The squat is a fundamental movement. Not only is it crucial for daily living (getting in and out of a chair, for example), but is also one of the best exercises, if not the best exercise, for increasing physical strength. Squats can be done on many different ways using different training equipment. Dumbbell front squat (dumbbell shoulder squat) is just one version of squatting in a series of possible variations. It’s very convenient bodybuilding exercise for beginners, those exercising at home (since it requires little space) and for those who are limited with exercise equipment only to dumbbells.

In this post we’ll discuss about the correct technique for this exercise, offer exercise how-to-video demonstrations, and highlight the key benefits and value that this simple and effective movement can offer coaches and athletes looking to maximize lower-body development.

Step-by-step exercise instructions for dumbbell front squat

STARTING POSITION. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells so that your palms are facing each other and a dumbbell head is resting on the meatiest part of each shoulder.

dumbbell front squat exercise instructions

ACTION (MOVEMENT). Keep your body as upright as you can at all times. Brace your abs and lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Concentrate on pushing your butt back while keeping your eyes and chest facing forward. Knees should remain behind the toes throughout. Don’t allow your elbows to drop down as you squat. Pause, then push yourself back to the starting position by squeezing your glute cheeks and pushing through your heels. The farther down you squat, the more work required to return to standing.

Key points (form tips) for dumbbell front squat

Here’s what you have to look for when performing dumbbell front squat:

  • Keep your head in an upright position with your eyes forward.
  • Never place your feet straight. They should be rotated slightly outward.
  • Squat to 90-degrees (or as close as possible). The top of your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Reaching 90-degrees is the most effective method for targeting your quads (quadriceps, the muscles at the front of your thighs) and glutes.
  • Keep your torso slightly forward to maximize glute activity and to decrease knee joint loading. However, avoid allowing your chin to pass your toes excessively.

Common errors

These are the common errors we usually notice when people are performing dumbbell shoulder squats.

  • Looking down. Dropping your head promotes excessive forward torso lean, which increases the risk of low-back injury.
  • Wrong foot position. Not using shoulder-width or wider stance and not rotating feet slightly outward.
  • Rounding the back. Keeping that butt pointing backward and the chest tall is the key.
  • Using too heavy dumbbells. Choose the weight that allows you to perform all sets and reps with proper technique.

Video demonstration

Exercise main disadvantage

With dumbbell front squats (just like with barbell front squats), you won’t be able to use as much weight, because your buttocks don’t assist, as they do when you’re doing squats with the bar behind your neck or when you’re performing squats with dumbbells at arm’s length next to your sides (so called suitcase squat). But this certainly does not mean that this exercise is not effective

Muscles engaged

Dumbbell front squat causes movement at multiple joints and consequently strengthens and shapes major muscle groups such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, calves, abdominals, and spinal muscles.

However, since dumbbell front squat demands a more upright body posture than the back squat it places more emphasis on your quads and core.

Safety and precautions

For those with back troubles, avoiding free weight squats completely (such as the barbell and dumbbell versions) may be prudent, as they require the most forward torso movement. For those exercisers the Smith machine is the recommended equipment of choice for squatting. It provides stability, which reduces the risk of injury, and enables a complete (and more favorable) range of motion.

People with wrist tightness or injury may have difficultly holding heavy dumbbells in this position.

The dumbbells (especially heavy ones) may be difficult to balance, so start with a light weight until you master the movement.

Replacement exercises for dumbbell front squat

With all the different types of squats to choose from, you can say goodbye to workout boredom. Try these  squats for every need and fitness level.

Closing thoughts 

Dumbbell front squat is a safe and effective move if performed properly and can increase lower-body strength and build functional fitness. In other words, it can increase quality of life.

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