What Are Suitcase Squats
Suitcase squats are a variation of the squat that involves holding dumbbells by the side of the body, much how you would hold a suitcase or large bag. Typically, weights are held anteriorly (such as the back squat) or posteriorly (like the goblet squat) during squats. Altering where the weight is held challenges the body in a different way, and in addition to working the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, the suitcase squat improves grip strength and targets the obliques.
Holding the dumbbells at the side of the body can also place less pressure on the shoulder joints than other squat variations. It also helps to prevent the chest from falling forwards, so many people find it easier to maintain an upright position and keep the weight path over the mid foot.
Commonly Asked Questions On Suitcase Squats
Suitcase squats are a great option if you want to try varying your squats. They’re an effective way to build muscle in the lower body and improve grip strength and can be progressively overloaded by increasing the weight of the dumbbells held. Due to the loading position, it can be more difficult to lift heavier weights with a suitcase squat, and many gyms only hold dumbbells up to 50kg so if you are looking to squat with heavy load, you would be more suited to a barbell back squat.
If you’re new to squatting or struggle to keep your chest from falling during a squat, suitcase squats can be helpful for learning how to maintain a neutral spine and correct squat form.
Like all squat variations, the suitcase squats work the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. This variation also works the core including the obliques and helps to build grip and forearm strength.
Neither suitcase squats or front squats are better or worse than the other, but they do provide different challenges that can make them more or less suitable to your goals.
Suitcase squats are more accessible and more suitable for beginners, and are also a great option if you want to work on your grip strength. Front squats are more suitable for advanced squatters or those looking to work the quads harder as they place a greater emphasis on the quads.
Suitcase Squat Tips
Suitcase squats are a great exercise for beginners and will aid in teaching the squat movement pattern while also gaining awareness of how to maintain a neutral spine. While all squat variations require a neutral spine, the suitcase squat places less pressure on the shoulders and is easier to keep the chest back.
Work on keeping your shoulder blades pinned back and holding the dumbbells close to your sides to maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
How To Do Suitcase Squats
Take a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate in each hand and hold by your sides, palms facing into your body.
Adopt your preferred squat stance (between hip and shoulder width is ideal) and then slightly rotate your feet so they point outwards.
Pin your shoulder blades back so that your chest is lifted and engage your core. Begin to squat by pushing your hips back while bending at the knee, making sure to also push your knees outwards so they don’t cave in.
Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, or just below parallel.
Return to standing by pushing the ground away with both feet, making sure to drive through the entire foot, not just the heels.
As you stand tall, make sure to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid locking out the legs. Lightly squeeze the glutes but avoid pushing your hips forward as this can strain the lower back.
If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.