exercise for beginners to learn. With low levels of strength and power in the lower body, a beginner may be unable to even lift the typical weight of a barbell, making dumbbell squats the perfect alternative.
2. Reduced Risk of Injury Upon Failure
When considering the form required to perform dumbbell squats, the position of the hands and weight greatly reduces the risk of injury if you’re unable to complete a repetition. Rather than collapsing to the ground with a barbell resting on your back, you can easily drop the dumbbells a few inches to the floor.
3. Greater Availability of Equipment
Like goblet squats, dumbbell squats are a great alternative to barbell squats for individuals with limited equipment. It’s significantly more likely that a person already has a dumbbell set at home (as opposed to a barbell and rack), making this the perfect exercise to perform in the comfort of your own home.
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2 Dumbbell Squats Cons
1. Form is Risked With Heavier Weights
To fully understand why dumbbell squats can be dangerous at heavier weights, you need to think about where the hands and weights are positioned. With larger dumbbells, there’s a greater risk that the dumbbells will make contact with your upper legs or ankles, which can impact your form or ability to complete a repetition.
2. Weight Limitations
The greatest issue when it comes to dumbbell squats is an improvement in strength. When you’re consistently increasing the weight you’re using, you’ll eventually get to a point where your strength levels exceed the weight of the dumbbells you have access to.
What Are Barbell Squats?
Barbell squats are perhaps the most traditional type of squat that you can perform. To perform this type of squat, you need a weighted barbell and a squat rack.
Here’s a step-by-step process for performing a barbell squat:
- Beginning with the barbell resting on the squat rack, you’ll position yourself beneath the bar and allow it to rest on your shoulders.
- With the hands supporting the bar on each side, you’ll keep your feet shoulder-width apart and begin to drop into a position where your knees are at about a 90-degree angle.
- Without buckling your knees or repositioning your feet, push up off the floor and return to your starting position.
3 Barbell Squats Pros
1. Inherently Safer
Barbell squats are much safer than other types of squats because of the equipment you’ll be using. By using a squat rack to balance the barbell on your back, you can guarantee that you have a perfect form that you’ll be able to maintain throughout the exercise.
2. Easy to Maintain Form
When you have a heavy barbell balanced on your shoulders, you’ll be more likely to be able to maintain consistent form through the entirety of the movement. Keeping the bar balanced on your back will also require you to keep your back incredibly straight and prevent injury.
3. Several Variations Available
The best part about barbell squats is that you don’t have to settle for the same exercise each time leg day comes around. With a wider assortment of barbell-based squats that you can perform, you can keep your workouts interesting and swap exercises as you please.
2 Barbell Squat Cons
1. Requires a Specific Set of Equipment
Perhaps the largest issue when it comes to barbell squats is that you’ll most likely need to go to the gym to work on them. Given the fact that you need a barbell, plates, and a squat rack, it’s very unlikely that you already have this massive amount of equipment in your home.
2. Failing Can Result in Injury
The greatest risk of barbell squats is the risk of injury when you’re unable to fully perform a squat. If your lower back or legs begin to give out mid-squat, you might end up falling to the ground beneath the weight of a heavy barbell, which could cause severe injury.
Dumbbell Squats Vs. Barbell Squats Conclusion
Though dumbbell and barbell squats can both prove to be incredibly effective when it comes to building lower-body strength and power, one provides substantially more benefits than the other.
Barbell squats are one of the major compound lifts for a reason. They’re extremely effective in boosting fitness levels, strength, and power.
The greatest aspect of barbell squats is that they’re suitable for any fitness level, whether you’re using just the bar or loading all nearby 45-pound plates on each end. With the support of a squat rack, you can easily perform this exercise, receive the associated benefits, and reduce your risk of injury.
In addition to the typical barbell squat, there are several other variations that you can take advantage of depending on your goals and preferences. That means you can swap exercises in and out to keep your workouts more interesting.
The best thing you can do when it comes to lower body fitness is adding barbell squats to your routine.
And now that you know which exercise can really build a powerful lower body, would you like to know how to lift more weight and add more muscle faster?
Check out some of our top weightlifting belts for squats so you can make faster muscle gains with every workout!
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