I was wondering, if I were to use the same amount of weight with dumbbells as I would with a barbell while doing a squat, will I get the same benefits as I would using a barbell?

Now I understand that one of the obvious benefits with barbells, is the fact that I can use massive weight, weight that would be extremely difficult to use with dumbbells - but that is why I am asking about the case where I am using the same amount of weight. In other words is there a difference as to whether I have the weight by my side with the dumbbells, or across my shoulders with the barbell?

5 Answers 5


There is a difference, in that you are changing the load on your core. Squats are not "just a leg exercise" as many people assume that it is. There are several variations of squats, and they each have their place.

If you choose to do dumbbell squats, I highly recommend Goblet Squats. Instead of the weight at your sides, it is in front of you. This accomplishes two things:

  • Helps improve your squat form and depth--complete with better carryover to back squats.
  • Helps increase the core component of the dumbbell squat.

Another option is to "clean" the dumbbell to your shoulders. That is, use your hip to launch the dumbbell up to your shoulders. That will help keep your core involved as well. This approach has more carryover to front squats (where the bar is across the front of your deltoids in front of your neck).

  • I found I have got more control on Goblet squat bodybuilding.com/exercise...l-goblet-squat when compare to DB side by side squat bodybuilding.com/exercise...dumbbell-squat Would Goblet squat give me the same results as the side by side ? I'm on beginner fullbody, DB only workout. One thing I found strange when doing side by side version I had to keep my legs very wide to keep the balance
    – nish1013
    Mar 22, 2016 at 22:08
  • 1
    Both are good. The Goblet actually encourages you to engage your upper back, so it might have a slight advantage until you run out of dumbbells big enough to challenge you. At that point you either need to switch to barbells or cleaning the dumbbells to your shoulders as I suggested. Mar 23, 2016 at 12:36

"i have the weight by my side with the dumbbells, or across my shoulders with the barbell?" You answered your own question, there is a physiological difference in the origin of the weight and therefore a difference in where the force / work is applied to move that weight, specifically the posterior chain.


This would depend on a number of factors. For instance, if you lack the shoulder ROM to position the bar properly for a back squat, the flexibility in choosing the exact position that allows symmetrical positioning of your arms for dumbbell squats could end up making them much more effective than barbell squats. That's a specific example of the general idea that any exercise you can perform safely and without pain is more effective than one you can only perform with pain. If you can perform both dumbbell squats and barbell squats perfectly fine without any pain and with good form for the respective exercises, you'd probably benefit most from alternating between them at the same weight.


The main difference you will find is that barbells are a much more intense and "explosive" workout that uses more weight than most comparable dumbbells. In addition, you will change your form depending on if you do a barbell or a dumbbell squat. I recommend starting with barbells and perhaps experimenting with dumbbells if you find that you want to change up your workout. Check out this article on the Barbell Squat and decide for yourself.

Best of Luck- Neil Cook


Center of gravity is far different. The most obvious ramification is that losing it and falling with a dumbbell means you fall over about 3 feet before the weight stops at the floor. Falling over with the barbell behind your head means you stop when your face hits the floor.

I like dumbbell squats especially in the garage when no one is there to save me. I cut a barbell in half and modified it with a grip 90 degrees to the bar for comfort and the added length of a half bar for the weights to clear my knees when going up and down. It is a much safer arrangement.

Full length barbell deadlift style won't work because knees get in the way when the rump gets down by the floor. In dead lift the rump is high and the shins vertical so the bar clears. Not so with squats, thus the dumbbell solution for safety. The loss is the need to develop balance when the weight is over your neck.

I would rather not do a face plant if I ever pass out. Or get injured from a twisting tilting failure to maintain control. (Never know, illness, age etc.)

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