The Best Dumbbell Leg Exercises For A Great Lower-Body Workout

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.

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.

A good lower-body training sesh targets all of your muscles, from your glutes to your quads to your hamstrings to your calves. It also incorporates dumbbell leg exercises that train one leg at a time, like split squats or lateral lunges, so you can build balanced strength and stability.

When in doubt, pull from this list of exercises I incorporate into my own dumbbell leg workouts and you’ll be shaking–and stronger–in no time

Time: 10 minutes

Equipment:mat, dumbbells

Good for: legs, glutes

Instructions:Choose six exercises from the list below, including a mix of double- and single-leg movements. Perform each for 30 seconds, resting for 15 seconds before continuing on to the next. Once you’ve finished all six moves, rest for one minute, then repeat once more for a total of two rounds.

1Dumbbell Sumo Squat

How to: Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out at 45 degrees, torso slightly forward, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of you. Inhale, bend knees and sink hips down until thighs are parallel to the floor. Exhale and drive through heels to return to your starting position. 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.

2Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift

How to: Hold a dumbbell with left hand, feet shoulder-width apart and right hand clenched in fist, arm extended out to side. This is your start position. Engage abs and keep knees soft, then sit hips back to slowly lower weight until it reaches middle of left shin. Back should be flat and parallel to the floor. Press through heels and contract core to quickly return to start. Squeeze glutes once completely upright. 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.

Pro tip: Keep both shoulders square to floor throughout entire rep.

3Dumbbell Swing

How to:Start standing with feet slightly wider than hips, holding one dumbbell by its end. Hinge from the hips and bend knees while reaching the dumbbell back and between legs, keeping back flat and core engaged. Thrust hips forward to swing the dumbbell to about shoulder height and then down again to start. 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.

4Reverse Lunge

How to:Start standing with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in hands at sides with palms facing in. Step back with right leg and bend both knees to lower until both knees form 90-degree angles. Push through left foot to stand. 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.

Pro tip:Add a knee drive to the end of each rep for a little extra core work.

5Lateral Squat

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.

6Isometric Squat Hold

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding a dumbbell in front of chest. Engage core, push hips back and bend knees until thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Hold 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.

7Supported Single-Leg Deadlift

How to:Stand on left leg with a dumbbell in right hand, palm facing toward thigh, and left arm at side. Step right leg a few feet behind body, lift heel, and press right toes into the ground for balance. Keep left leg slightly bent. This is your starting position. Lean forward, hinging at the hips with a flat back to lower the weight toward the floor. Drive into left heel to return to starting position. 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.

Pro tip:Progress this move to a full single-leg deadlift by lifting that back foot up off floor during hinging motion.

8Weighted Calf Raise

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.

9Bulgarian Split Squat

How to: Start standing about two feet in front of a step, holding a weight in each hand. Extend left leg back and place left foot on step. Bend knees to lower body as far as you can (or until knee hovers right above the ground), keeping shoulders back and chest up. Pause, then press through right heel to return to start. 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.

10Jumping Lunges

How to: Start in a lunge with right leg forward and left back, both bent at 90 degrees, right arm straight at side, and left arm bent, hand in line with chin. Jump up quickly off floor, switching legs in midair to land in lunge with left left forward. 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.

Pro tip:Turn up the heat by holding a pair of dumbbells.

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