Bodyweight exercises are great, but if you want to really push yourself, get stronger, and see those muscles pop, adding weight to your strength training game will fast-track your progress. And while lifting heavy barbells is great for strengthening your legs, don’t underestimate the power of a pair of dumbbells. Build strong legs at home with this an hour lower body dumbbell workout! From goblets squats to lunges and deadlifts. Weighted moves can make you feel the burn and help you build strength even at home. What follows isn’t a workout. Instead, pick a handful of these exercises and incorporate them into your sweat session.
This advanced lower body dumbbell workout uses compound exercises that focus on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. Almost all of them also include a plyometric exercise. So not only will you build muscle and improve strength, but you’ll also torch calories, and train your body for more explosive and responsive movements.
Whether you work out in a gym or in your living room, dumbbells will turn up the heat and increase the load or strain on your body. As far as weights go, they’re also a lot easier to come by (and often easier to use) than resistance machines, so you can work up a sweat and build muscle anywhere—without any fancy equipment.
Plus, adding load to your standard bodyweight lunges and squats is a surefire way to take your leg workouts to the next level. Not only will they jump-start your results, but they’ll also make your lower-body workouts more functional, meaning they’ll better prepare you for everyday life. With regular dumbbell leg workouts in your routine, you’ll haul heavy bags out of supermarket no problem and scale flights of stairs without thinking twice.
But leg work doesn’t need to be confined to the squat rack. While lockdown keeps us away from the gym, it’s perfectly possible to train your lower body from home using just one pair of dumbbells.
According to trainers, there are a number of benefits associated with lower body dumbbell workouts. Adding weight is an easy way to up the ante on type of exercise, and dumbbells allow you to do it at home without having to invest in a pricey piece of gym equipment. In fact, dumbbells tend to get the job done better than the fancy machines and barbell racks. “While machines limit our range of motion to the predetermined track that they’re set on, and barbells are large, cumbersome, and generally awkward to move around with, dumbbells don’t have either of those limitations and allow for free-range on any plane of motion,” says Alexander. Because of this, there are truly limitless ways to integrate them into your leg workouts, each of which allows you to target your lower body muscles from all different angles.
Lower Body Dumbbell Workout Moves To Try At Home
The dumbbell squat targets the quadriceps muscles in the front of the thighs and the gluteus maximus in the buttocks. The hamstrings at the back of the thighs and the soleus in the calves act to stabilize as well. These are all large muscles and the squat exercise builds functional fitness.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart while holding a dumbbell at each shoulder.
- Slowly bend your knees as if you were going to sit in a chair, keeping all the weight in your heels. Don’t let your knees move beyond your toes, and don’t let the knees roll out or in. Squat down as low as you can, keeping your head and chest lifted, your spine long, and your shoulders relaxed.
- Press through your heels, and slowly straighten your legs to stand up. Make sure to keep your spine neutral. Do not round your back.
- This counts as one rep.
Dumbbell Sumo Squat
In general, squats are an excellent way to build lower body muscle, increase stability, and improve balance. Because squatting is a compound movement, it strengthens muscles that are used in everyday activity, such as walking, running, jumping, and climbing the stairs.
Sumo squats in particular increase activation of the adductors, which are the muscles that run down your inner thighs. It also poses a challenge to your core muscles, which are activated in different ways than during a conventional squat.
- Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out at about 45 degrees.
- Inhale to sit hips back and lower into a squat, clasping hands in front of chest, keeping core engaged and back neutral.
- Pause at the bottom, when hips are in line with knees or when form starts to break. Shins should be vertical and knees should be tracking over (but past) toes.
- Exhale to press into heels and outer edge of foot to stand.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The rear foot elevated split squat, also referred to as the Bulgarian split squat, is a fantastic exercise for targeting and building the lower body. This exercise is fantastic for targeting the quads, glutes, and even hamstrings to some degree.
One of the best characteristics of the Bulgarian split squat is that it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of this exercise. In fact, just performing them with one’s own bodyweight is more than enough to improve leg strength, size, and power.
- Rest the instep of your back foot on a chair and plant your front foot so it’s facing forwards.
- Your hips should be facing forwards and your torso should be upright with your core braced.
- Keeping your torso upright, lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Keep your front knee in line with your foot but make sure it doesn’t travel beyond your toes.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms resting along the sides of your legs, palms facing in. This is the starting position.
- Bend your knees and push your hips back as you lower down into a squat.
- Drive through your heels to return to standing and squeeze your glutes at the top. That’s 1 rep.
The goblet squat exercise trains the all same muscle groups as the more traditional barbell back squat. However, It places slightly more emphasis on the quads because you are holding the weight to the front of the body.
The Goblet Squat promotes a more upright squatting pattern allowing you to travel deeper into the bottom squat position. Often referred to as “the hole”.
To perform a dumbbell goblet squat:
- Pick up a dumbbell and hold it vertically by cupping one side of the weight while the other side hangs underneath.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your feet turned out 5–12 degrees.
- Begin the movement by shifting your hips backward and lowering them down as your knees begin to bend.
- Keep your torso as upright as possible and work to keep your torso angle parallel to your shin angle at each point of the movement. Work to minimize any forward lean.
- Keep your knees in line with your toes by actively driving them outward as you lower your hips. It’s OK if your knees go past your toes as you reach the lower points in the movement.
- Lower as much as your mobility allows before your knees cave inward or you cannot maintain an upright torso.
- At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly then push through the floor with both feet to return to a standing position. Actively thinking about squeezing your glutes as you rise will help increase activation in these muscles.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
The thruster is a well-known compound exercise that’s part of the CrossFit workout program. Martial artists and athletes also practice thrusters. This exercise is a combination of a front squat and an overhead press.
Thrusters are deemed to be one of the most beneficial exercises since they’re a full-body movement that’s useful in daily life. Thrusters help improve coordination, muscular endurance, and balance. They help you gain both upper and lower body strength by working the quadriceps, glutes, and shoulders. Thrusters can also help you develop a strong core.
- Stand with your legs just slightly wider than hip-distance apart with your arms raised to shoulder height, holding a pair of dumbbells by your ears.
- Bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair, keeping your weight back on your heels.
- Press the dumbbells overhead as you straighten your knees to return to standing.
- This is one rep. Be sure to lower the dumbbells back down to your shoulders as you move through to your next rep.
Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift
While the basic deadlift is a mainstay of any gym-goer, its variations introduce new ways with which to work out the core. The big benefit of the suitcase deadlift is that it really focuses on kicking the core into overdrive. With the unbalanced weight pulling your body to the side, your obliques have to strain to keep you upright and not falling to the side.
The form and technique for the suitcase deadlift is very similar to the regular deadlift. To get the most out of the lift, there are a few differences that are important to keep in mind. This exercise can be done with either a kettlebell, dumbbell, or a barbell. The kettlebell and dumbbell are recommended for beginners since they have a smaller surface area and their mass is easier to control. The barbell on the other hand, is for those looking to add an extra edge to this lift and put more work on their forearms.
- Stand beside your chosen weight (in this example we’ll use a barbell). No weight should be in your other hand unless you’re performing a double suitcase deadlift variation.
- Stand straight, your shoulders pushed down the back, with your arms straight. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward—the same form as a regular deadlift. With the weight in line with the center of your foot, keep your back straight as you push your hips back and down.
- When you go down to pick up the weight, make sure that your elbows are locked, and keep the chest high.
- Stand up by lifting your chest, making sure that your back is constantly straight.
The Reverse Lunge, or Step-Back Lunge, is an under-appreciated variation of a popular leg exercise. The Walking Lunge, Dynamic Forward Lunge, Split Squat, Side Lunge, and Clock Lunges are all adequate ways of strengthening leg musculature. However, the Reverse Lunge should be at the top of your Lunge variation list.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart, your back upright and the dumbbells by your sides.
- Step back into a lunge, bending your back leg so that your back knee nearly touches the floor.
- Keep your torso upright throughout the move and make sure your front knee is over your front toe.
- Push off the back foot to return to the start.
The dumbbell front squat is an established strength training exercise that effectively works most of the larger muscle groups through the entire body.
Squat routines done on a regular basis will help you develop a stronger and more stable core. Having stronger core muscles should allow some relief from lower back pain and also improve your balance skills.
- Start by holding a pair of dumbbells slightly above and outside of your shoulders with your palms facing forward, position yourself like you are about to do an overhead press.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and make sure to lock your back at a slight angle forward and shift your weight onto the back of your heels.
- Slowly bend your knees and lower into a squat like you are going to sit in a chair. Stop when you are at a 90 degree angle. After pausing for a second, stand back up to your starting position. Repeat the exercise for 10-12 reps.
The dumbbell deadlift can induce strength and hypertrophy, however only to a certain extent, especially as a lifter moves through the novice stages and beyond. The barbell deadlift is a compound lift, allowing lifters to maximally load the back, hips, hamstrings, and spine, with the limitation often upon whether or not a lifter can induce enough force to overcome a resting object.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides with straight arms.
- Push your butt back as you bend your knees, squatting down just enough to tap the front end of the dumbbell to the floor (or go as low as you can). Keep your back straight, not curved or arched. Your chest should be parallel with the floor.
- Straighten your legs to stand up, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
- This completes one rep.
Lateral squats mainly target your gluteus medius—the part of your butt that makes side-to-side movements possible—as well as your quads and hip adductors (a.k.a. inner thighs).
But you’re also recruiting your hamstrings and calves too. So, adding them to your routine will help you strengthen and sculpt your lower body from all angles.
How to: Start in standing position with feet wide, toes pointed slightly out, dumbbells in both hands. Bend right knee and shift hips back as you lean body toward right side, framing right leg with dumbbells. Keep head and chest up, back flat, as you return to standing. Repeat on opposite side. That’s one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side, then rest for 15 before continuing on to your next move. Once you’ve finished all six of your chosen exercises, rest for one minute, then repeat once more.
Sure, the forward lunge seems like a simple exercise—you’re literally just putting one foot in front of the other. In truth, though, it’s a compound movement that requires so many muscles (big and small) to work together in order for you to keep your balance and work one side of your body in isolation of the other.
Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms resting along the sides of your legs, palms facing in. This is the starting position.
Step forward (about 2 feet) with your right foot, and plant it firmly on the ground.
Bend both knees to create two 90-degree angles with your legs.
In this positioning, your shoulders should be above your hips and your chest should be upright (a slight forward torso lean is OK, as long as your back is flat and not arched or rounded forward). Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
Push through your right foot to return to standing. That’s 1 rep.
Do all your reps on one side, then repeat with the other leg.
A Single Leg Deadlift is a hip-hinge movement that strengthens the back, core and legs. This variation of a traditional deadlift involves one leg lifting off the ground and extending out behind you. The more complex movement works even more core muscles as well as the standing leg, which help to improve balance.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and lift your left foot slightly off the ground.
- Keeping your back neutral, lean your entire torso forward while raising your left leg, which should stay in line with your body. The dumbbells will lower toward the ground.
- With your back straight, return upright, coming to your starting position. This completes one rep.
Weighted Calf Raise
Standing calf raises activate the two muscles that run down the back of the lower leg: the gastrocnemius and soleus. These muscles are integral in ankle flexion and extension, propelling running and jumping. The gastrocnemius also works in tandem with hamstrings to control knee flexion, while the soleus maintains proper balance and pumps blood from your leg back up to your heart. When weak, the calf muscles more easily cramp, strain, and even tear, making walking and running difficult.
How to: Starting standing with feet under shoulders holding a dumbbell in each hand. Engage core and lift heels to balance on balls of feet. Slowly reverse the movement. That’s one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 15 before continuing on to your next move. Once you’ve finished all six of your chosen exercises, rest for one minute, then repeat once more.
The Dumbbell Swing will boost your strength, endurance, power and speed. It forces you to stay tight and strong at all times, making you concentrate on your breath and bracing throughout the full range of motion. The movement will improve your grip and forearm strength because it requires you to grip on tightly at all times.
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width distance apart and toes pointed slightly outward, holding the dumbbell (or a kettlebell if you have it) in both hands.
- Bend your knees slightly and push your hips back, lowering the weight between your legs with the forearms pressing against the inner thighs. Keep your chest open with your shoulder blades sliding down your back.
- Forcefully squeeze your glutes and drive the heels down to thrust the weight forward as you straighten your legs. All the work is done by the lower body and core in this exercise, and your arms will naturally swing forward to chest height or above the head.
- Allow the weight to fall between your legs, bending the knees, ready for the next rep.
Weighted Glute Bridge
The dumbbell glute bridge isolate the glutes to a high degree, which is why it has such an impact of glute engagement, development, and performance. Note, that the dumbbell glute bridge may also require the hamstrings and lower back to act isometrically to stabilize the body so the glutes can promote force and moment at the hip.
- Grab a medium to heavy dumbbell; 20 pounds is a great starting point. You can also do this exercise using just your bodyweight.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Be sure to keep your feet underneath your knees, not in front. Place the dumbbell on top of your lower abdominals (below your belly button and above your hip bones). Hold the dumbbell in place with both hands to prevent it from moving.
- Raise your hips up to the ceiling, tensing your abs and squeezing your butt as you do. You should be making a long diagonal line with your body, from shoulders to knees.
- Hold for three seconds, making sure your spine doesn’t round and your hips don’t sag. Keep your abs and butt muscles engaged.
- Lower down to the ground; this is considered one rep.