We all know that regular exercise is important for our overall health and our physical appearance, but many of us find excuses to avoid gyms. There is a myriad of reasons for this, including cost, travel, and intimidation.
Working out from the comfort of your home is a great alternative, but some people don’t consider this because they don’t have the equipment or a personal trainer. The good news is that you don’t need much equipment to get an effective workout.
In fact, all that you need is a set of dumbbells. This article will provide you with ideas of 10 dumbbell leg workouts that can be performed at home using only a set of dumbbells. These exercises are applicable to both men and women, and the weight can be adjusted for all body types.
Dumbbell Front Squat
Front squats are a foundational movement for nearly every other lower body exercise. They work the large muscles in the quads, glutes, and lower back. Once you’ve mastered the air squat, dumbbell front squats are a challenging progression.
- Start by holding one dumbbell in each hand resting high near the shoulders.
- Stand with your feet should-width apart and core tight as you would with an air squat.
- Maintaining your posture, drop down into a full squat position. Remember to push your knees out and keep the chest upright.
- Drive back upward to your starting position and repeat.
Dumbbell squats are going to cause your arms to fatigue as well as your legs. It will also be harder to maintain an upright chest. Make sure to look straight ahead so you don’t start to lean towards the ground.
Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Goblet squats are typically performed with a kettlebell, but a dumbbell makes a great alternative. This exercise primarily works the quads, calves, and glutes.
- Hold one dumbbell in the center of your body with both hands. Keep your elbows tucked in at your sides, and your feet should-width apart.
- Maintaining the weight near your chest, squat down until your thighs reach parallel or until you can no longer maintain proper squat form.
- Steadily drive upward to a stand.
Goblet squats appear to be an easy exercise, but the weight gets heavy fast. You should discontinue repetitions as soon as your form starts to break down.
Make sure that you’re able to keep your abs tight and the chest upright; avoid folding down towards the weight. Also make sure to push your knees outward as you squat down, and don’t allow your knees to cross over your feet.
Complete 3 sets of 8 repetitions with a comfortable weight.
Sumo squats place more emphasis on the inner thighs than the traditional squat. These are easy to perform and the perfect exercise for beginners. To do a sumo squat:
- Start with the legs a few inches wider than should-width. The feet should be pointed slightly outward.
- Hold one dumbbell with both hands in the center of the body. It should be hanging down between your legs.
- Keeping your chest upright and eyes forward, squat down until the dumbbell reaches the floor.
- Steadily rise back up to the starting position while pushing your knees out.
These types of squats are a good variation of the typical air squat. They are also easier on your back and knees because you don’t have to squat quite as far down. Make sure that you’re keeping your chest upright and your back straight as you lower down.
Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
The dumbbell reverse lunge engages the glutes and the hamstrings. Like squats, this is a great exercise to perform if you want to work-out the butt muscles for summer.
- Stand with one dumbbell in each hand hanging along the sides of your body. The palms should be facing your midline.
- Carefully step back with one foot and bend into a squat until your back knee is just about to reach the floor.
- Hold that position for a second or two, then raise yourself back up so that you are in a regular standing position again
- Repeat with the other side.
In this exercise, it’s easy to lose focus and get off-balance. Make sure that you are paying attention and stepping straight backward. Your front knee should not surpass your front foot as you squat downward.
Another common mistake is when athletes allow their front knee to fall inward during the squat. Make sure you’re maintaining position by keeping your knee in a center-line or pushing slightly outward.
Complete 3 sets of 6 repetitions on each leg.
Swing throughs are another exercise that is typically performed with a kettlebell, but a dumbbell makes a great alternative. This work out targets the back muscles, calves, hamstrings, and the upper trapezius.
- Start by standing with your feet a little wider than your shoulders and knees slightly bent. Your legs should be wide enough to swing a single dumbbell through.
- Hold the center of the dumbbell with both your hands and sway it back between your legs.
- Then steadily swing the dumbbell directly overhead keeping your arms slightly flexed.
- Once you’ve reached a full overhead position, swing the dumbbell back down through the legs bending slightly forward.
- Repeat this process.
The key to a successful dumbbell swing is maintaining control. You’ll want to keep your back and abs tight so you don’t arch, and keep the feet firmly planted on the ground.
Complete three sets of 15-20 repetitions.
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge
Lateral lunges exercise the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. You’ll really feel this movement on the outsides of your hips.
- Start by standing upright with the feet shoulder-width apart and one dumbbell in each hand positioned near the shoulders.
- Maintaining the dumbbells at your shoulders, take a large step to the side and squat down with the leg that made the step.
- Squat as far as you can, the goal is to make it to 90 degrees so the thigh is parallel with the floor.
- Push back up to standing position and repeat on the other side.
For this exercise, you’ll want to focus on pushing the butt back as you squat down, and keeping the chest upright. You may want to do the first set of lateral lunges without any weight before adding in the dumbbells.
Complete 3 sets of 6 repetitions on each side.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat targets the glute muscles of the buttocks and the upper leg muscles. This movement requires a lot of strength and balance so you’ll want to master it without weights before adding dumbbells.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides and the palms facing towards your body.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, and step one leg back so your knee is bent and the toe rests on a chair or stair behind you.
- Slowly squat down with the standing leg. Stop before your front knee passes over your foot.
- Take a one-second pause and come back to the starting position by pressing into the floor with your front foot.
For the safest workout, make sure your knees don’t fall inward towards your midline. Take it slow and focus on balancing throughout the exercise. Keep your chest upright and your eyes gazing forward.
Alternate the foot placement and do three sets of 10 repetitions for each foot.
Stiff-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift
Deadlifts work out the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. But stiff-leg deadlifts put extra focus on the adductors and core. To perform this exercise:
- Stand with the legs shoulder-width apart the knees only slightly bent.
- The dumbbells should be resting in front of your body with palms facing towards you and arms extended in front of thighs.
- Bend at the waist keeping your back straight as you lower the dumbbells until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. You do not need to bend all the way to the floor.
- Hold the position for a few seconds then lift back to starting position.
This movement may not seem like it’s doing much, but if you move through the steps slowly and with focus, you will undoubtedly feel the burn. To avoid injury, make sure you maintain a straight back, never allow yourself to bend into a curled position.
Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions with a moderately heavy weight.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
This exercise primarily strengthens the hamstrings and glutes. It will also put your balance to the test and engage all of the little proprioceptive muscles in the feet and ankles.
- Start in the standing position, holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Lean forward and extend your right leg straight behind you.
- The dumbbell will lower towards the floor as your leg rises up, causing your body to form a ‘T’ shape.
- Maintain a tight core and back so that your torso does not twist.
- Once your dumbbell has reached the ground, return to your starting position.
- Finish all repetitions on one side before moving to the other.
Romanian Deadlifts are a complex exercise that requires a lot of balance. Many people cannot do these correctly on the first try. You’ll want to start with lighter weights until you feel comfortable with the movement. Maintain focus and do not allow your center to twist.
Complete 3 sets of 8 repetitions on each side.
Thrusters are a compound exercise that strengthens large muscle groups in the upper and lower body. The movement is a combination of a dumbbell front squat, and a push press.
- Start by holding one dumbbell in each hand next to the shoulder. Your palms should be facing your body.
- Plant your feet flat on the floor with the legs separated about shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down towards the floor as you would do with a front squat, stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.
- Drive upward out of the squat.
- As you hit a full standing position, push your arms straight into a push press until your dumbbells are completely overhead with full arm extension.
- Then steadily lower the dumbbells back to shoulder position.
Dumbbell thrusters are a complex exercise and it will take a few repetitions to get the hang of it. You probably won’t be able to string them together at first, and that’s ok. Focus on smooth movements and maintaining your form. Don’t let the knees fall inward during the squat, or the back arch during the push press.
Perform 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
Dumbbell Leg Exercises
The dumbbell leg exercises provided in this article are an excellent way to burn fat, build muscle and tone the lower body. Dumbbells are inexpensive workout tools that can be used to achieve these goals. For maximum results, choose three or four of the exercises provided per workout session.
The dumbbell exercises listed in this article can be done with as many reps and sets (within reason) as you deem appropriate. As a general rule, you can perform 3 sets of the exercises with 10 reps. Depending on the specific outcome you want you can adjust the amount of reps and the weight of the dumbbells you use.
If the goal is to burn more fat, then it is recommended to do more reps in each set and use lighter weights. However, if the goal is to build more muscle, then it is recommended to perform less reps using heavier weights. Make sure you stretch before any workout!