How to Do Dumbbell Squats
Squat exercises work your entire lower body, including the muscles of your buttocks, hips and thighs. When you add weight to the squat movement in the form of dumbbells, you increase the difficulty (and effectiveness) of the movement with the added resistance. Both men and women of all ages can do the dumbbell squat exercise, but make sure you're comfortable with the squat movement before adding dumbbells. Have several different dumbbell weights available so that you can adjust resistance as needed. Most people should start with a light weight (generally, 5 to 10 pounds for women and 10 to 20 for men), and move up from there. Consult your doctor before starting this or any exercise regimen.
Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart with your toes angled slightly outward. Space your feet out a little wider if it feels more comfortable.
Hold the dumbbells right next to your side with your palms facing in. If holding the weights at your sides feels uncomfortable, change your hand placement and perform the dumbbell front squat as suggested by the American Council on Exercise: Simply bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells to chest height. This is a slightly different way to perform the exercise, but it targets your legs in the same fashion.
Keep your chest and torso upright and facing straight ahead as you push your hips backward and bend your knees. You may feel tempted to tip forward at the hips, pointing your chest toward the ground, but avoid doing this, as it could strain your lower back and cause injury.
Keep your weight concentrated in your heels as you lower your body toward the floor. You may even want to wiggle your toes to remind yourself to keep your weight pushed through your heels. This will help you keep your shins perpendicular to the floor, preventing your knees from protruding over your toes, which can lead to injury.
Lower your body until your knees form a 90-degree angle with your knees remaining behind your toes.
Allow your arms to hang straight down in line with your knees as you perform the movement. If you're performing the dumbbell front squat, simply keep your arms bent and the dumbbells at your chest throughout the routine.
Press through your heels and return to the starting position, keeping your knees slightly bent at the top of the movement, refraining from locking, or fully straightening, your knees.
Repeat the exercise 12 to 15 times, or until the last one or two repetitions feels almost too hard to perform. This varies based on strength, the amount of weight you're using and your comfort with the exercise. If you find yourself performing 15 repetitions without difficulty, increase the weight of the dumbbells you are using.
Rest one to two minutes, then choose a slightly heavier dumbbell and perform another set of 10 to 15 repetitions. According to certified strength and conditioning specialist Lance Williams, when choosing a heavier dumbbell, choose a weight between 5 to 10 percent heavier than the weight you just lifted, or choose the next available weight increment.
Fix your eyes on a spot just above head height to help remind you to keep your chest upright and forward-facing throughout the exercise.
Allowing your knees to protrude in front of your toes can cause knee pain or injury. Focus on bending backward from the hips rather than bending forward from the knee to help prevent injury.
Laura Williams has worked in recreation management since 2004. She holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science education from Texas State University, as well as a B.A. in exercise and sport science from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.