How to Do a Dumbbell Shoulder Squat: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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The dumbbell shoulder squat is a weighted squat, which helps strengthen and build the quadriceps and gluteus maximus muscles. It can be used as an alternative for (or in addition to) other squat exercises within your strength training program or circuit training workout.

Also Known As: Dumbbell front squat

Targets: Quadriceps and gluteus maximus

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells

Level: Beginner

How to Do a Dumbbell Shoulder Squat

squat with dumbells
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Rest a dumbbell on each shoulder with one end of the weight pointing forward. Feet are hip-width apart with heels planted firmly on the floor. Brace your abdominals and stand tall with your shoulders pulled back for good balance.

  1. Move your butt backward as you start to lower your body by bending at the knees. Be careful to not arch the back forward.
  2. Descend to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Less than the full distance is okay until you develop good form.
  3. Hold for a second or two.
  4. Press into your heels to straighten your knees and hips and rise back up to a standing position. Keep your chest tall so your back stays in a neutral position.

Use a dumbbell weight that enables you to complete the exercise with proper form. Start light and move on to heavier weights as you get stronger. Trial and error can help you settle on a suitable weight.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Shoulder Squat

The dumbbell squat targets the quadriceps muscles (front of the thighs) and gluteus maximus (in the buttocks). The hamstrings (back of the thighs) and soleus (in the calves) act to stabilize during this movement as well.

When compared with the suitcase dumbbell squat, your body is required to do more stabilization by holding the weights at the shoulders so you get more of a workout. This is a great exercise for shaping and strengthening your buns, thighs, and calves.

The squat exercise builds functional strength for activities such as picking up a box of old files. In this case, the squat would mimic the movement you'd use to pick up the box and the use of dumbbells provides a load similar to that provided by the files within the box.

Other Variations of a Dumbbell Shoulder Squat

The dumbbell shoulder squat can be done in many different ways to make it more accessible for beginners and to provide progression for experienced exercisers.


Verywell / Ben Goldstein

No Weight for Beginners

Beginners might start with a basic bodyweight squat, since adding weights increases the load on the muscles worked. Once you have good form and feel stronger, progress to the dumbbell shoulder squat using light weights.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Barbell Front Squat

If you have a barbell setup available, the barbell front squat is another weighted squat option. This exercise is common in bodybuilding and serious strength training.

To do it, place a barbell on your chest and squat with it in this position. Once in a standing position, drop the barbell in front of you, then return it to your chest and squat again.

Dumbbell Shoulder Squat and Overhead Press

For more of a challenge, you can add an overhead press to this squat after returning to a standing position. Since the overhead press requires that you press the weight up, it helps build the shoulder muscles.

To do it, once upright, press the weights overhead, extending the elbows on an exhale. Pause and return them to the shoulders on an inhale. Then do the squat and repeat.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these errors so you get the most from this exercise and avoid strain or injury.

Rounding the Back

Don't round the back when standing up or squatting down. A rounded back under weight can cause damage to the spine at the upper or lower end. Keeping the butt pointing backward and the chest tall is key.

Lower Leg Alignment

Keep your heels planted firmly on the ground throughout the squat and knees lined up with the feet, not splayed in or out.

Looking Down

Try not to look down. Instead, look straight ahead or at least be aware that your back and butt are in good form: chest tall and butt extended.

Excessive Weight

Don't start with weights that are too heavy. Try one set of 10 squats at a manageable weight, then increase the weight for an additional 2 to 3 sets until you are sufficiently challenged.

Safety and Precautions

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you've had an injury or condition involving your ankles, knees, legs, hips, or back to see if this exercise is appropriate for you. You will feel your muscles and core working during this exercise, but stop if you feel any pain.

Ten repetitions in each set is a reasonable number to aim for with the dumbbell shoulder squat. If you are a beginning exerciser, starting with fewer reps can help you develop the strength needed to progress to this amount.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lorenzetti S, Ostermann M, Zeidler F, et al. How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loadingBMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2018;10(1):14. doi:10.1186/s13102-018-0103-7

  3. Graham JF. Exercise technique: dumbbell squat, dumbbell split squat, and barbell box step-upStrength Cond J. 2011;33(5):76-78. doi:10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181ebcf12

  4. Stastny P, Lehnert M, Zaatar AMZ, Svoboda Z, Xaverova Z. Does the dumbbell-carrying position change the muscle activity in split squats and walking lungesJ Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(11):3177-3187. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000976

  5. Sands WA, Wurth JJ, Hewitt JK MD. National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Basics of Strength and Conditioning Manual. National Strength and Conditioning Association. 2012.

  6. Czaprowski D, Biernat R, Kędra A. Squat - rules of performing and most common mistakesPolish J Sport Tourism. 2012;19(1):3-7. doi:10.2478/v10197-012-0001-6

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.