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The Top Dumbbell Leg Workouts to Attain Powerful Legs

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Introduction to Dumbbell Leg Workouts

Training legs isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – that’s a given. Yet, we have to do it. After all, we don’t want to be one of those people with a muscular upper body and sticks for legs, right? It simply doesn’t look good. Training our legs is essential for building a prominent and well-proportioned physique.

But beyond the visual benefits, leg training is essential for whole-body strength, balance, and athleticism (1, 2). The lower body is home to two of the largest muscles in the body – the quadriceps and glutes (3, 4). Your quadriceps play an essential role in many everyday activities like walking, running, jumping, picking things off the floor, and more. Our glutes are also involved in many of the same activities. But they also support the pelvis, keep the spine aligned, and make us more explosive.

Put simply, training our legs has a range of visual, athletic, and practical benefits, which is why everyone should do it. And the best part is that dumbbells are a fantastic piece of equipment for leg training. You can pick from many exercises, the overloading potential is excellent, and the range of motion is considerable. This guide will go over what makes a good dumbbell leg workout and how to go about it.

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10 Best Dumbbell Leg Exercises 

Exercise 1: Goblet Squat

Goblet squats are a fun, challenging, and effective exercise you can do to strengthen your back, work your core, and build up your entire lower body.

man goblet squat dumbbell

Muscle groups: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstrings, Back, Abs, Chest, Shoulders, and Biceps
Equipment: a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a dumbbell and raise it close to your chest.
  • Have your feet slightly wider than your hips, and point your toes slightly out.
  • Bring your shoulders back and take a breath.
  • Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Press through your heels to get back to the top, exhaling as you go up.

Exercise 2: Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts are among the best exercises you can do to activate your hamstrings – the posterior thigh muscles (5).

man deadlift dumbbell

Muscle groups: Hamstrings, Glutes, Back, and Abs
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them in front of your thighs with palms facing back.
  • Have your feet hip-width apart with toes pointing slightly out.
  • Bring your chest out and take a breath.
  • Bend your torso forward as you bring your glutes back and keep your back neutral.
  • Go down until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Extend your body by driving your hips forward as you exhale.

Exercise 3: Alternating Forward Lunges

Lunges are fantastic for training one leg at a time, fixing muscle imbalances, and reinforcing core stability.

Muscle groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Back, and Abs
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells

Step by Step Instructions:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand tall.
  • Bring your shoulders back and take a breath.
  • Lunge your right leg forward and place it flat on the floor. Immediately descend into a lunge until your back knee taps the ground.
  • Press through your front heel and get back to the starting position, exhaling on the way back.
  • Take another breath and lunge your other leg forward.
  • Keep alternating between left and right until you’re finished.

Exercise 4: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is similar to classic Romanian deadlifts, this movement is excellent for hamstring activation. But, this variation forces you to work one leg at a time, making it more challenging to balance.

man single leg romanian deadlift dumbbell

Muscle groups: Hamstrings, Glutes, Back, and Abs
Equipment: a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a dumbbell with one hand and hold onto something for balance.
  • Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and lift your right foot half an inch off the floor.
  • Take a breath and bend your torso forward while making sure to keep your back straight.
  • Go down until you feel a stretch at the back of your left thigh.
  • Raise yourself back to the top and repeat.
  • Once finished, plant your right foot, lift the left one off the floor, and repeat for the same number of repetitions.

Exercise 5: Kneeling Glute Squeeze

Though slightly more unusual, kneeling glute squeezes are a fantastic movement that emphasizes and overloads your entire posterior chain.

Muscle groups: Glutes, Hamstrings, and Lower Back
Equipment: Exercise Mat and a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest and kneel. Your shins should be flat against the exercise mat, and your glutes should rest on top of your calves.
  • Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and take a breath.
  • Thrust your hips forward as you lift your glutes off your calves.
  • Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can at the top and hold for a moment.
  • Lower yourself back to the starting position, exhaling near the end.

Exercise 6: Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian split squats are one of the most challenging exercises to train your quadriceps and glutes. And the best part is, you get to train one side at a time, which helps you focus better and hopefully achieve superior muscle activation.

Muscle groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Back
Equipment: Pair of Dumbbells and Gym Bench

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells, face away from a gym bench, stand around two feet away from it, and elevate one foot on it. 
  • Bring your shoulders back, engage your abs, and take a breath.
  • Descend into a squat and go down until your front thigh is nearly parallel to the floor and your knee is at roughly 90 degrees.
  • Press through the heel and exhale on the way up.
  • Once finished, bring your other leg forward and repeat for the same number of repetitions.

Exercise 7: Cossack Squat

Cossack squats are great for training your entire lower body. They are also fantastic for engaging your adductors – the sizable inner thigh muscles.

man lateral squat bodyweight

Muscle groups: Adductors, Hamstrings, Glutes, Quadriceps, Abs, Obliques, Chest, Shoulders, and Biceps
Equipment: a Dumbbell

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a dumbbell with both hands and lift it to your chest.
  • Bring your feet out – roughly 1.5 times hip-width – and point your toes forward.
  • Bring your chest out, engage your abs, and breathe in.
  • Squat to the right, placing your weight on the right leg as you go down.
  • Push through your right heel and go back to the center.
  • Immediately take another breath and squat to the left.
  • Keep squatting laterally, alternating between left and right until you finish the set.

Exercise 8: Standing Single-Leg Calf Raise

Single-leg calf raises are an excellent variation that lets you focus on one side at a time, even if you don’t have a calf raise machine available.

man single leg standing calf raises dumbbell

Muscle groups: Calves
Equipment: a Dumbbell and an elevated surface to place your feet on top of

Step by Step Instructions: 

  • Grab a dumbbell with your left hand and place the ball of your right foot on an elevated surface. Hold onto something with your free hand for balance.
  • Stand tall, bring your shoulders back, and lift your left foot off the floor, supporting yourself on your right one.
  • Take a breath and descend, flexing your ankle as you do. 
  • Go down until you feel a stretch in your calf and contract it, extending your ankle.
  • Exhale as you raise yourself. Then inhale and repeat.
  • Once finished, grab the dumbbell with your other hand, and do the same number of repetitions for your left calf.

Two Dumbbell Leg Workouts 

Workout 1: 

This workout is simple and incredibly effective because all you need is a dumbbell to pull it off. So, whether you’re training at home or in the gym, this workout is fantastic for training your entire lower body.

  • Goblet Squat – 3-4 sets of 6 to 20 reps
  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps (per side)
  • Cossack Squat – 3 sets of 16 to 30 total reps
  • Kneeling Glute Squeeze – 2-3 sets of 8 to 20 reps

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Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own dumbbell leg workout with Hevy, and track your progress – for free

Workout 2: 

Similar to the previous workout, this one is also simple and quite effective. For the most part, you only need a single dumbbell to pull it off. But, having a pair of dumbbells can be helpful for some of the movements. Plus, you’ll need to find an elevated surface to place the balls of your feet on for the calf raise – stairs can work.

  • Bulgarian Split Squat – 3-4 sets of 8 to 15 reps (per leg)
  • Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps
  • Alternating Forward Lunges – 3 sets of 16 to 30 total reps
  • Standing Single-Leg Calf Raise – 3-4 sets of 8 to 20 reps (per leg)

Conclusion

Before moving to the Q&A section, let’s do a quick recap:

  • Though many people dislike leg training, we have to do it. 
  • The great news is, training the lower body doesn’t have to be as intimidating or complex as some people would have you believe. 
  • Even if you have nothing more than a pair of dumbbells and some free space, you can pick from numerous fantastic movements.
  • Goblet squats, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, and glute bridges are just four of the many fantastic exercises you can include in a dumbbell leg workout.
  • With a bit of thought, you can put together fun and effective leg workouts with nothing more than a pair of dumbbells.

Learn more dumbbell workouts:
Shoulder
Chest

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why is using dumbbells a convenient way to work out your legs? 

Dumbbells are versatile, easy to get for your home gym, and incredibly effective. You can do dozens of unique exercises, load different muscles, train one side at a time, and much more.

What can I use if I don’t have dumbbells? 

Kettlebells are your next best option. If you don’t have those either, you can fill up a backpack with heavy objects (such as books), use water jugs, and take advantage of other household items.

How often in a week should I work out my legs? 

Well, it depends on how much work you’re doing inside each workout. Training volume is the primary driver of muscle growth, so we need to do enough (6). But, in any case, a frequency of around twice per week seems optimal for most people.

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1 thought on “The Top Dumbbell Leg Workouts to Attain Powerful Legs

  1. The instructions for single-leg db calf raise don’t describe the most common way of doing this exercise. Why would you hold the db on the opposite side to the leg you’re training? Never seen any videos from well known trainers telling you to do it that way. Also, the photo doesn’t match the instructions – the guy has a db in both hands and isn’t holding something to aid balance.

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