The Ideal Dumbbell Squat Weight If You Want To Build Powerful Legs As A Skinny Guy

Ideal Dumbbell Squat Weight

So you’ve got a pair of dumbbells, or you’re planning to get some. But can dumbbell squats build powerful legs? What weight should you even use?! If you find yourself wondering these questions, then this is the article for you. Because today, I’ll be giving you the ideal dumbbell squat weight tailored to YOU!

The ideal dumbbell squat weight is 0.35x bodyweight for 8 reps. Weight should be reduced if reps are increased. Additionally, it is recommended to progressive overload by gradually increasing dumbbell weight to build a stronger squat.

When I started working out with dumbbells, I too was puzzled about how much I should be lifting.

That’s why i’m sharing my research and experience with you now!

Let’s jump right in.

I used dumbbell squats to develop my legs
Dumbbell squats helped me develop my legs in the early days!

How Heavy Should You Dumbbell Squat?

How heavy you should dumbbell squat depends on your training level and bodyweight.

Below, I’ll break down how much you should be dumbbell squatting as a beginner (less than 6 months of training), how much the average guy can dumbbell squat, and what’s considered a heavy dumbbell squat according to your bodyweight.

Note: all weights mentioned hereon are for 2 dumbbells combined.

Beginners Should Dumbbell Squat 8-15 Reps Per Set To Build Muscle.

As a beginner male (less than 1 month of training), you should be dumbbell squatting 10 to 51 pounds for 15 repetitions, or 16 to 82 pounds for 8 repetitions.

The exact weight will depend on your current bodyweight.

But why 8 and 15 repetitions?

As a general rule, the best rep range for muscle hypertrophy (growth) is 8 to 15 reps per set.

What does this mean?

Simple- do 8 to 15 continuous repetitions to complete a set, before taking a rest.

8 to 15 dumbbell squats per set is the ideal rep range to get bigger legs.

Kal

If you do more than this, you’ll enter endurance training. Likewise, if you do less than this, you’ll enter strength training.

Although strength and endurance training can build muscle mass, neither are as effective as hypertrophy training.

So if you’re dumbbell squatting to build leg muscle, then you should stay within the 8-15 rep range and aim for the weight’s described above.

How I Calculated The Beginners 8-15 Rep Dumbbell Squat Weight.

I used the Strength Level dumbbell squat database to answer this question.

These guys compiled the 1 rep max’s (maximum dumbbell squatting weight for 1 repetition) of 697 individual dumbbell squats. These dumbbell squats were made by their users of different bodyweights.

I took each beginner 1 rep max (1RMs) and multiplied them by 0.8 for the 8 rep weight, and 0.5 for the 15 rep weight.

If you want to know why I multiplied by 0.8 for 8 reps and 0.5 for 15 reps, check out my other article on calculating your ideal weight-load to build muscle.

Here are the beginner dumbbell squat weight standards based on bodyweight:

BodyweightBeginners 1 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
Beginners 8 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
Beginners 15 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
120lb20lb16lb10lb
140lb 30lb24lb15lb
160lb40lb32lb20lb
180lb50lb40lb25lb
200lb58lb46lb29lb
220lb68lb54lb34lb
240lb76lb61lb38lb
260lb86lb69lb43lb
280lb94lb75lb47lb
300lb102lb82lb51lb
Average62lb50lb31lb
Recommended male beginner dumbbell squat weight. Weights are for 2 dumbbells. Derived from Strength Levels.

And here are the beginner dumbbell squat weight standards represented as line graph for easy visualization.

line graph showing recommended male beginner dumbbell squat weight
standards

To find YOUR dumbbell squat recommendation- determine your bodyweight and the line will estimate how much you should be dumbbell squatting for 8 to 15 reps as a beginner.

The Average Man Dumbbell Squat.

Next, I determined how much the average man should be able to dumbbell squat:

The average male can dumbbell squat 0.44x bodyweight for 1 repetition, 0.35x bodyweight for 8 repetitions, and 0.29x bodyweight for 15 repetitions. This averages at 60 to 90 pounds with 2 dumbbells. A good dumbbell squat is one that is above the average male dumbbell squat.

If you’re dumbbell squatting more than the average, then you’re doing a good job!

How I Calculated The Average Man Dumbbell Squat.

To calculate the average male dumbbell squat, I used the Strength Level dumbbell squat calculator.

This calculator allowed me to sample a range of dumbbell squat 1RMs at different bodyweights.

The calculator also reveals the relative dumbbell squat strength (as a multiple of bodyweight), and the percentage of people who have the same relative dumbbell squat strength.

This allowed me to determine the dumbbell squat strengths for 50% of the population to produce an average relative squat strength.

Here are the average male dumbbell squat strengths relative to bodyweight:

  • 0.44 times bodyweight for 1 rep.
  • 0.35 times bodyweight for 8 reps.
  • 0.29 times bodyweight for 15 reps.

Next, I applied the relative strengths to each bodyweight class to determine the average dumbbell squatting weight for 8 and 15 reps.

Here are the average dumbbell squat weight standards based on bodyweight:

BodyweightAverage 1 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
Average 8 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
Average 15 Rep
Dumbbell Squat
120lb53lb42lb35lb
140lb62lb49lb41lb
160lb70lb56lb46lb
180lb79lb63lb52lb
200lb88lb70lb58lb
220lb97lb77lb64lb
240lb106lb84lb70lb
260lb114lb91lb75lb
280lb123lb98lb81lb
300lb132lb105lb87lb
Average92lb74lb61lb
Average male dumbbell squat weight. Weights are for 2 dumbbells. Derived from Strength Level Calculator.

And here are the average dumbbell squat weight standards represented as line graph for easy visualization.

line graph showing average male dumbbell squat weight standards

You can see that the average male can dumbbell squat between 35 to 87 pounds for 15 repetitions or 42 to 105 pounds for 8 repetitions.

To see if your current dumbbell squat is good for your bodyweight- determine your bodyweight and the line will show you how much the average guy dumbbell squats in your bodyweight class.

What’s Considered A Heavy Dumbbell Squat?

Next, I determined what’s considered a heavy weight for a dumbbell squat:

A heavy weight for a dumbbell squat is one that is 75 to 100% of your 1 rep max after 2 years of dumbbell squat training (intermediate level). This ranges from 78 to 104 pounds for a 120 pound male, to 184 to 246 pounds for a 300 pound male.

This seems like a wide range, and it is.

It’s because the amount you can dumbbell squat is largely influenced by your bodyweight.

If you’re on the skinnier side, then 39 to 52 pounds (holding two dumbbells) will be a heavy dumbbell squat for you.

Likewise, if you’re on the heavier side, then 92 to 123 pounds (holding two dumbbells) will be a heavy dumbbell squat for you.

How I Defined A Heavy Dumbbell Squat.

First, I defined heavy as 75 to 100% of 1 rep max at an intermediate level (2 years of training).

Next, I took the intermediate dumbbell squat 1RMs from the Strength Level database and took 75% for each bodyweight class.

Here are the dumbbell squat weight standards which are considered heavy at each bodyweight:

BodyweightIntermediate Dumbbell Squat
100% 1RM
Intermediate Dumbbell Squat
75% 1 RM Weight
120lb104lb78lb
140lb124lb93lb
160lb142lb106lb
180lb160lb120lb
200lb176b132lb
220lb192lb144lb
240lb206lb154lb
260lb220lb166lb
280lb234lb176lb
300lb246lb184lb
Average180lb135lb
Male intermediate 75-100% 1RM dumbbell squat standards. Weights are for 2 dumbbells. Derived from Strength Levels.

And here are the intermediate dumbbell squat weight standards represented as bar chart for easy visualization.

bar chart showing intermediate dumbbell squat weight standards

What’s considered a “heavy dumbbell squat” is subjective, and will vary depending on your bodyweight.

For example, the average 200 pound man would find a 176 to 132 pound dumbbell squat to be heavy. But a 120 pound skinny guy would find 104 to 78 pounds just as challenging.

To see what’s considered heavy for your own bodyweight- determine your bodyweight and the bar chart will show you the range of weight that would be considered heavy for you.

Performing The Dumbbell Squat.

Now I’ll examine how to perform the dumbbell squat, how many reps and sets you should do, and how many training days to complete.

The Dumbbell Squat Technique.

How to Dumbbell Squat | Mike Hildebrandt

How to do it:

  1. Pick up dumbbells in both hands, holding them beside your outer thighs.
  2. Take a stance that is slightly wider than hip-width.
  3. Take a deep breath in and lower yourself by bending your knees and bringing your hips backward.
  4. Use the shoulders and arms to stabilize the dumbbells.
  5. Stop the movement when your hips reach knee level and your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  6. Exhale as you drive yourself upwards by extending your knees and thrusting your hips forwards.
  7. Repeat for repetitions.

Tips for beginners:

  • Straighten your back- retract your shoulder blades and engage your arm, shoulder, and core muscles to stabilize the back.
  • Don’t round your back- keep your head facing forwards to prevent the back from rounding forwards.
  • Angle the knees outwards- make a conscious effort to angle your knees slightly outwards to prevent them from caving in.

Check out my other article for more the best squat variations for skinny guys!

Reps And Sets For The Dumbbell Squat.

What’s the ideal number of reps and sets for the dumbbell squat?

Beginners with less than a month of dumbbell squat experience are recommended to complete 4 sets of 15 reps per workout. After 1 month of dumbbell squat training, it is recommended to increase the weight and complete 4 sets of 8 reps. This will stimulate muscle hypertrophy in the legs.

infographic showing ideal weight, reps, and sets for dumbbell squat

This is in line with Michael Berg’s (N.S.C.A-C.P.T) and Brad Schoenfeld’s (C.S.C.S) program from Mens Journal.

Both coaches recommend a “prepatory phase” and a “hypertrophy phase”.

The preparatory phase involves performing 4 sets of 15 dumbbell squats to initiate muscle adaptations that allow you to progress as a newbie.

After a month of preparatory training, you’ll increase the weight in a hypertrophy phase which involves performing 4 sets of 8 dumbbell squats to stimulate muscle growth.

The important point is to choose a weight that challenges you in the 8 to 15 rep range (use the weight standards described above).

Finally, don’t exceed more than 5 sets per workout.

Why?

This 2018 study found that performing more than 5 sets for a given muscle per workout doesn’t lead to more strength and hypertrophy gains.

In other words, anything over 5 sets of dumbbell squats per workout becomes wasted “junk sets”.

Check out my other article for more details on building muscle with just dumbbells.

Choosing The Right Dumbbells For The Dumbbell Squat.

First of all, should you even squat with weights as a beginner?

As a whole, squatting with weights is recommended to increase the resistance of the squat and increase the training benefits for the squat. This can be done by holding dumbbells as you squat. That being said, first-time beginners should build confidence with bodyweight squats before adding weights.

infographic showing you how to choose the right dumbbells for home dumbbell squats

Once you are confident enough to transition from a bodyweight squat to a dumbbell squat, you’ll need to choose the right dumbbells.

To do this, you’ll first need to determine your beginner weight and maximum weight.

Your beginner weight can be found by referring the beginner dumbbell squat standards given earlier.

Your maximum weight can be found by referring to the intermediate dumbbell squat standards given earlier.

Additionally, you’ll want to add some redundant weight to allow for long-term progression (to minimize the need to upgrade dumbbells further down the line).

Now that you know your current and future weight needs, you can buy a pair of adjustable dumbbells accordingly.

I would strongly advise you get adjustable dumbbells over fixed-weight dumbbells since they are cheaper, more convenient, and take up less space.

Check out my other guide to find out the perfect dumbbell weight to buy!

When To Increase Weight For The Dumbbell Squat.

Start by dumbbell squatting at a weight that challenges you for 15 reps per set (preparatory phase). Stay in this phase for 1 month.

Then switch to a weight that challenges you for 8 reps per sets (hypertrophy phase).

bar chart showing you should increase dumbbell weight over time to continue making leg muscle gains

From here onwards, stay in the 8 rep range and increase the weight by 10% every two weeks (or whenever you feel you can push beyond 8 reps per set).

The idea is to keep the dumbbell squat challenging.

If the dumbbell becomes too heavy, then partial sets are ok. But keep working towards completing those 8 reps over time.

An alternative would be to decrease the weight and perform 12 reps. But you should avoid doing more than 12 reps per set for hypertrophy.

This progression method is called progressive overload, and it will lead to continued muscle gains!

Check out my other article for 25 tips to gain muscle as a skinny guy!

Number Of Days To Dumbbell Squat.

How many days per week should you squat?

3 days is the ideal number of squat days per week. Aim to complete 10 to 15 sets of squats in those 3 days. If you include other leg exercises such as deadlifts, then you should decrease the number of squat days to ensure your legs are not overtrained.

infographic showing how many days to dumbbells squat

For hypertrophy, it’s generally recommended to complete 10 to 15 weekly sets per muscle group over 2 or 3 separate workouts per week.

In other words, aim to dedicate 2 or 3 leg days every week.

For each workout, you should perform 4 to 5 sets of leg exercises.

If you’re doing dumbbell squats only, then you would do 3 dumbbell squatting days with 5 sets per training day. This would equate to 15 sets of leg exercises each week.

If you choose to go down this route, then you should EXCLUDE other leg exercises as this would be too much for your legs.

If you choose to combine other dumbbell leg exercises (deadlifts, lunges, squat variations) with your dumbbell squats, then 1 or 2 dumbbell squatting days with 3 or 4 sets of dumbbell squats per training day would be ideal.

This equates to 3 to 8 sets of dumbbell squats per week. And this gives you the freedom to perform other leg exercises.

The take-home message is to aim for 2 to 3 leg workouts per week and ensure you reach 10 to 15 sets.

Check out my other article to find out more about training splits.

How Effective Are Dumbbell Squats?

Now I’ll examine if dumbbell squats are an effective exercise.

As a whole, dumbbell squats are an effective exercise to train the legs. They are not as effective as barbell squats to build muscle, due to the limited weight. But dumbbell squats are a cheaper, safer, and more convenient alternative to barbell squats.

Dumbbell Squats Are Cheap, Convenient, And Effective.

Muscles Worked:

The primary muscles worked by dumbbell squats are the quadriceps and glutes in the legs.

But secondary muscle activation also occurs in the hamstrings, calves, and lower back.

Additionally, your shoulder muscles (deltoids) are also engaged isometrically to stabilize the dumbbells next to you.

Weight Required:

a pair of 70lb weights can be used for years to dumbbell squat

The average 200 pound guy will require a pair of 70 pound adjustable dumbbells for 3 or more years of regular dumbbell squatting.

These will cost you around $400. And that’s not bad for 3 years of training, considering a gym membership can cost over $300 just for 1 year!

Of course, skinny guys can get away with even lower dumbbell weights!

Also, remember that you can use your dumbbells for other exercises too.

Safety:

dumbbell squatting with dumbbell weights are safer than barbell weights

Compared to barbell squats, dumbbell squats are relatively safe.

Not only are you squatting with less weight compared to barbell squats, but the dumbbells are held by your side.

In comparison, it’s not uncommon to be loading 200+ pounds on a barbell squat. And all that weight is propped precariously on your back!

Convenience:

dumbbell squats are a convenient free weight

Adjustable dumbbells are a convenient type of free weight. All the weight is packaged nicely into one dumbbell with access to different weight increments.

Additionally, they can be stored and used pretty much anywhere.

Ease Of Performance:

dumbbell squats are a convenient way to train the legs

The main drawback of dumbbell squats is that your grip strength forms a major bottleneck for the amount of weight you can lift.

This means your legs won’t be completely challenged by the weight of your dumbbells.

Final Verdict:

Considering all the pros and cons, the dumbbell squat is an extremely effective exercise.

It’s a cheap and effective way for beginners and intermediates to work the legs at home, and you can continue building leg muscle for a good few years of training. Just make sure you choose a sufficient dumbbell weight!

Check out my other article to find out why home gyms are worth the money!

Is The Dumbbell Squat As Good As The Barbell Squat?

So what’s better when it come to dumbbell squats vs barbell squats?

Check out this Quora poll, which asked users “is a dumbbell squat as effective as a barbell squat?”.

pie chart showing the results of are dumbbell squats as effective as barbell squats

As you can see, the user-opinions are pretty evenly divided.

In my opinion, comparing dumbbell squats with barbell squats is like comparing a top-range Mercedes with a Ferrari.

Sure, the Ferrari (barbell) beats the Mercedes (dumbbells) when it comes to pure raw potential. But that doesn’t make the Mercedes a bad car. And having a Mercedes is sure as hell better than having no car at all!

In fact, dumbbell squats are able to build noticeable muscle gains if you use the correct weight and technique.

Check out this dumbbell squat vs barbell squat comparison table for a better idea:

Dumbbell Squat ProDumbbell Squat ConBarbell Squat ProBarbell Squat Con
CheaperLimited weightAllows more weightExpensive
SaferBuilds less muscleBuilds more muscleDangerous for inexperienced lifters
Space-efficientUnsuitable for advanced liftersInconvenientRequires space
Dumbbell squat vs barbell squat comparison.

All in all, dumbbell squats may not be AS effective as barbell squats to build leg muscle, but they can still be used for a noticeable amount of muscle gains. Just make sure you choose a suitable weight (according to my earlier strength standards).

Dumbbell squats also offer desirable advantages such as lower cost, higher convenience, and increased safety.

Check out my other article for more dumbbell pro’s and con’s!

Variations Of The Dumbbell Squat

To make up for the limited weight of dumbbell squats, you can include a variety of dumbbell squat variations.

By working the legs with different angles and motions, variations help promote muscle hypertrophy in the legs by introducing different kinds of stimulus.

Here are 8 dumbbell squat variations to include in your programme:

Check out my other article to find out how to get build a powerful body with just dumbbells!

1) Dumbbell Front Squat.

Dumbbell Front Squats

The dumbbell front squat primarily works the quadriceps and glutes (just like the dumbbell squat). But the increased emphasis is placed on the quads when the dumbbell is held directly above them.

This variation restricts weight even more than the dumbbell squat, but once you get the dumbbells in place, you aren’t as limited by your grip strength.

2) Goblet Squat.

The Goblet Squat Exercise Guide - The Proper Form, Sets & Routine Tutorial

The goblet squat is similar to the front squat, but you hold a single dumbbell with the flat of both palms.

This relieves the bottleneck formed by a weak grip and shoulder strength since you can tuck your elbows into your torso and leverage the resulting triangle shape to help you support the weight of the dumbbell.

So if you find weak shoulder or grip strength is limiting your dumbbell squat weight, try doing the goblet squat!

3) Split Squat.

The dumbbell split squat will work the same muscles as the dumbbell squat.

But since you’re pushing with one leg only, you effectively increase the weight of your dumbbells. And this makes the split squat excellent for challenging your legs when dumbbell weight is limited.

Additionally, the split squat will improve your balance and core strength. And this will translate into increased dumbbell squat strength!

4) Dumbbell Deadlift.

How To DUMBBELL DEADLIFT | Stop Doing This! #CrockFit

The dumbbell deadlift is similar to the dumbbell squat in many ways.

But the major difference is that the deadlift requires you to lift the dumbbell directly off the floor. This requires your back to sink lower, compared to the dumbbell squat.

As a result, you will engage your lower back muscles more. And this can help improve your dumbbell squat.

As a result of increased muscle recruitment, you’ll also find that you can lift more weight with the dumbbell deadlift compared to the dumbbell squat!

5) Dumbbell Pistol Squat.

Dumbbell Pistol Squat | Demonstration \ Mayhem Fitness

The dumbbell pistol squat is a hard exercise.

In fact, you should master the bodyweight pistol squat before transitioning into the dumbbell pistol squat.

Hard as it may be, the pistol squat is one of the most efficient ways to increase the weight of your dumbbells.

That’s because you push with nothing but one leg and no additional assistance.

So if you want to effectively double the perceived weight of your dumbbells, try the pistol squat!

6) Pile Squat.

The pile squat is performed by holding a single dumbbell in front of you with both hands.

This makes the pile squat the most beginner-friendly dumbbell squat since the grip and shoulder strength bottleneck is significantly reduced.

So if you’re struggling to increase the weight on your dumbbell squat, try a few weeks of heavy pile squatting first!

7) Dumbbell Box Squat.

The dumbbell box squat is a great way to emphasize your hamstrings and glutes.

That’s because you’re only performing the top half of the squatting motion (which recruits the hamstrings and glutes the most).

As a result, your overall squatting strength will increase.

Additionally, the half range of motion allows you to lift heavier dumbbell weights. And this will further develop your hamstrings and glutes!

8) Dumbbell Squat And Press.

How To Squat Push-Press - Cardio Workout - Fat Burning Workout Tips

Last but not least, the dumbbell squat and press is one for the brave!

It’s basically a dumbbell squat, but you press the dumbbells into an overhead press at the top of the movement.

This is a great way to increase your shoulder strength.

And when you increase shoulder strength, you’ll be able to more effectively stabilise the dumbbells in the dumbbel squat!

Conclusion

Today I’ve explained the ideal dumbbell squat weight to build muscle as a skinny guy.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ideal dumbbell squatting weight.

Instead, it will vary depending on your bodyweight. However, you can use my dumbbell squat standards to find out how much you should be dumbbell squatting based on your bodyweight.

The important thing is to find a weight that challenges you for 8 to 15 repetitions and keep adding more weight from there.

The dumbbell squat is a highly effective leg exercise, just make sure you choose the correct weight.

You can also include dumbbell squat variations to introduce a completely different type of workout, and continue making gains!

How much do you currently dumbbell squat?

Let me know in the comments below! Alternatively, download the FREE Kalibre Muscle Blueprint to find out how I gained 40 pounds of muscle!

I used dumbbell squats to help me build 40 pounds of muscle

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy).

Kal

I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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