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I'm fairly new to heavy lifting. I've been working out at home with adjustable dumbbells (my only equipment). Working out 3 times/week, among the exercises I've had recommended are deadlifts and squats.

My feeling is that the movement of the dumbbell deadlift and squats is almost identical. So I'm wondering if (a) maybe I'm doing one of them incorrectly, (b) I should avoid doing both in the same routine, or (c) there's some crucial difference between dumbbell vs. barbell deadlifts that I'm missing out on. Which seems most likely, and what mistake or correction should I be on the lookout for?

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  • Your titled stated dumbbells DL vs squats. Are you referring to that?
    – Jun
    Sep 18 at 6:24
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There's a crucial difference between dumbbell and barbell deadlifts that you're missing out on.

In a straight bar deadlift, the bar limits how far forward the knees can travel. This limits how much of the work can be done by the legs, and necessitates the hips and back taking more of the load. Hence deadlifts are often categorised as a hip hinge exercise rather than a squat.

However, in a dumbbell deadlift, there is no such restriction on forward knee travel. It's analogous to a hex bar deadlift, rather than a conventional deadlift, and so is more like a partial range of motion squat than a hip hinge. (Partial range of motion because squats are usually performed until the thighs are at least parallel to the ground, but in any deadlift variant, the weights will normally hit the ground before this happens.)

If you only have dumbbells to train with, I'd suggest that squats and RDLs (Romanian deadlifts) would be a better combination for maximising how much of your lower body musculature you've got covered.

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    Looks like this is the consensus, so I'm selecting it as the correct answer. I started working RDLs into my workouts this week and it seems like a nice added diversity to the movements. Thanks for writing this. Sep 3 at 18:35

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