Looking at exrx for the Dumbell Front Squat, it says http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/DBFrontSquat.html:

Preparation Stand with dumbbells grasped to sides. Clean dumbbells up to shoulders so side of each dumbbell rests on top of each shoulder. Balance dumbbells on shoulder by holding on to dumbbells with elbows flaring outward.

I'm having trouble lifting the dumbbells without arching my back, which seems unsafe. Does anyone have any advice or experience with how to "clean" the dumbbells up to the shoulders?

  • How heavy are the dumbells you are using?
    – user2861
    Feb 25, 2014 at 19:50
  • 45 lbs each. Just started the problem now that I'm up from 40 lbs each.
    – Eliyahu
    Feb 25, 2014 at 20:10
  • 1
    Did you mean to say without rounding your back? Arching your back is typically safer than rounding it unless you're super hyper extending. Feb 25, 2014 at 20:40
  • Why do you want to do dumbbell squats? Feb 26, 2014 at 16:46
  • 1
    as the picture shows, put them on your knee, kick them up and stand up. Feb 26, 2014 at 19:27

3 Answers 3


You should get the dumbbells in place by using a dumbbell hang power clean, described here on exrx.net. The back remains locked in a neutral, naturally arched or flat position during the movement.

In the meantime, you should figure out a way to squat with a barbell. One's squat is naturally greater than one's clean, and a dumbbell squat doesn't take long to become challenging in ways that are not useful in the ways that squatting is supposed to be.


Normally, I'm a big fan of dumbbells, however this might be a point where you might consider switching to barbell.

The reason I suggest is if you have access to 40lb and 45lb dumbbells, I'm assume you are at a gym. As such, I assume you probably have access to a barbell.

While dumbbells are great for addressing imbalances, especially in upper body lifts, there is less carry over for lower body lifts. Depending on your circumstances there are two possible options for you.

Investigate barbells

When holding the dumbells, your arms are going to be doing the majority of the stabilsation work, however they will be fixed to your hips. Similarly, the major muscles in the squat are working to push the hips up, and less stabilisation will be required by these muscles.

So unless you have a particular reason against switching to a barbell, which will likely be easier and safer to handle at this weight, that might be and alternative option.

Try a different exercise

If you can't access a barbell, look at what other exercises might fit your needs. People often overlook single-leg squats or similar alternatives that allow you to still work your legs with leg weight.

An excellent option is the Bulgarian Split Squat, while not a completely uni-lateral exercise, it gets many of the benefits of them single.

In essence, you stand in front of a bench, with one foot resting on the bench, while you squat with the other upright leg. Perform for the desired lot of sets and switch legs. The benefits of this exercise over dumbbell front quats include:

  • Since you hang your arms to your sides, you don't need to raise them into position
  • Improved progression potential, as you move less weight. Since its a near single-leg movement, don't be surprised if you drop to 50-60% of the weight you were move previously.
  • Excellent stabilisers training
  • Short exercise times, since one leg is "resting" while the other is working, you reuqire less gaps between sets.
  • Nope, I'm at home, using my Bowflex 1090s. One day, hopefully soon (after a move), I'll get some good barbells...in the meantime I need something to work my quads.
    – Eliyahu
    Feb 26, 2014 at 0:45
  • 1
    @Eliyahu I've added an alternative option if you aren't necessarily tied to front squats. As far as dumbbell leg exercises go, I find that BSS's are the best!
    – user2861
    Feb 26, 2014 at 0:56

Its always important to have good form while you do Squats.

If you already have proper form and have no problem doing squats with barbells, then you can try this with dumbell. But I'd still suggest using barbell with weights to do squat.

What you can try is, first sit on bench, then have each dumbells above your thighs, like in the image below.

enter image description here

Once you are in this position, you can push the weight with your thigh while also lifting the weight with your hand above your shoulders. The push motion you generate from legs should give momentum to lift the weight. You can then stand up and do your squats.

Same, can be done while doing heavy shoulder presses, if you are facing problem of lifting the weight initially above your shoulder.

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