HomeHealth & FitnessHow to Do the Dumbbell Split Squat for Single-Leg Size and Strength

How to Do the Dumbbell Split Squat for Single-Leg Size and Strength

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When it’s time to coach your decrease physique, barbell back squats get loads of consideration, however single-leg coaching ought to spend extra time within the highlight. Particularly, it’s price specializing in the dumbbell cut up squat to deliver consciousness to the staggered place and be taught to coordinate weight distribution throughout each toes.

The dumbbell cut up squat, generally known as a static lunge, is carried out in a cut up (or staggered) stance much like a lunge place. In contrast to the lunge, your toes received’t go away the ground throughout a cut up squat. This offers a little bit stability throughout a comparatively much less secure train

A person performing a dumbbell split squat.
Credit score: Floor Image / Shutterstock

Listed below are a couple of other ways to work on the dumbbell cut up squat, together with variations, suggestions, and cues to get stronger at this single-leg targeted motion.

Dumbbell Cut up Squat

Cut up Squat Demonstration Video

Coach Morit Summers demonstrates a bodyweight cut up squat. The general method is similar to the dumbbell cut up squat, except for the added resistance from a dumbbell in every hand.

Learn how to Do the Dumbbell Cut up Squat

The dumbbell cut up can function your introduction to single-leg coaching. However even for those who’re skilled with squats, lunges, and all the pieces in between, this motion could be an effective way to concentrate on every leg for extra dimension and strength.

Step 1 — Start Kneeling

Get on the bottom in a half-kneeling or “proposal” place. Set your entrance foot flat on the ground along with your knee bent at 90-degrees. Relaxation your again knee on the bottom along with your toes curled beneath, aimed into the bottom. Maintain a dumbbell in every hand along with your arms straight by your sides.

 A person kneeling in the dumbbell split squat starting position.
Credit score: Jonni Shreve / YouTube

Type Tip: You may begin the train from the highest, in a standing place, however the power of a cut up squat comes from establishing a terrific half-kneeling place and initiating the motion with robust legs. The underside place additionally helps to arrange a strong, secure stance by creating entrance knee angle.

Step 2 — Drive As much as Standing Place

Grip the weights and pull your shoulders again. Drive via the bottom with each toes and attain a standing place on the prime. Maintain each of your toes related to the bottom. Your entrance leg ought to lock practically straight. When standing upright, your rear leg might stay barely bent relying in your leg size.

A person standing up during a dumbbell split squat.
Credit score: Jonni Shreve / YouTube

Type Tip: Make sure to preserve your entrance foot flat on the bottom and don’t enable your entrance heel to stand up. In case your entrance leg doesn’t totally lock out straight, that’s okay. Your leg length and mobility will likely be influencing elements. Give attention to elevating your hips towards the ceiling, not pushing backward to “lockout” your leg.

Step 3 — Decrease Beneath Management

Reverse the movement with focus and management. Take into consideration driving your hips again to bend your entrance leg. Deliver your again knee towards the bottom. Enable your upper body to barely lean ahead on the waist whereas your arms stay aimed straight down.

A person kneeling during a dumbbell split squat.
Credit score: Jonni Shreve / YouTube

Type Tip: Keep away from resting your knee on the bottom within the backside place. Frivolously graze the ground along with your again knee to get a full vary of movement.

Dumbbell Cut up Squat Errors to Keep away from

Some single-leg workout routines could be difficult for lifters to grasp, both because of steadiness and stability points, or muscular variations between every leg, or different elements. Listed below are a few of key points to look at for.

Toes Positioned Too Slender

Beginning along with your toes too slim, or practically in step with one another, will make steadiness a serious impediment. Think about making an attempt to stroll on a steadiness beam that’s three inches extensive in comparison with one which’s a foot extensive.

Within the beginning place, get your toes roughly hip-distance aside. It will assist present a extra secure base, so you’ll be able to concentrate on working your leg muscle mass as an alternative of preventing to remain balanced.

A person exercising and in the split squat position.
Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Keep away from it: One advantage of beginning the train from the half-kneeling place is that you would be able to check your steadiness earlier than the elevate begins. Discover stability in a staggered place along with your toes positioned correctly. Whenever you really feel balanced within the half-kneeling place, then you’ll be able to start the set.

Elevating Your Entrance Heel

One other means some lifters sabotage their steadiness is letting their entrance heel come off the bottom when reducing themselves into the underside place. This makes the soundness of your ankle joint rather more of a weak level than the power of your comparatively bigger leg muscles. In truth, heel-raised workout routines are used particularly to focus on the smaller ankle stabilizers and achilles tendon. (1) It’s not an environment friendly technique to goal hips, glute, and thigh muscle mass.

Keep away from it: Think about the only real of your shoe glued to the ground. Drive your hips again when elevating or reducing your physique. Maintain your complete foot grounded and concentrate on making use of pressure via your full foot, not simply the ball of your foot.

Torso Stays Too Upright

Any squat or lunge, in addition to the dumbbell cut up squat, ought to nonetheless have a level of hip hinge or bending on the waist. Conserving your higher physique too vertical can restrict muscle recruitment in your decrease physique by not permitting your hips and glutes to totally activate.

Whenever you keep upright, you may additionally really feel extra strain or weight distribution round your knees as an alternative of in your hips. Over the long-term, this will trigger pointless pressure in your knee joints.

A person doing a dumbbell split squat with a straight back.
Credit score: LightField Studios / Shutterstock

Keep away from it: Don’t attempt to preserve your shoulders squared over your hips all through the train. Maintain your backbone impartial, not rounded, however lean your shoulders barely over your entrance thigh. Enable your hips to drive again, which can encourage your torso to naturally lean ahead as you go into the underside of the motion.

Learn how to Progress the Dumbbell Cut up Squat

Past the commonest strategies of including weight and/or rising repetitions, the dumbbell cut up squat could be modified by manipulating tempo (rep velocity), altering the vary of movement, or intentionally including instability.

Tempo or Rep Pace

Altering tempo is a good first step to progressing the dumbbell cut up squat. Tempo is simply one other phrase for the velocity of every repetition. By particularly lowering the velocity you elevate and decrease your physique, you might be spending extra time beneath rigidity, which may set off extra muscle progress. (2). Taking three to 5 seconds to rise into the highest place and one other three to 5 seconds to achieve the underside generally is a high intensity technique to prepare.

Transferring with slower, extra managed actions can also be an effective way to be related to an train and actually concentrate on method. This can assist you keep away from momentum and zone-in on muscle recruitment.

Adjusted Vary of Movement

By including blocks, steps, or stacked weight plates, you’ll be able to change the vary of movement, which may enhance or lower the issue. Including elevation beneath your entrance foot, your again foot, or each toes will enhance the vary of movement and make the dumbbell cut up squat more durable. It will create a a lot bigger stretch in your leg muscle mass when you are sitting into the underside place and there will likely be extra work within the eccentric (reducing) part of the motion.

Including one thing beneath your again knee will restrict the vary of movement and make the train much less difficult. That is an efficient modification when you have restricted hip mobility as a result of it helps to limit the quantity of stretch wanted all through the train.

Added Instability

Including a component of instability will even problem your nervous system which has its advantages as properly. You possibly can place a foam pad or thick-folded towel beneath your entrance foot to supply extra of a stability problem.

Should you don’t have that tools, you’ll be able to as an alternative arrange with a slim stance. Whereas that was beforehand listed as a possible mistake, it may be used deliberately — solely after you’ve mastered the essential motion — so as to add selection and enhance the problem with out utilizing heavier weights.

Advantages of the Dumbbell Cut up Squat

Many individuals overlook the advantages of single-leg coaching, together with the dumbbell cut up squat, and overfocus on bilateral (two legged) squat variations. Right here’s why it’s best to incorporate the dumbbell cut up squat into your coaching program.

Single-Leg Energy, Power, and Dimension

It’s vital to do unilateral decrease physique coaching work, together with the dumbbell cut up squat, to deal with every leg individually. Conventional squats are a well-respected basic for a motive, however they’re bilateral actions working each legs concurrently. This will make it simple to compensate along with your stronger leg if you find yourself squatting — and each physique has one leg barely stronger or extra developed than the opposite. With two-legged squats, your hips are squared off and your toes are planted symmetrically with a way more even base of assist.

Whenever you do a dumbbell cut up squat, you might be altering your base of assist, which then challenges your heart of gravity, core stabilizers, and it modifications the way in which your hips will work collectively. Single-leg coaching can also be proven to presumably assist cut back the chance of decrease physique accidents and enhance energy output in comparison with two-legged squatting. (3)(4)

Muscle groups Labored by the Dumbbell Cut up Squat

The dumbbell cut up squat prioritizes many of the decrease physique muscle mass whereas additionally recruiting your higher physique to stabilize and management the load.


Your quadriceps, or quads, are your entrance thigh muscle mass. These work to increase and lockout your leg as you rise into the highest place. Your quads are typically thought of the first muscle in the course of the dumbbell cut up squat.

Glutes and Hamstrings

As hip extensors, your glute and hamstring muscles work collectively to deliver your decrease physique into alignment along with your higher physique. These muscle mass are put into a major stretch within the backside place of the dumbbell cut up squat, and they’re activated to provoke the rise upward.

Close up of a person's glutes.
Credit score: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Permitting your higher physique to lean ahead in the course of the hip hinge movement will extra considerably recruit your glutes in the course of the train.

Abductors and Adductors

Your abductor (“outer thigh”) and adductor (“inside thigh”) muscle mass work to stabilize your legs and management any side-to-side knee motion in the course of the dumbbell cut up squat. These muscle mass are continually firing in the course of the train to stop your knees, significantly your entrance knee, from both caving in or shifting to the surface.

Learn how to Program the Dumbbell Cut up Squat

Everybody’s particular person targets and programming wants are completely different. The factor that issues most is getting the correct workout routines all through a training program that will help you really feel as robust as potential. Nonetheless, there are some “greatest practices” that may assist to effectively match the dumbbell cut up squat into your present coaching plan.

After Bilateral Workouts

Typically, it’s simpler to do bilateral actions earlier than unilateral actions as a result of you’ll be able to have extra concentrate on the larger lifts and you may doubtlessly use extra weight earlier than fatiguing your muscle mass with unilateral coaching.

For instance, do dumbbell cut up squats both throughout leg day or as part of a full-body workout after doing a number of units of front squats. Performing the workout routines within the reverse order — with dumbbell cut up squats earlier than front squats — will take power away from the possibly heavier lifting which may have an effect on progress within the long-term.

Gentle to Reasonable Weight, Reasonable Repetition

The dumbbell cut up squat isn’t an train that permits using very heavy weights as a result of your grip, core, and upper back would be the weak hyperlink earlier than you’ll be able to goal your comparatively stronger leg muscle mass. So it’s greatest to make use of a weight that permits a reasonable quantity of repetitions. Goal for two to 4 units of eight to fifteen repetitions per leg.

Dumbbell Cut up Squat Variations 

When you’ve realized the essential dumbbell cut up squat, or for those who’re on the lookout for a “comparable however completely different” single-leg train, there are a couple of prime selections to think about.

Bulgarian Cut up Squat

The Bulgarian split squat could be all the fashion with influencers on TikTok, however this rear-foot elevated motion was round lengthy earlier than social media. Having your again leg at the next elevation will increase the main focus and muscular stress in your entrance leg.

A bulgarian cut up squat is a good instance of progressing the essential dumbbell cut up squat by rising vary of movement whereas additionally including instability — having your rear leg perched on a bench is much less secure than maintaining it flat on the ground. If you wish to get actually merciless, you’ll be able to modify the tempo and take a number of seconds for every part of the repetition.

Dumbbell Step-up

Step-ups are one other nice choice for single-leg coaching. The could be carried out alternating legs with every repetition, which may give extra of a cardio-type coaching impact, or by performing all reps with one leg at a time, which will increase the time beneath rigidity and may trigger more muscle growth.

The step-up nonetheless focuses on utilizing hip hinge whereas performing single-leg work. It’s extra dynamic than the dumbbell cut up squat and may even be carried out nearly explosively with energy, exploding into the highest place, for larger power and athleticism.

Incessantly Requested Questions

Are dumbbell cut up squats unhealthy for my knees?

Except you could have a motive, like a pre-existing situation or particular docs’ orders, that you just shouldn’t be working via full vary of movement with decrease physique coaching, then bending your knees and constructing power and stability within the surrounding muscle mass might be probably the most vital and useful issues you are able to do for common knee well being and longevity.


  1. Andrew Revak, Keith Diers, Thomas W. Kernozek, Naghmeh Gheidi, Christina Olbrantz; Achilles Tendon Loading Throughout Heel-Elevating and -Decreasing Workouts. J Athl Prepare 1 February 2017; 52 (2): 89–96. doi: https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-52.1.04
  2. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. Okay., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time beneath rigidity throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
  3. Speirs, Derrick E.1,2; Bennett, Mark A.3; Finn, Charlotte V.4; Turner, Anthony P.2. Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Coaching for Power, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Gamers. Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis 30(2):p 386-392, February 2016. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001096
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Characteristic Picture: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Supply: breakingmuscle.com

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