If you want to build awesome strength in your legs, this dumbbell leg workout will put you on the right path!
Legs are often neglected in the gym because of the effort you’ve got to put into training them. It’s important that you train your legs – no matter whether your goals are to build muscle, lose fat and tone up or strengthen your muscles.
This dumbbell leg workout will help you to build strong legs which can contribute to much more than a good look. Ensuring a strong set of legs, including your glutes will ensure a solid foundation for an athletic physique and more efficient performance in sports as well as being key in strength and conditioning and reduction of injury.
- Goblet Squat
- Dumbbell Deadlift
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Walking Lunges
- Glute Bridges
- Calf Raises
- Dumbbell Overhead Lunge
1. Goblet Squat
The goblet squat can be a great alternative to squatting with a bar on your back, especially for beginners to learn the squat technique properly.
Having the weight distributed in front of you causes a different challenge, and will also target your abs.
Sets and reps: 3 x 8-12
- Hold the dumbbell with your palms facing up (hence the ‘goblet’ part of the name), with your feet around shoulder-width apart and your chest forwards, shoulders back.
- Keeping a straight back, bend your knees and move your bum back and down, so your weight is through your heels. Aim to get your bum as close to the ground as possible.
- Keep your chest facing forward.
- Tense your abs and push back up through your heels to your starting position.
2. Dumbbell Deadlift
There are so many different variations of the deadlift, but they all have one thing in common – they’re all more than just a leg exercise.
They’ll fry your hamstrings and glutes, as well as your core and upper back. Talk about effective!
Sets and reps: 4 x 8
- Place a dumbbell on its end and stand with your feet either side of it, about shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and this time push your bum back to the wall behind you, instead of down (as in the squat). You should feel a slight pull in your hamstrings (on the back of your upper leg).
- Keeping a straight back, with your chest forwards, and shoulders back, reach for the dumbbell with straight arms.
- With the dumbbell in your hands, tense your abs and stand up straight, by driving your hips forwards and squeeze your glutes.
- Bend your knees and move your bum backwards again, and lower the dumbbell back to the floor, still keeping your back straight.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat
Single-leg exercises can arguably be tougher than two-legged exercises if you do them right. Balance can be an issue initially, but you’ll perfect it with practice.
Sets and reps: 3 x 10-12 per leg
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your back to a bench. Place your back foot on the bench. Depending on your ankle mobility, you might prefer to have your toe in contact with the bench, instead of your ankle – find what works best for you.
- Alternatively, you can hold one heavier dumbbell in the opposite hand to your front leg (i.e. if your left foot is forward, hold the dumbbell in your right hand, and vice versa).
- Lean forward at a 45-degree angle (this forward lean increases how hard your glutes work, in comparison to standing upright), and put all of your weight on the heel of your front foot.
- Bend your front knee and lower yourself down to the ground – under control – using the front leg as a brake against gravity.
- Push back up through your heel to the starting position.
- Make sure all of the work is being done by your front leg, and that you’re not using your back leg to help.
Tip: If you need to strip this back, take your foot off the bench and perform a standard split squat.
4. Leg Romanian Deadlift
Similar to the dumbbell deadlift we’ve just gone through, this single-leg deadlift variation will grow and strengthen your hamstrings and glutes, with the added challenge of one leg doing all of the hard work.
Sets and reps: 3 x 10-12 per leg
- Stand on one leg (starting on your weaker leg), and hold one relatively heavy dumbbell in the opposite hand to your standing leg.
- Alternatively, you can hold one lighter dumbbell in each hand.
- Bend the knee of your standing leg slightly, and lean forward (you’ll feel a slight pull in your hamstrings, on the back of your standing leg). Lean forward until your body is parallel with the floor, and bring your non-standing leg up behind you.
- Stand back upright, pushing through the heel of your standing leg, driving your hips forward.
Tip: You can make this easier by placing your rear foot slightly offset to the working leg and performing the movement with additional support.
5. Walking Lunges
We’ll hit some different muscle fibres (type 1) than earlier in the workout with the heavier, lower rep exercises (type 2) for a complete leg workout.
Sets and reps: 3 x 15-20 per leg
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step forward and bend the knee of your front leg, placing all of your weight through your front heel, and dropping your back knee towards the ground under control.
- If you don’t step far enough forward, your weight will be through the ball of your foot, not your heel. If you step too far, you’ll find yourself using your back leg to help. Find the middle-ground for you.
- Push back up through your front heel, leaning forwards at 45 degrees (as before with the Bulgarian Split Squat), and bring your back foot forward to meet your front foot. Swap legs.
Sets and reps: 4 x 20
- Lay on your back with your feet flat against the floor and knees bent.
- Place a weight across your hips.
- Engage your glutes by squeezing them and lift your hips off of the floor driving them up towards the ceiling. At the top of the movement make sure your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- At the top of the movement pause at the top and squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, hold for 1-2 seconds, and then lower back down slowly to the starting position.
- Once complete, switch legs and repeat.
7. Calf Raises
Elevate your dumbbell leg workout by not only working the upper leg, but the lower leg too. Your calves will really feel the burn with these dumbbell calf raises.
Sets and reps: 3 x 20 per leg
- Standing opposite the calf raise machine set the pads for the shoulders at about eye level. With feet shoulder width apart and toes facing forwards, crouch and place yourself under the pads.
- The front or ‘the balls’ of the feet should be on the base of the machine with the heels dropped off the end.
- As you promptly exhale your breath, elevate through your ankles and heels until your calf is fully contracted and extended. At this point you should be emphasising a flexion on your calves.
- Hold this contraction and squeeze for a brief second.
- Throughout this part of the movement, your legs should not be moving and all emphasis should be placed on the calves.
- Once the calves are fully extended and they have felt a serious contraction, lower the weight back down slowly to the starting position.
- As you lower the weight to the starting position, inhale your breath. Both the lowering and breathing should be done in a slow, controlled manner.
- Lower the weight until the calves are fully stretched.
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8. Dumbbell Overhead Lunge
Sets and reps: 3 x 8-12 per leg
- Begin with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Inhale as you raise the weight above your head.
- Keep the weight directly overhead and centered between your shoulder joints.
- Exhale as you take a comfortable step forward into a deep lunge position.
- Inhale and pause to check your form. Your forward knee should remain over your forward foot and not in front of it.
- Exhale as you forcefully drive your forward heel into the ground.
- Inhale as you return yourself to the starting position.
- Switch sides and repeat the same number of reps with your other leg stepped forward.
Leg growth doesn’t just happen using weights machines – which is great if they’re always being used. Grab a pair of moderate weight dumbbells and add this dumbbell leg workout into your next leg day!