Dumbbell Squat vs Barbell Squat – Which Should You Do?

posted on 07/05/2016

People are always looking for excuses to get out of doing squats. Whether it’s skipping leg day all together or replacing squats with leg presses, there really is no reason that you shouldn’t be doing squats. The only reason that it is acceptable to skip squats is if your gym does not have the proper equipment to safely perform them or you are prohibited by injury. For the former reasoning, we would recommend you find a new gym or purchase your own home gym equipment.

Your legs are an extremely important part of your body. A strong and toned lower body not only looks good, but it also helps you with a multitude of other physical activities. Your legs house the largest muscles in your body, so it is important to train heavy and to focus on good form. Not only do squats strengthen your legs, they target your glutes and your entire posterior chain as well, and can positively impact the results from other exercises. Supporting the weight will also impact your upper body somewhat as well. It can be argued that the squat is the most important exercise you can do.

Some of the best lower body exercises include squats. There are a multitude of squat variations, including barbell and dumbbell squats. Both powerhouse exercises work your muscles differently, but have countless benefits on your overall strength. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between barbell squats and dumbbell squats and the benefits they both have on your body.

Barbell Squats

The barbell squat is one of the oldest exercises in the books with a rich history among bodybuilders, powerlifters, and fitness enthusiasts alike. There are two types of barbell back squats:

  • High Bar Squat
  • Low Bar Squat

As the names suggest, the high bar squat is a back squat with the bar position higher up on the back and neck while the bar position for a low bar squat is much lower. It is very heavily debated which bar position and thus which back squat is the most optimal. Why does the bar position matter? The bar position dictates your joint angles and how your legs, hips, and posterior chain are recruited in a squat. We aren’t going to get into a deep discussion about which is better, but will likely cover this topic in the future.

Mark Rippetoe, renowned author of Starting Strength and former powerlifted notes that “The back squat is the only exercise in the weight room that trains the recruitment of the entire posterior chain in a way that is progressively improvable, and that is one of the things that makes the squat the best exercise you can do with barbells and, by extension, the best strength exercise there is.”

Barbell squats are one of the best strength builders for your legs. These squats allow you to work in heavier weights more than dumbbell squats. Barbell squats not only have a tremendous positive impact on your strength and performance, but in the long run, they can strengthen your knees, promote good posture, and decrease lower back problems.

There are a variety of barbell squat exercises. Popular ones include back squats, high bar squats, low bar squats, front squats, Zercher squats, and overhead squats, along with others. All of these exercises can be safely and effectively performed with our Olympic barbell, Olympic weights, and half rack. For even more safety, a full self-spotting machine is recommended.

Dumbbell Squats

Dumbbell squats are well suited for people who do not have access to the equipment required to safely perform barbell squats. If you’re purchasing home gym equipment and do not yet have the funds or space for a full barbell setup, you can use adjustable dumbbells and perform different variations of squats.

Intermediate and advanced lifters will quickly outgrow dumbbells and not have enough weight to progressively increase strength. Dumbbell squats do have some advantages over barbell squats. They can be performed safely without a half rack or cage and help prevent muscle imbalances better. If you have limited space, they are also advantageous since the only equipment that is required is dumbbells. The advantages end there.

Some effective dumbbell squat variations include goblet squats, dumbbell front squats, dumbbell plié squat, and overhead dumbbell squats. Split squats are another great option since you can load more weight on just one leg at a time. Dumbbell leg exercises are inherently safe since you can easily release the weights without being trapped under a bar. You can also perform these squat variations with an adjustable kettlebell.

So which is better?

There really is no debate here. Barbell squats are the more superior exercise because of the higher loads possible. Dumbbell squats simply cannot recruit the posterior chain and build towards increases in strength as well as barbell squats. While most fitness experts and exercise scientists will agree that barbell squats are more effective than dumbbell squats, making due with dumbbell based leg exercises will still give you good results and should not be skipped. If you take anything away from this article, it’s that you should be including squats as a staple in your exercise regimen. Contact us if you have any questions or would like information on our products!

Related Products

  • 415 lb Olympic Plate Set-145OLYPLATE-800

    415 lb Olympic Plate Set

    0 out of 5

    FREE Shipping to the lower 48 US States! For other locations, please contact us via email or phone and we can give you a shipping quote.

    415 lb Ironmaster Olympic Weight Set

    The 415 lb Ironmaster Olympic Plate Set is ideal for use with our IM2000 machine or IM1500 half rack. Intermediate and advanced lifters should have no problem with running out of weight. Limited lifetime warranty is included. See below for more product details.

    $770.00 $699.00
  • IM2000 Smith MachineIM2000 Package A-2

    IM2000 Home Gym Package A

    0 out of 5

    FREE Shipping to the lower 48 US States! For other locations, please contact us via email or phone and we can give you a shipping quote.

    IM2000 Package A – “The Starter”

    You will need a great bench to go with this self-spotting Smith machine, and the Super Bench makes this package an obvious choice!

    With The Starter, your package will include the IM2000 base that you can use to do any weight lifting excercise you can imagine while making the most of your home gym’s limited space. Even though the self-spotting machine uses less room, you won’t have to worry about safety, this system is smoother than any other Smith machine you’ve tried thanks to more than 30 years of research and our proprietary design.

    Trust Ironmaster, the master of home gym equipment with your next gym equipment purchase!

    For dimensions and other information, look at the details below.

    $1,718.00 $1,599.00
  • im1500-1im1500-2

    IM1500 Half Rack Weight Lifting System

    5 out of 5

    FREE Shipping to the lower 48 US States! For other locations, please contact us via email or phone and we can give you a shipping quote.

    The IM1500 Half Rack Weight Lifting System is a half cage for barbell training with unique features to help save you space and allow you to train hard with a traditional Olympic weight lifting or CrossFit focus. This unit is designed and built for home training but also works well in commercial gyms with our industry leading heavy-duty construction. The Ironmaster Super Bench adjustable weight bench and most other weight lifting benches are a great compliment to this product.


    $798.00 $699.00
  • ow320-1ow320-2

    320 lb Olympic Set

    0 out of 5

    FREE Shipping to the lower 48 US States! For other locations, please contact us via email or phone and we can give you a shipping quote.

    320 lb Olympic Bar and Plate Set

    This is a great beginner weight set to use with an IM2000 or IM1500. Most Olympic set packages include a cheap low rated bar. Ironmaster customers deserve better grade equipment so our Olympic Set includes a top quality bar with much better specs that will last and handle tough training. Secure, easy to use collars are a must so we also included some of the best we could find. The custom Ironmaster logo rubber coated grip plates will look great for a long time and keep things quiet for home training. Bar and collars weigh 45 lbs empty.

    Order today to bring a superior gym experience to your home.

    $749.00 $699.00
  • 75lb adjustable dumbbellsIronmaster 75lb Adjustable Dumbbells

    Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbell System 75 lb Set

    4.78 out of 5

    FREE Shipping to the lower 48 US States! For other locations, please contact us via email or phone and we can give you a shipping quote.

    The Ironmaster 75 LB Quick-Lock Dumbbell Set is one of our flagship products and a customer favorite for people looking for premium quality adjustable dumbbells. Our latest generation of this product includes our patented quick lock technology allowing you to adjust the weight of each dumbbell from 5 to 75lbs in 2.5 LB increments in less than 15 seconds! The system also includes the dumbbell stand.

    Unparalleled Quality and Realistic Feeling Adjustable Dumbbells

    Many adjustable dumbbells suffer from the same set of problems and annoyances. They are cheaply made causing them to break or become non-functioning after a short period of time. Not only is this expensive, it can also be extremely dangerous. People have reported competitors products releasing plates from the dumbbell and causing significant injuries. With Ironmaster, you do not have to worry about this. Our products are guaranteed for life with a no-frills lifetime warranty. Another common complaint of competitor products is that the dumbbells do not feel like a real dumbbell. Our adjustable dumbbells look, feel, and function just like real dumbbells. They are solid and ready to go containing no plastic or fragile components. More information about this product is available below in the product details section.


    $648.00 $589.00

Share this post

Save & Share Cart
Your Shopping Cart will be saved and you'll be given a link. You, or anyone with the link, can use it to retrieve your Cart at any time.
Back Save & Share Cart
Your Shopping Cart will be saved with Product pictures and information, and Cart Totals. Then send it to yourself, or a friend, with a link to retrieve it at any time.
Your cart email sent successfully :)

Super Bench Sale going on now – Save $40.00 with coupon code sbsale1017. Click here for more details!