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One-Arm Gripping Dumbbell Squats

7301-train6If you’ve given up on “normal” barbell and dumbbell squats due to knee or back issues, this exercise is for you.

This variation of the dumbbell squat will enable you to get a tremendous range of motion on a squat movement while keeping your torso in a very upright and neutral position and while keeping stress off your knees.

When you perform a freestanding squat exercise, you have to compensate for the position of the weight by basically being “less vertical”—i.e., you have to lean forward.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be an obstacle for some people, especially if you want to get maximum range of motion on the squat. The lower you go, the easier it is for your form to break down due to flexibility issues or supporting-muscle strength.

That’s where this exercise comes into play.

It’s a single-dumbbell squat performed while you’re gripping a bar with your free hand. You use this grip primarily to maintain your torso in a vertical position while doing deep squats (although you can also use it to spot yourself as you get to the end of a hard set).

It’s a killer exercise that will hit your quads hard!

It’s also an excellent home-gym exercise, as it gives you the ability to squat without a rack. (Although I am using a rack in the pictures here, anything solid and at the right height that you can grip will work.)

This exercise is only limited by the amount of weight you have available to use. I’m using a 125-pound dumbbell and an 85-pound weight vest—to add even more resistance. You can also go for higher rep ranges and lighter weights.

To set this up, place a bar on the rails of a power rack about four feet off the ground, at chest height, and pull it against the uprights to lock it in place. Set your dumbbells just in front of the bar, and grab the bar with an underhand grip. Squat and grasp the left dumbbell.

At the bottom of the movement your torso is vertical and you should be sitting back.

Now just stand up.

Your torso stays vertical the entire time, placing the majority of the workload in the deep squat directly on your quads.

I recommend performing half of your target reps while holding the dumbbell with your left hand, and then immediately shifting the dumbbell to your right for the other half to get balanced effects on your core and legs. Place a dumbbell on each side of you to make the transition faster.

On each rep, don’t take tension off your legs, but touch one end of the dumbbell to the ground to make sure you’re getting full range of motion. Just keep that tension on!

If you want to increase the range of motion even more, you can stand on a Step riser, which will allow you to get the dumbbell a bit lower before it touches the ground.

With this squat variation you can really push the reps until your quads are completely fatigued. There’s no bar to get stuck under or rerack, so you can focus on cranking out reps and pushing your quads to the limit.

When you’re done, just set the dumbbell down on the floor.

This is a serious secret-weapon quad exercise that can be used by just anybody—even those with lower-back or knee issues.

—Nick Nilsson


Editor’s note: To get a copy of Nick’s Muscle Explosion—28 Days to Maximum Mass, visit his Web site, www. 28DayMuscle


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