16 Best Dumbbell Squat Variations To Build Strength & Muscle

Squats are highly effective exercises for developing lower body muscles. The different variations of dumbbell squats maximize the strength and size of your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and hips. Additionally, they improve your balance and jumping movement, burn many calories, and promote fat loss1 Takai Y, Fukunaga Y, Fujita E, et al. Effects of body mass-based squat training in adolescent boys. J Sports Sci Med. 2013;12(1):60-65. Published 2013 Mar 1.

I’ll hand out sixteen dumbbell squat variations in this article that will help you increase your strength, speed, mass, and balance.

You may have already been doing some of them but learning about them all gives you more options to choose from for your different goals.

These squat variations will be helpful to all men and women athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts.

So, whether you’re in your ’20s or fifties, you can do some of these squats to enhance your fitness level.

The Ultimate List of Dumbbell Squat Variations

  1. Standard Dumbbell Squat
  2. Dumbbell Split Squat
  3. Dumbbell Goblet Squat
  4. Dumbbell Front Squat
  5. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
  6. Dumbbell Sumo Squat
  7. Dumbbell Hack Squat
  8. Dumbbell Jump Squat
  9. Dumbbell Squat to Press
  10. Overhead Dumbbell Squat
  11. Dumbbell Skater Squat
  12. Dumbbell Squat Clean Thruster
  13. Dumbbell Pulse Squat
  14. Dumbbell Lateral Squat
  15. Dumbbell Curtsy Squat
  16. Dumbbell Pop Squat

You can perform these squats at home and in the gym, wherever you like. All they require is some pairs of light to heavy dumbbells, a workout bench, and a little space.

Those who couldn’t perform squats with dumbbells can do the bodyweight squats. Bodyweight squats help you scale up for the dumbbell squat exercises.

Best Dumbbell Squats for Beginners To Gear Up Strength

1. Standard Dumbbell Squat

The standard dumbbell squat is the primary workout for quadriceps. It is a beginner-friendly movement and easy to perform. It helps you build solid thighs and enhance your jumping, running, and muscular endurance.

Standard Dumbbell Squat

How to:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and hold them on your shoulder.
  2. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly out.
  3. Bend at your knees and hips to squat down until your butt is parallel to the floor.
  4. Maintain a flat back during the entire movement to reduce the stress on the lower back.

2. Dumbbell Split Squat

The split squat is also known as stationary lunges. It works on multiple muscles at once, such as quadriceps, hams, and glutes. It also increases your fitness level to perform its advanced movement, the Bulgarian split squat.

How to:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand in the split stance.
  2. Keep your back upright and your arms straight at your sides.
  3. Bend your knees to squat down as low as possible and extend your knees until they are straight.
  4. Perform ten reps before switching to the opposite side.

3. Dumbbell Goblet Squat

The dumbbell goblet squat strengthens the quad and glutes simultaneously. It put less stress on your lower back compared to the back squats and that’s the reason why many personal trainers recommend it to do.

Steps to perform:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest with bend arms.
  2. Stand upright in the shoulder-width stance with your feet slightly pointing out.
  3. Slowly squat down until your glute is close to the floor, pause for a moment, and return to the standing position.
  4. Make sure your back remains flat, and your knees don’t cross your toes during the movement.

4. Dumbbell Lateral Squat

To build defined legs and glutes, you need to target the muscles in every way possible.

The dumbbell lateral squats target the muscles at a different angle, unlike the above three squats. For example, it works on the inner thighs and side glutes, and adds strength and definition to your lower body muscles.

Steps to perform:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and hold them on your shoulders with your elbows bent.
  2. Keep your feet slightly out and two times wider than shoulder-width and stand straight.
  3. Squat down to your right side and then return to the standing position.
  4. Now, perform a squat to the left side and extend your knees. That’s your one rep!

5. Dumbbell Pulse Squat

The dumbbell pulse squat is an excellent workout to build sturdy legs and glute. It maximizes strength and mass by keeping your muscles under constant tension throughout the movement. And the best thing is, it is easier than different dumbbell squat variations.

How to do a dumbbell sumo squat:

  1. Holding a dumbbell close to your chest, stand upright in the sumo squat stance.
  2. Pushing your hips back, bend your knees to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Pressing your feet into the floor slightly extends your knees (but do stand up back).
  4. Continue performing the squats in that way for the suggested repetitions.
  5. Your legs will be under constant tension throughout the movement.

6. Dumbbell Front Squat

The front squat primarily works on the quadriceps and builds bigger thighs. Going deep during the squat will also help you strengthen the buttocks.

best dumbbell squat variation

How to perform a front squat:

  1. Grab a dumbbell with your hands and hold it close to your chest with your elbows bent.
  2. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and stand upright.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Advanced Dumbbell Squats For Strength, Mass & Mobility

1. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

If increasing the lower body strength and mobility is your priority, then the Bulgarian split squat can be your good companion. The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is a compound exercise that enhances hip flexibility and solidifies the entire lower body muscles.

However, it can be challenging for you if you’re a beginner. So before doing it, I suggest performing the usual split squat.

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

Steps to perform dumbbell Bulgarian split squat:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand, keep your arms straight at your sides, and place the top of your rear foot on a bench behind you. That’s the start.
  2. Keep your back straight and chest up, bend your knees so your rear foot comes close to the ground, and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Now, pushing through your feet into the floor, return to the starting position.

2. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

If you want to build inner thighs, adductors, and glutes, consider doing dumbbell sumo squat. The dumbbell sumo squat combined with traditional squats enhances lower body strength and builds solid thighs.

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

How to do a dumbbell sumo squat:

  1. Stand upright with your feet two times wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your toes pointing outward and grab the end of a dumbbell with your hands.
  3. Perform a squat until your buttock is close to the floor.
  4. Pause for a moment and then return to the start.

3. Dumbbell Hack Squat

The dumbbell hack squat is an advanced lower body exercise that improves balance while strengthening the quads, hams, glute, and hips.

You need an extra piece of equipment: a foot platform, to perform this movement.

How to do the dumbbell hack squat:

  1. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and keep your arms straight at your sides.
  2. Place your heels on the foot platform and stand on it. Your toes will stay grounded.
  3. Keeping your torso upright, bend your knees forward as you squat down.
  4. Go as low as possible until you maintain your balance.
  5. Push your feet into the floor to extend your knees until you’re upright. That’s one rep.
  6. Aim for three sets of eight to 12 reps.

You can also perform a hack squat with a barbell to maximize your fitness level.

4. Dumbbell Jump Squat

The dumbbell jump squat is an explosive, high-intense, and fat-burning exercise. I’ve included it in some of the HIIT and CrossFit workout programs as it burns many calories in a short time while building lower body muscles.

Steps to perform dumbbell squat jump:

  • Holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, stand upright in the shoulder-width stance.
  • Perform a half squat and while returning jump as high as possible in an explosive way.
  • Land your feet softly into a semi-squat position and continue performing it for the suggested reps.

5. Dumbbell Squat to Press

The squat to press is a dumbbell compound exercise that works on various muscles at once from upper to lower body. You can mostly do this exercise when you do the full-body dumbbell exercises.

How to do squat to press:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and hold them just above your shoulders.
  2. Perform a standard squat and as you return to the standing position press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight.
  3. Return the dumbbells and then repeat the same steps for the next repetitions.

6. Overhead Dumbbell Squat

Dumbbells are so useful that they allow you to make the exercise easy and tough. For example, you’ve seen how you can perform a squat to press, and now you’ll see how you perform a squat holding the dumbbells overhead.

The overhead squat is usually done with a barbell but you can also do it with a pair of dumbells. The overhead dumbbell squat strengthens the upper and lower body and increases your ability the hold the weight overhead for a longer duration.

Steps to perform overhead dumbbell squats:

  1. Grab one dumbbell in each hand and hold them over your head with straight arms.
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward.
  3. Brace your core and lower into a deep squat and then return to the starting position.
  4. Keep your arms straight overhead throughout the movement.

7. Dumbbell Skater Squat

If your game requires balance and strength, consider doing the dumbbell skater squat. The skater squat is another form of pistol squat where you bring your legs back instead of in front of you. It is one of the dumbbell squat variations that work on the entire body and enhances your overall performance.

How to do a dumbbell skater squat:

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand at your sides, stand upright with your feet together.
  2. Bend your right knee so the foot is behind you. That’s the start.
  3. Moving your right leg behind, lean forward slightly and lower into a squat position and raise the dumbbells in front of you simultaneously.
  4. Driving through your heel return to the start.
  5. Keep your spine neutral and go as deep as possible during the movement.

8. Dumbbell Squat Clean Thruster

Try dumbbell squat clean thruster if you want to build up strength, speed, and muscles altogether. The dumbbell squat clean thruster is a high-intense movement that works on various muscles at once, such as quads, legs, glutes, and core, and provides a total body workout. It also burns many calories in a quick time and boosts endurance. You can do it when you perform HIIT with dumbbells.

steps to perform squat clean thruster:

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand in a shoulder-width stance with your toes pointing slightly out.
  2. Pushing your hips back, lean forward, and bend your knees to squat down.
  3. Driving through your heels and explode up while shrugging the dumbbells to catch them on your shoulders.
  4. Extend your hips and knees to return to the standing position.
  5. Now press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are fully extended.
  6. Try to perform this exercise as fast as possible.

9. Dumbbell Curtsy Squat

The curtsy squat is one best squat exercises you can do to enhance your lower extremists. It works differently than the different variation of dumbbell squats that’s why doing it can help you build muscular squads and glutes.

How to do a dumbbell curtsy squat:

  1. Holding a dumbbell close to your chest, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. As you lower your body lift your right foot up off the floor and cross it behind your left leg.
  3. Slowly bend your knee to squat down until your hip is in a normal squat position.
  4. Drive through your left foot to return to the start.
  5. Perform an equal number of sets and reps on both sides.

10. Dumbbell Pop Squat

The pop squat is a high-intense exercise that helps you build speed, strength, endurance, and power. It works on the entire muscles including the inner thighs and glutes.

You can also incorporate it into your weight loss workout program to burn many calories and speed up fat loss.

Steps to do the Pop squat:

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your chest, stand upright with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and the toes slightly pointed out.
  2. Perform a normal squat.
  3. Jump high and bring your feet in and together simultaneously to stand upright.
  4. Now, jump your legs out, lower your body into a squat position, and repeat for the desired number of times.

Dumbbell Squat Routine To Increase Muscle, Speed, and Balance

Workout A

Do the exercises into circuits. Perform three rounds.

SquatsRepsRest
Dumbbell Goblet Squat1030-sec
Dumbbell Front Squat1045-sec
Dumbbell Hack Squat1060-sec
Dumbbell Skater Squat10/side60-sec
Dumbbell Curtsy Squat10/side60-sec
Dumbbell Pop Squat1045-sec

Workout B

Perform three rounds with one to two minutes rest between them.

SquatsRepsRest
Dumbbell Jump Squat1030-sec
Standard Dumbbell Squat1030-sec
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat10/side30-sec
Overhead Dumbbell Squat1045-sec
Dumbbell Squat Clean Thruster1045-sec
Dumbbell Pop Squat1045-sec

FAQS About Dumbbell Squats

Do Dumbbell Squats Build Mass?

Squats are super helpful exercises for developing lower body muscles. The different variations of dumbbell squats build the strength and muscles of your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Additionally, they improve your speed, balance, and jumping movement.

Can You Squat Every Day?

I’ve shared sixteen dumbbell squat variations for various goals, such as to build muscles, improve balance, and increase speed. So you can perform some of them every day. For example, you can do the dumbbell goblet squat, Squat to press, and Bulgarian split squat on Monday; the dumbbell skater squat, curtsy squat, and dumbbell hack squat on Tuesday; and dumbbell jump squat, pop squat, and squat clean thruster on Wednesday and so on.

Do Dumbbell Squats Build Butts?

Squats are excellent exercises for putting on muscles in to lower the body: thighs and glutes. The dumbbell sumo squats, goblet squat, hack squat and pulse squat are some of the best variations to help you build sturdy and sizable butts. Moreover, you can combine some other compound glute exercises, such as step-up, hip thrust, belt squat, and glute bridge to develop muscular buttocks,

Are Dumbbell Squats Bad for Knees?

Dumbbell squats aren’t bad for knees as long as you do them with the correct form. A study published in the PMC journal invalidated the command suggestion that deep squats could cause an increased injury risk to the lumbar spine and the knee joints and instead suggested that the deep squat can be effective for protection against injuries and strengthening the lower body muscles.2Hartmann H, Wirth K, Klusemann M. Analysis of the load on the knee joint and vertebral column with changes in squatting depth and weight load. Sports Med. 2013 Oct;43(10):993-1008. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0073-6. PMID: 23821469.

What Is The Difference Between The Dumbbell Deadlift and Dumbbell Squat?

The deadlift and squat aren’t the same. They both work differently and provide different benefits. The squat is primarily the quad exercise while the deadlift works more on posterior chain muscles, such as hamstrings, glutes, and back. Moreover, the squat is a knee extension movement where your hips go deeper and lower while the deadlift is more of a hips extension movement where you extend your hips forward to slightly lean back to finish the lifting.

The squats and deadlifts are great exercises for developing lower body muscles and you can use them interchangeably to target the different muscles. Squatting is easier than deadlifting, so you can do it to scale up for deadlifts if you’re a beginner.

The Takeaway

The lower body is responsible for every tiny activity you do. From getting out of bed to sitting down in a chair, from picking an object off the floor to running on the track, the quads, glutes, hams, hips, and calves are responsible for almost every move we make. That’s why strengthening these muscles becomes pretty essential.

You can do various exercises to solidify your lower body muscles, but squats are the best of them. The dumbbell squat variations mentioned in this article are excellent for all fitness enthusiasts. So whether you’re a male or female athlete or muscle builder, you can do some of them or all of them to enhance your strength, speed, mobility, and mass.

Moreover, you can combine squats with other lower body exercises, such as lunges, step-ups, and hip thrusts. To maximize your workout and results, you can also use different equipment, such as resistance bands, barbells, and kettlebells.

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Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.