Best Dumbbell Leg Workouts

people working out with dumbbells

We all have goals. But, many people do not focus on the need for health and fitness goals. Only 23% of Americans ages 18 to 64 are getting the recommended amount of exercise. If you have not been reaching your health goals, there is no better time than now.

Learning to work out effectively is great for your mental and physical health. Exercise is said to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It also can improve your self-confidence. This is one of the best benefits! Learning to exercise with moves such as a dumbbell leg exercise is a great way to start your workout regimen.

So, let’s start with the basics. Although you may know what a dumbbell is and how you can use it appropriately, you may need a full refresh to best prepare for your fitness journey.

What Is a Dumbbell?

Dumbbells can be traced back to ancient Greece as early as the 5th century BC. The dumbbell design we see today was created in the 1800s. This shows a long test of durability and effectiveness.

By definition, a dumbbell is a “short bar with weights at each end that is usually in pairs for exercise”. It is used for fitness and weight training purposes. Dumbbells vary in weight. They are considered a “free weight” as you can move them as needed.

Dumbbells are used for all types of exercises. They are great for joint isolation and full-body moves. They also provide great versatility as you can use one at a time or both together for your best dumbbell leg workout.

dumbells on a rack in a gym

What Are the Benefits of Using a Dumbbell?

There are many benefits to using a dumbbell. As an experienced weight lifter or a beginner, you can make great gains by using dumbbells.

First, dumbbells offer an increased range of motion. As they are a free weight you can move them in any way. This differs from a cable or resistance machine. The freedom of movement allows you to alter your movement as needed. For example, you can easily intensify the movement if you are looking for a little extra. On the other hand, the dumbbell will allow you to make modifications you may need to complete your set as a beginner. For example, when completing a dumbbell leg workout you can modify the recommended exercise simply by choosing a lower weight. Dumbbells come in many different weights and can easily be interchanged.

Dumbbells also help to increase stabilization and muscle activation. One study showed that using dumbbells for muscles such as your biceps caused the highest activity rate. Additionally, using dumbbells for your leg exercise has a great benefit to your spine. Dumbbell exercises don’t affect your spine directly. The weight from your dumbbells is distributed rather than compressed such as when you are using a barbell.

Dumbbells are an excellent piece of fitness equipment. They can help you to build muscle without fear of injury.

Why Do I Need To Do Leg Workouts?

If you have been at the gym for any amount of time, you have likely heard the phrase, “Never skip leg day”. But, why is this important? Consider how much you use your legs. An overall body workout should of course incorporate your legs. A strong lower body will carry you through your life, literally. Muscle growth is an important part of protecting your body from injury. It can also help to avoid issues such as heart disease, poor posture, stress, and arthritis. Leg workouts create a solid and firm base for your body. This will increase your stability and coordination. Leg workouts are an essential piece of any fitness routine.

Best Dumbbell Leg Workouts

There are many great dumbbell leg workouts. No matter your experience level, you can find moves that meet your needs. You can also intensify or modify any move as needed. Here are the best dumbbell leg workouts.

Goblet Squat

This dumbbell leg workout is a variation of a regular squat. But, this move is easier on your back and is great at working your core. You can scale this move by increasing or lessening the heaviness of the dumbbell. In this move, you will only need one dumbbell.

To complete a dumbbell goblet squat, get in a standing starting position with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the dumbbell vertically and with both hands. Keep a firm grip and hold the dumbbell close to your chest. Then, begin your squat movement by moving your hips backward, as if you are going to sit it a chair. Do not allow your knees to move forward or bend past your toes. Your elbows will go in between your knees. Squat as low as you can while keeping your back straight and your core tight.

For a great dumbbell leg workout, complete 3 sets of this move with 8-10 repetitions each.

woman performing a goblet squat with a dumbbell

Calf Raise

A calf raise is a great move for beginners that can be easily intensified. This move will develop your entire lower body performance. Calf raises are also a great exercise for runners. They protect against injury, can increase your speed, and helps to prevent after-race soreness. Calf raises are an excellent addition to your dumbbell leg workout.

To do a dumbbell calf raise, you will need two dumbbells. Start this move by standing straight with a weight in each hand and arms hanging down to your sides. With your toes pointed forward, simply raise your heels off the floor. This is one set. To intensify the movement, you can do a calf raise on a weighted plate or sidewalk curb. This will increase your range of movement and give you a solid dumbbell leg workout.

Complete 4 to 5 calf raise sets with 15 to 20 reps in each.

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlifts are a great dumbbell leg workout. Many seasoned fitness folks refer to them as RDLs. RDLs do wonders for your entire posterior chain as well as your core. They are also great because they will not put a ton of strain on your back. RDLs are a hip hinge movement. This makes them great to help you improve other exercises.

For a Romanian Deadlift, get into a standing starting position with one dumbbell in each hand. Imagine your body in one straight line. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Slightly bend your knees and send your hips back. Your hands should drop to about mid-shin. Then, return to your starting position. You will want to maintain a tight core and keep your dumbbells close to your body. If feel this move in your hamstrings, this is a sign that you are doing it right!

Complete 10 to 12 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets.

woman doing a romanian dead lift in the gym

Reverse Lunge

Another great option to work your hamstrings is the reverse lunge. This is a great dumbbell leg workout as it targets several portions of your legs and lower body. It builds muscle by working your glutes, hamstrings, lower abdominals, and your quadriceps. This exercise provides you with an opportunity to improve your stability. This move is also easy on your knees and joints.

To do a Reverse Lunge with dumbbells, you will need one dumbbell in each hand. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and take one step backward while lowering your back knee to the ground. Then, return to your standing position. You will repeat the process using the other leg. You can remain stationary or walk backward to do a walking lunge.

For an impactful dumbbell leg workout, complete 2 to 3 sets of the reverse lunge with 10 to 12 reps on each side.

Lateral Lunge

A lateral lunge is a great exercise to work both your core and lower body. It will also help tone those pesky inner thigh muscles that can cause chafe in the summer. This dumbbell workout move will help improve your stability, flexibility, and hip mobility. It is also said to help with your overall athletic performance. This exercise is a great choice for anyone looking to build muscle and focus on a specific muscle group.

Start your lateral lunge by grabbing a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing together. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take one large lateral step to the side and shift your weight to this leg. Send your hips back and bend your knee until you have reached a squat position. Your other leg will remain straight. Your dumbbells will be around the foot of your bent leg in the lowest position. Then return to the standing position. Repeat the same steps with your other leg.

Focus on keeping a tight core throughout the movement. Keeping a tight core will prevent you from hunching over and keep your shoulders back.

Complete 8 to 10 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets.

woman doing a lateral lunge outside

Single-Leg Deadlift

A single leg deadlift is one of the best dumbbell leg workouts. It is hip-dominant and will target your backside effectively. It is one of the more complicated moves on the list because there are a lot of moving parts. But, once you get the hang of it, it is a great workout staple to add to your regimen.

You can complete this move with either one dumbbell in each hand or one dumbbell in the hand of the moving leg. Either way, your palms should be facing inwards and in front of your thighs. Slowly bring one leg behind you while simultaneously leaning forward. As you lean forward, your arm will lower to bring the dumbbell toward the floor. Then, return to your starting position and switch sides.

Complete this dumbbell leg workout by doing 3 sets with 15 to 20 reps in each.

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

A sumo squat is  one of the three main powerlifting squats. This move will work your thighs, gluteus, abductors, and core. It also helps with your mobility and stabilization. This is exercise is a great addition to your dumbbell leg workout.

For this move, you will need one dumbbell. Stand in a solid starting position with your shoulders down and back. Your feet will need to be set wide apart, almost two shoulder-width lengths. Point your toes outward. Engage your core as you grasp one end of a dumbbell with both hands. Bend at your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. The bottom of your dumbbell should just touch the floor. Hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds and slowly return to your starting position. In this move, you will want to ensure you keep your knees from caving in. You will need to keep a neutral spine to avoid injury. If you find that you can’t keep proper form, you may need to choose a lower weight.

This move will be most effective by completing 12 to 15 repetitions for 3 sets.

Dumbbell Swing

A dumbbell swing is a great building exercise. It will help you to increase your power, speed, and endurance. The dumbbell swing is great for your dumbbell leg workouts but, it also helps with the rest of your body as well. This move will benefit your upper body areas such as the pectorals, chest, and traps, This exercise requires a full range of motion and is an excellent foundational tool.

To do a dumbbell swing, you will need to get into a standing start position. Your feet need to be shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab one dumbbell with both hands. Use your hips to squat down and bring the dumbbell between your legs. Begin to stand and simultaneously swing the dumbbell up to chest height. Bring the weight back down and repeat the move.

Complete 3 to 5 sets of this move with 10 reps each.

man doing a dumbbell swing

Burpee Squat Press

Burpees are one of the most hated fitness moves. They are hard and require a lot of effort. But, their benefits far outweigh any negative feelings you may have. Burpees are often considered a cardio move because they improve your heart and lung function. They are also a great full-body move as they work a wide variety of muscle groups. Burpees work your chest, core, arms, quads, hamstrings, etc. The improvements this move can make on your upper body, lower body, and overall health make them a great addition to your fitness routine.

Get ready to get sweaty and prepare for this great overall move. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and get into a strong standing position. Your feet should be pointed forward and shoulder-width apart. Bring your dumbbells to the floor by squatting. Kick your feet back into a plank position and then do a push up. Then, push your body off the ground and hang on to your dumbbells. Bring your dumbbells to your shoulders as you squat down. As your rise from the squat position, bring your arms out straight above your head. Lower your arms (and dumbbells) to your side. This is one rep,

For a great workout, complete 10 repetitions for 3 sets.

woman doing a bulgarian split squat in a living room

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is another great dumbbell leg workout.. It benefits your entire posterior chain including the glutes, hamstrings, calf muscle, and quads. This exercise works on one leg at a time allowing you to isolate and focus on the muscles you are working. The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent choice if you suffer back pain as it doesn’t require you to use your lower back.

For this move, grab one dumbbell for each hand. You will need to get into a split stance position with one leg in the front of your body and one leg behind. Find a chair, bench, or other items to rest your back leg on. Using the front leg, lunge forward and lower until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Be sure to keep a tight core and keep your knee in line with your foot. Your knee should not go past your toes. Once you have reached your low position return to your standing starting position. For this move, you can complete all the repetitions on one side and switch or you can switch after every other lunge.

Complete 3 sets with 10 to 12 repetitions per set.

No matter which dumbbell leg workout you choose, all of these options will help to improve your lower body strength. Most of these moves are beginner-friendly but can be intensified for the more experienced weight-lifter. Building muscle is a great way to help avoid injury and improving your overall strength and mobility will help you to feel better and keep your body in great shape. Strength training is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to fitness. Dumbbell leg workouts are a great place to start!

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