How to Do the Dumbbell Shoulder Squat

The dumbbell shoulder squat is an alternative to the dumbbell squat with weights hanging at the sides. This exercise requires you to balance the dumbbells on the shoulders with a hammer grip and then proceed with the standard squat execution.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise. You can also try more dumbbell exercises at home.


The Starting Position

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  1. Choose dumbbells of a weight that will enable you to complete the exercise sets you have chosen. Trial and error will enable you to settle on a suitable weight. Start with a light weight. Ten squats in each set is a reasonable number to aim for with this exercise.
  2. Rest a dumbbell on each shoulder with the dumbbell end pointing forward.
  3. Position the feet about as wide as the hips.
  4. Keep the heels planted firmly on the floor and do not allow them to rise up during the exercise.
  5. Brace the abdominal muscles. You can identify these by pretending to clear your throat or by coughing. You will notice the "abs" tightening automatically in the stomach region.
  6. Stand tall, shoulders pulled back with good balance.

The Exercise Movement

squat with dumbells
Ben Goldstein
  1. Point your butt backward as you start to lower your body by bending at the knees. Make this a deliberate movement. If you concentrate on that butt backward movement you are off to a good start with the squat.
  2. Don't arch the back forward on descent or when you return to the start position. Keeping that butt pointing backward and the back straight is the key.
  3. Descend to where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Less than the full distance is OK until you develop good form.
  4. Try not to let the knees go past the tips of the toes as you lower, although to some extent this depends on the depth of squat, ​body shape, balance, and flexibility.

Points to Note

  • Don't round the back, going down or coming up. A rounded back underweight can cause damage to the spine at the upper or lower end.
  • Keep the knees from going past the tips of the toes as much as possible. This is generally not good for the knee joint. Practice good form and don't get too concerned if this occurs occasionally.
  • Try not to look down — look straight ahead — or at least be aware that your back and butt are in the correct position: back straight, butt extended.
  • Keep those heels planted firmly on the ground and the knees lined up with the feet and not splayed in or out.
  • Don't start with weights that are too heavy. Try one to three sets of 10-12 squats to start with.
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