January 26

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

By fitness

January 26, 2023

When it’s time to coach your decrease physique, barbell again squats get loads of consideration, however single-leg coaching ought to spend extra time within the highlight. In explicit, it’s value specializing in the dumbbell break up squat to carry consciousness to the staggered place and study to coordinate weight distribution throughout each toes.

The dumbbell break up squat, typically known as a static lunge, is carried out in a break up (or staggered) stance much like a lunge place. Unlike the lunge, your toes gained’t go away the ground throughout a break up squat. This gives a bit stability throughout a comparatively much less steady train

Credit: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Here are a couple of alternative ways to work on the dumbbell break up squat, together with variations, suggestions, and cues to get stronger at this single-leg centered motion.

Dumbbell Split Squat

Split Squat Demonstration Video

Coach Morit Summers demonstrates a body weight break up squat. The total method is similar to the dumbbell break up squat, apart from the added resistance from a dumbbell in every hand.

How to Do the Dumbbell Split Squat

The dumbbell break up can function your introduction to single-leg coaching. But even in the event you’re skilled with squats, lunges, and every little thing in between, this motion may be a good way to give attention to every leg for extra dimension and energy.

Step 1 — Begin Kneeling

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

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

Form Tip: You might begin the train from the highest, in a standing place, however the energy of a break up squat comes from establishing an awesome half-kneeling place and initiating the motion with sturdy legs. The backside place additionally helps to arrange a strong, steady stance by creating a great entrance knee angle.

Step 2 — Drive Up to Standing Position

Grip the weights and pull your shoulders again. Drive via the bottom with each toes and attain a standing place on the high. Keep each of your toes linked to the bottom. Your entrance leg ought to lock almost straight. When standing upright, your rear leg could stay barely bent relying in your leg size.

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

Form Tip: Be positive to maintain your entrance foot flat on the bottom and don’t enable your entrance heel to stand up. If your entrance leg doesn’t totally lock out straight, that’s okay. Your leg size and mobility will probably be influencing components. Focus on elevating your hips towards the ceiling, not pushing backward to “lockout” your leg.

Step 3 — Lower Under Control

Reverse the movement with focus and management. Think about driving your hips again to bend your entrance leg. Bring your again knee towards the bottom. Allow your higher physique to barely lean ahead on the waist whereas your arms stay aimed straight down.

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

Form Tip: Avoid resting your knee on the bottom within the backside place. Lightly graze the ground together with your again knee to get a full vary of movement.

Dumbbell Split Squat Mistakes to Avoid

Some single-leg workout routines may be tough for lifters to grasp, both because of stability and stability points, or muscular variations between every leg, or different components. Here are a few of key points to observe for.

Feet Placed Too Narrow

Starting together with your toes too slim, or almost in keeping with one another, will make stability a serious impediment. Imagine attempting to stroll on a stability beam that’s three inches vast in comparison with one which’s a foot vast.

In the beginning place, get your toes roughly hip-distance aside. This will assist present a extra steady base, so you possibly can give attention to working your leg muscle tissues as a substitute of combating to remain balanced.

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

Avoid it: One good thing about beginning the train from the half-kneeling place is you can check your stability earlier than the carry begins. Find stability in a staggered place together with your toes positioned correctly. When you are feeling balanced within the half-kneeling place, then you possibly can start the set.

Raising Your Front Heel

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

Avoid it: Imagine the only real of your shoe glued to the ground. Drive your hips again when elevating or reducing your physique. Keep your complete foot grounded and give attention to making use of power via your full foot, not simply the ball of your foot.

Torso Stays Too Upright

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

When you keep upright, you might also really feel extra strain or weight distribution round your knees as a substitute of in your hips. Over the long-term, this will likely trigger pointless pressure in your knee joints.

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

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

How to Progress the Dumbbell Split Squat

Beyond the commonest strategies of including weight and/or growing repetitions, the dumbbell break up squat may be modified by manipulating tempo (rep velocity), altering the vary of movement, or intentionally including instability.

Tempo or Rep Speed

Altering tempo is a superb first step to progressing the dumbbell break up squat. Tempo is simply one other phrase for the velocity of every repetition. By particularly reducing the velocity you carry and decrease your physique, you're spending extra time beneath stress, which might set off extra muscle development. (2). Taking three to 5 seconds to rise into the highest place and one other three to 5 seconds to achieve the underside is usually a excessive depth solution to practice.

Moving with slower, extra managed actions can be a good way to be linked to an train and actually give attention to method. This may also help you keep away from momentum and zone-in on muscle recruitment.

Adjusted Range of Motion

By including blocks, steps, or stacked weight plates, you possibly can change the vary of movement, which might improve or lower the problem. Adding elevation beneath your entrance foot, your again foot, or each toes will improve the vary of movement and make the dumbbell break up squat more durable. This will create a a lot bigger stretch in your leg muscle tissues if you are sitting into the underside place and there will probably be extra work within the eccentric (reducing) section of the motion.

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

Added Instability

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

If you don’t have that tools, you possibly can as a substitute arrange with a slim stance. While that was beforehand listed as a possible mistake, it may be used deliberately — solely after you’ve mastered the fundamental motion — so as to add selection and improve the problem with out utilizing heavier weights.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Split Squat

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

Single-Leg Power, Strength, and Size

It’s essential to do unilateral decrease physique coaching work, together with the dumbbell break up squat, to handle every leg individually. Traditional squats are a well-respected basic for a cause, however they're bilateral actions working each legs concurrently. This could make it straightforward to compensate together 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 help.

When you do a dumbbell break up squat, you're altering your base of help, which then challenges your middle of gravity, core stabilizers, and it adjustments the best way your hips will work collectively. Single-leg coaching can be proven to presumably assist scale back the chance of decrease physique accidents and enhance energy output in comparison with two-legged squatting. (3)(4)

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Split Squat

The dumbbell break up squat prioritizes a lot of the decrease physique muscle tissues whereas additionally recruiting your higher physique to stabilize and management the burden.


Your quadriceps, or quads, are your entrance thigh muscle tissues. These work to increase and lockout your leg as you rise into the highest place. Your quads are usually thought-about the first muscle throughout the dumbbell break up squat.

Glutes and Hamstrings

As hip extensors, your glute and hamstring muscle tissues work collectively to carry your decrease physique into alignment together with your higher physique. These muscle tissues are put into a major stretch within the backside place of the dumbbell break up squat, and they're activated to provoke the rise upward.

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

Allowing your higher physique to lean ahead throughout the hip hinge movement will extra considerably recruit your glutes throughout the train.

Abductors and Adductors

Your abductor (“outer thigh”) and adductor (“inner thigh”) muscle tissues work to stabilize your legs and management any side-to-side knee motion throughout the dumbbell break up squat. These muscle tissues are always firing throughout the train to stop your knees, notably your entrance knee, from both caving in or shifting to the skin.

How to Program the Dumbbell Split Squat

Everyone’s particular person targets and programming wants are completely different. The factor that issues most is getting the precise workout routines all through a coaching program that can assist you really feel as sturdy as attainable. However, there are some “best practices” that may assist to effectively match the dumbbell break up squat into your present coaching plan.

After Bilateral Exercises

Generally, it’s simpler to do bilateral actions earlier than unilateral actions as a result of you possibly can have extra give attention to the larger lifts and you may doubtlessly use extra weight earlier than fatiguing your muscle tissues with unilateral coaching.

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

Light to Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetition

The dumbbell break up squat isn’t an train that enables the usage of very heavy weights as a result of your grip, core, and higher again would be the weak hyperlink earlier than you possibly can goal your comparatively stronger leg muscle tissues. So it’s greatest to make use of a weight that enables a average quantity of repetitions. Aim for two to 4 units of eight to fifteen repetitions per leg.

Dumbbell Split Squat Variations 

Once you’ve realized the fundamental dumbbell break up squat, or in the event you’re searching for a “similar but different” single-leg train, there are a couple of high selections to think about.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian break up squat is likely to 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 break up squat is a superb instance of progressing the fundamental dumbbell break up squat by growing vary of movement whereas additionally including instability — having your rear leg perched on a bench is much less steady than protecting it flat on the ground. If you need to get actually merciless, you possibly can regulate the tempo and take a number of seconds for every section of the repetition.

Dumbbell Step-up

Step-ups are one other nice choice for single-leg coaching. The may be carried out alternating legs with every repetition, which can provide extra of a cardio-type coaching impact, or by performing all reps with one leg at a time, which will increase the time beneath stress and may set off extra muscle development.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I topple over or really feel unstable throughout the dumbbell break up squat?

The train is a single-leg motion, so your base of help is decreased in comparison with extra acquainted two-legged squatting. Focus on staying linked to the bottom once you’re coaching with a smaller base of help.
During the dumbbell break up squat, push your toes into the ground and give attention to utilizing your hips. It is all the time okay to carry onto one thing steady for exterior help, just like the again of an incline bench, to get used to the single-leg motion.

Are dumbbell break up squats dangerous for my knees?

Unless you could have a cause, 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 energy and stability within the surrounding muscle tissues might be some of the essential and useful issues you are able to do for basic knee well being and longevity.


  1. Andrew Revak, Keith Diers, Thomas W. Kernozek, Naghmeh Gheidi, Christina Olbrantz; Achilles Tendon Loading During Heel-Raising and -Lowering Exercises. J Athl Train 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 stress 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 Training for Strength, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 30(2):p 386-392, February 2016. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001096
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Feature Image: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

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