The Equipment Guys

Dumbbell Squat Press


“If you could only do one exercise, what would it be?”
The Dumbbell Squat Press

One exercise CAN make all the difference! I believe that if you only had time for one exercise, you should be able to narrow it down to something that can do it all. I know that this isn’t necessarily realistic, but we see it all the time. Things like 15 minute abs or whole body workout routines in magazines for people on the go or with limited time are, a lot of times, great routines that people try for a short period and then quit. Perhaps the magazines or videos don’t go into enough detail about what one exercise can do for you. Let’s explore my favorite!

This exercise involves a combination of movements that, on their own, are incredibly beneficial. Let’s review the movement, and then go into detail.

The Squat Press, also known as Thrusters in Crossfit, combines squatting below parallel while holding a weight at the chest/shoulder level, then pressing that weight over head after rising from the squat. The idea is to give a little extra leg drive on the way up, so that your arms don’t take all of the responsibility for doing the press at the end.
I like to hold dumbbells when I do this exercise. The advantages of dumbbells include work on stability of joints, in this case the shoulders and wrists, work on independent limbs, the arms and shoulders and each side of the body, and full body stability as they are lifted overhead (anything overhead also engages the core to maintain stability). The squat is the basis for almost all athletes’ strength and power and pressing overhead aligns upper body posture and increases arm strength and upper body power as well.

Dumbbell Squat Press or Thruster
Start with the dumbbells (DB’s) at shoulder height in your hands, with your palms or closed fingers facing each other. Your toes should be facing straight forward or slightly out away from the center of your body. Begin squatting by sticking your butt out backwards and lowering it to the ground. Remember to keep pressure on your heels, keep your knees out (away from each other) and keep the DB’s in the same position they started at your shoulders (in order to maintain good posture). Go as deep into the squat as you can while maintaining good posture (hopefully below 90 degrees, but if not, that’s okay) and they explode out of the bottom of the squat with an extra leg drive to help the start of your press. When the weights begin to move upward, because of the leg drive, finish pressing them with your arms. Slowly lower them to your shoulders and begin again.

I like this exercise because it can be added into a workout in every aspect of training: strength, power, endurance, injury prevention, etc. It’s also a great way to test an athlete’s mental toughness, as they have to maintain good position or the weights will begin falling down as they squat. This exercise can be done as one full movement or can even be broken into its components to create an entire workout.

Here is an example of how you can use this exercise alone in a workout:

Let’s split the workout into 4 different segments in order to better understand its structure: Warm up, Power, Strength, Conditioning.

Warm Up

Light Squat press: 2 sets of 20 reps

Power

Heavy Dumbbell Squat Press 5 sets of 2 repetitions with very heavy weight (emphasis is on lowering slowly into the squat and exploding out of it to complete the press)

Strength

DB Squat Press 3 sets of 8 reps with weight that gets hard on reps 6, 7, 8.

Conditioning

Tabata DB Squat Press (use weight that can be performed for 15 repetitions) 20 seconds doing squat press as hard and fast (with good form) as possible, 10 seconds rest. 8 sets

Easier to read version:

Segment Exercise Sets/Reps Weight
Warm Up DB Squat Press 2 x 20 Light
Power DB Squat Press 5 x 2 Heavy
Strength DB Squat Press 3 x 8 Medium-Heavy
Conditioning DB Squat Press 20/10 x 8 Light-Medium

Of course this is an over-exaggeration of what can be done with this exercise. But technically, it could be done and people could get great results. It may just be a little boring to do the same thing over and over. And you can’t ignore the fact that some important groups are being left out. This exercise is incredibly effective if added into an already existing program correctly. I use it to incorporate quad work and overhead pressing to balance out posterior chain work and pulling. You can use it as you see fit into your own program, but don’t be surprised when you have to lower the weight after doing a few sets of conditioning!