Bodyweight sumo squats can be helpful but you may need to add weights to hit your fitness goals. Discover a few ways to do this and their benefits.
Sumo squats mainly focus your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and your inner thighs to some extent.
Since the quadriceps are relatively strong muscles, many people will want to use extra weights to see more and faster muscle growth and strength progress.
In terms of effectiveness and convenience, most people will prefer barbell, smith machine, or resistance band sumo squats.
Dumbbell sumo squats are another popular option because dumbbells are so common. That being said, this variation is often too challenging for muscles that are not the main target of weighted sumo squats.
You can weigh the upsides and downsides for each of the options below and try a few of them out to figure out what variation aligns the best with your goals and preferences.
1. Dumbbell sumo squat
Dumbbell sumo squats are a popular weighted version. Mostly because dumbbells are so common in gyms and because you don’t need something like a squat rack to set the exercise up.
One way to do this movement is by holding one dumbbell with both of your hands in between your legs. You can also hold two dumbbells in the same way or clean the weights to shoulder height and keep them there.
That being said, there are also a few downsides to dumbbell sumo squats.
First of all, it can be challenging to get enough weight in position and keep it there. Especially if you want to keep the dumbbells at shoulder height.
However, even if you hold the dumbbells between your legs (with straps to avoid your grip muscles fatiguing), your trapezius (upper shoulder muscle) may fatigue before your leg muscles had a good workout.
And even if you have very strong trapezius muscles, the upper weight limit of dumbbells is relatively low compared to something like a barbell.
Since being able to use enough weight is so important for getting results with weighted sumo squats, these are relatively big downsides of dumbbell sumo squats.
2. Sumo squats with a barbell
A barbell is a long bar that you can load with weight plates. Basically all good (home) gyms have one of these and a rack available.
To do a sumo squat with a barbell you rack the bar at chest height, load it with weight plates, rest the barbell on your shoulders, unrack it, step forward, and do the exercise.
Most people will prefer to do weighted sumo squats with a barbell because it really allows you to focus on working your leg muscles.
You don’t have to worry about any grip muscles fatiguing and it is easy to load a barbell with a lot of weight.
There are two potential downsides for people who don’t have gym subscriptions. A barbell setup (including a squat rack) requires a decent initial investment and a good amount of room.
Besides these, it may take a few repetitions to get used to the position of the barbell on your back.
That being said, if you are serious about growing and strengthening the strong muscles you work with sumo squats, you will likely prefer the barbell version.
3. Kettlebell sumo squat
Kettlebells are the metal balls with a handle in the middle. They have their own specific exercises like the kettlebell swing but you can also use kettlebells as resistance in more standard exercises like a sumo squat.
That being said, while they are likely more effective than doing the bodyweight version, kettlebell sumo squats are typically not that great.
Similar to dumbbells, it is challenging to get and keep heavy kettlebells in position long enough to really work your quadriceps and inner thighs.
This is even the case to a larger extent because kettlebell handles typically don’t have any knurling (grooves in the handles).
That makes holding kettlebells more challenging on your forearm grip muscles which are already often a weak factor in a weighted sumo squat.
Additionally, kettlebells are relatively bulky which means they could get in the way of an optimal movement and limit how low you can go. These things are generally not helpful for muscle growth.
If you have a personal preference for kettlebells and/or they are the only pieces of fitness equipment available, you can use them for sumo squats. Even so, you will likely prefer other types of weights.
4. Smith machine sumo squat
The smith machine is a construction where a weight lifting bar follows the trajectory of a rail system. Additionally, you can rack the bar at different heights thanks to the hooks attached to it.
Smith machines can be a good choice for doing sumo squats with weights depending on your training goals.
More specifically, due to the fixed trajectory, you will have to worry less about balance which can help with really focusing on your quadricep and inner thigh muscles.
On the flip side, this also leads to less engagement of the stabilizing muscles involved in sumo squats. Working these can benefit your daily activities and can help you reduce your injury risk.
This difference aside, smith machine sumo squats are good in the sense that you can do them with relatively heavy weights. Similar to the barbell version, you don’t have to worry about forearm grip or shoulder muscles fatiguing.
A potential downside of this weighted sumo squat is that you may not like the feeling of the fixed trajectory.
Additionally, not all gyms have a smith machine available. They are also relatively pricey and require a lot of space.
5. Landmine sumo squat
A landmine setup is basically a barbell that is anchored to the ground on one side. You can then hold the other end of the barbell to create resistance in movements like the sumo squat.
One of the things that are slightly different in the landmine sumo squat is that you can keep your upper body slightly more upright in the goblet hold variation.
This requires less work of your lower back, glute, and hamstring muscles. In turn, you can focus more on really working your quadriceps and inner thigh muscles.
Additionally, because the barbell is anchored to the ground on one side, landmine sumo squats tend to be just a bit easier in terms of balance.
That being said, this landmine variation has similar downsides as some of the other weighted sumo squats.
More specifically, getting the barbell sleeve to shoulder height or holding it between your legs can be too challenging for other muscles. This can interfere with your leg workout.
You can avoid this to some extent by using lifting straps when keeping the landmine in a low position. However, even then, you may prefer doing a regular barbell sumo squat instead.
6. Sumo squat with resistance bands
Resistance bands are basically elastic cords that create resistance as you stretch them out. The main way to use one of these in sumo squats is by looping them around your feet and the back of your shoulders.
Banded sumo squats are a bit more awkward than other resistance band squats because your feet are so far apart. That being said, you should still be able to create a good amount of resistance this way.
One of the benefits of choosing resistance bands for weighted sumo squats is that they are a relatively budget-friendly way to create a lot of resistance.
Additionally, resistance bands are relatively compact.
These things can be great for people who want to grow and strengthen their leg muscles at home.
The main downside to keep in mind is that resistance bands are not as durable as the other equipment options on this list. You may need to replace your set every once in a while due to wear and tear.
Besides that, some people don’t like how resistance bands get harder as you stretch them out in terms of personal preference. The top of the sumo squat movement may feel harder than some of the other weights.
Benefits of weighted sumo squats
Before going ahead and implementing one of these weighted sumo squats in your exercise routine, you may want a refresher on the reasons for doing this. Some of the benefits include:
- More muscle growth and strength potential: To grow and strengthen muscles you have to challenge them with enough resistance. With extra weights, you have more potential in these areas than bodyweight sumo squats.
- Can speed up your workouts: Getting in a good workout is not only a matter of time. By increasing the challenge of your sumo squats, you can get more results in a shorter time frame.
- Improves your bone density: Similar to many other body parts, your bones can become stronger by putting them under enough but safe amounts of pressure. Weighted sumo squats can help with this.
- Helps you build fast muscle: Muscles can have different ratios of muscle fibers. By doing an exercise with weights, you can build more type 2 muscle fibers which are helpful for fast movements.
- Other sumo squat benefits to a larger extent: There are also more general health benefits of sumo squats like improving mood, sleep, and cognitive function. Adding weights to safe extents typically increases the positive effects in these areas.
Even if you are just interested in growing and strengthening your muscles to a larger extent, weighted sumo squats are likely worth considering.
What do weighted sumo squats work?
Similar to the regular version, weighted sumo squats mostly work your quadriceps (front thighs) and inner thigh muscles. That being said, some weighted variations also require work from your forearm grip muscles, trapezius, and/or deltoids to keep the resistance in position.
Can you do sumo squats with two dumbbells?
You can do sumo squats with two dumbbells by either holding them between your legs or “cleaning” them up to shoulder height and keeping them there.