11 Dumbbell Leg Exercises For Building A Strong And Powerful Lower Body
Why risk injury with barbells when dumbbell leg exercises can target and strengthen your lower body muscles, build muscular endurance, and improve mobility
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While many exercisers who train away from the gym may rely on the weight of their body to work their lower body muscles, opting for dumbbell leg exercises can help give you better results and much more quickly.
Dumbbells are versatile and can provide the necessary resistance to help build more muscle, improve muscular endurance, and boost strength and energy.
Dumbbells are much cheaper to acquire and store. You can adapt them for different fitness levels, and they are very versatile, making them suitable for many exercises.
Dumbbell leg exercises can be an excellent option for those without access to barbells and those who cannot train with bars for whatever reason.
Dumbbell leg exercises can also help condition your muscles for more demanding weightlifting exercises, such as deadlifts.
Related: 9 Best Rubber Hex Dumbbells To Help You Build Strength And Muscle Mass
The Human Leg
Your leg contains several muscles, among which are
- Calf Muscles
Thus any dumbbell leg exercises you choose should target one or more of these muscles.
Best Dumbbell Leg Exercises for Building Strong Lower Body Muscles
Below are the best dumbbell leg exercises at home for targeting and building your lower body muscles.
As the title indicates, you will need one or two dumbbells for all the exercises.
Most exercisers have access to dumbbells, making it easy to make them part of your fitness regimen.
Jump squats are some of the best exercises for strengthening the leg muscles and developing explosive power.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand while doing the movement makes jump squat more challenging, forcing your muscles to work harder for better results.
The dumbbell jump squat combines the squat exercise with a jump to help build and strengthen your legs and other lower-body muscles.
They are some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for developing lower body strength, explosive power, and endurance.
The dumbbell jump squats can also help boost core stability.
Steps to follow
- Grasp a dumbbell in each hand
- Stand upright with feet at shoulder width.
- Extend your arms and bring the dumbbells to your sides, ensuring your palms face each other.
- Drop your hips and bend your knees to go into a full squat, making your thighs and the floor parallel.
- Push down your feet and forcefully jump straight up by extending your hips and knees. Keep the dumbbells by your sides when doing the movement.
- Go straight into a squat as soon as you land on the floor to repeat the motion.
- Repeat 6 to 8 reps for a set and up to 4 sets to complete a session.
Reverse lunges are some of the best exercises for targeting lower body muscles, including the legs.
It is a whole-body exercise that involves using your core and upper body muscles to ensure you can keep your posture and balance in place throughout the movement.
As with many bodyweight exercises, holding a dumbbell in each hand as you do the reverse lunges makes the movements challenging and helps to get improved results.
But unlike forward lunges, the reverse lunge is much kinder to your knees, making them some of the best dumbbell leg exercises, notably for those with knee problems or who struggle with forward lunges.
Click here for steps to follow to do the dumbbell reverse lunges
Lateral or side lunges are some of the best exercises for working multiple muscles in the lower body, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, abductors, and adductors.
The exercises allow you to target and work one leg at a time, making it possible to correct anomalies and build a more balanced lower body.
Lateral lunges can prepare you for other advanced variations, such as curtsy lunges and walking lunges.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand when doing the movement makes the exercises challenging and allows you to target the muscles much better.
Click here for steps to follow to do the dumbbell side lunges
For best results, repeat 8-10 reps per side and 3-4 sets in a session
Thrusters are popular with CrossFit and martial arts enthusiasts. Many athletes include them in their training programs as well.
The movement combines the front squat with an overhead squat. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell puts less pressure on your wrist, makes the exercises challenging, and helps get improved results.
Dumbbell thrusters are some of the best core training exercises that can prepare you for other movements involving many joints.
Thrusters with dumbbells involve simple movements but can help you to progress to other exercises when you master the form.
Dumbbell thrusters can work your glutes, quads, shoulders, and core, helping to improve lower and upper body strength.
They are some of the best full-body dumbbell leg exercises that can help improve balance, coordination, and muscular endurance.
Click here for steps to follow to do the dumbbell side lunges
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best unilateral dumbbell leg exercises that help build and strengthen lower body muscles.
Aside from your leg muscles, Bulgarian split squats will also target your upper and lower back and core muscles, forcing them to work together to help maintain balance and coordination throughout the movement.
A dumbbell in each hand as you do the exercises puts more pressure on your muscles and makes the movements more challenging, helping to get improved results.
Bulgarian split squats are some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for correcting muscle imbalances, as they concentrate on one side of your leg at a time.
Click here for steps to follow to do the Bulgarian split squat with dumbbells
Dumbbell Calf Raise
You can do the calf raise exercises with dumbbells to help target and work the calf muscles in your lower legs.
They are some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for stretching and adding mass to the calf muscles.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your feet at shoulder width.
- Allow your arms to hang below your shoulders, fully extended.
- Raise your heels as high as possible and stand on your toes.
- Hold for a second and lower your heels in a slow and controlled manner to return to your starting position. Keep your knees and back straight throughout the movement.
- Repeat 12-15 reps for a set and 2-4 sets to complete a session.
Goblet squats are one of the most effective full-body dumbbell leg exercises for boosting cardiovascular fitness. Aside from your legs, the movement will target and work your glutes and core muscles.
Goblet squats are also some of the best exercises that condition your muscles for barbell front squats.
Steps to follow
- Grasp the underside of the head of a dumbbell with both hands.
- Stand upright with feet more than shoulder-width apart and bring the dumbbell close to your chest.
- Keep your back straight, your shoulders back, and look straight ahead.
- Engage your core, bend your hip knees and lower your hips to go into a squat. Inhale as you go down and keep your chest tall. Ensure you shift your weight to your heels.
- Continue the downward movement until your hamstrings touch your calves, then pause briefly.
- Push your heels down and extend your knees and hips to return to your starting position. Exhale when rising.
- Repeat 6 to 8 reps for a set and 3-4 sets per session
The single-leg dumbbell deadlift can work and strengthen the hamstrings, which are part of the leg muscles.
They are some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for isolating the glutes and hamstrings. Using one leg at a time allows you to correct imperfections, helping to build a more symmetrical lower body.
Steps to follow to do the single-leg dumbbell deadlift are available here
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
The single-leg Romanian deadlift with dumbbells can work and strengthen your hips and leg muscles.
They are some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for improving core balance and stability.
You can include them in your leg or full body workouts to help strengthen your hamstrings and glutes.
Click here for steps to follow to do the single-leg Romanian deadlift with dumbbells
The dumbbell sumo squat is a good option for those looking for alternatives to the barbell squat.
The dumbbell sumo squat shifts the weight away from your back to your front. Thus it can help reduce the back pain and spine injury associated with barbell squats. It can, therefore, benefit those with back and spine problems.
Widening your feet for the movement helps emphasize your adductors, making them some of the best dumbbell leg exercises for working and strengthening the thigh muscles.
The dumbbell sumo squat targets your adductors, quads, hip flexors, and glutes.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright with feet wider than shoulder width, holding a dumbbell at waist height with both hands.
- Shift your weight onto your heels and slightly bend your feet outward.
- Push back your butts and bend your knees to go into a squat.
- Keep lowering your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Allow the dumbbell to follow your movement.
- Push through your feet and slowly rise to your starting position.
- Repeat 8 to 10 reps per set and 3-4 sets for a session
Weighted Step Up
Step-ups are great at working the lower body muscles.
Holding dumbbells for the exercises increases the pressure on the muscles, helping to build more strength in your upper legs and quads within a shorter period.
Click here for steps to follow to do the weighted step-ups with dumbbells
Final words from LiveLIfe
The ultimate goal of many exercisers and lifters is to build eye-catching biceps, V-shaped upper body, six-packed abs, etc. Thus most concentrate on working and building their upper body and neglect their lower body muscles. But many can correct this anomaly by incorporating dumbbell leg exercises in their workout regimen.
Lower body exercises, which can help target your leg muscles, can give you many benefits.
Exercising your legs to help make them stronger can give you many benefits. Thus you ought to offer the same priority to your leg and lower body exercises as those of the upper body.
Incorporate these dumbbell leg exercises in your workout to help build strong and healthy lower body muscles.
- Petr Stastny, Michal Lehnert, Amr M.Z. Zaatar, et al. 2015. Does the Dumbbell-Carrying Position Change the Muscle Activity in Split Squats and Walking Lunges? National Library of Medicine. PMCID: PMC4640053. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000976
- Andersen V, Fimland MS, Brennset O, et al. Muscle activation and strength in squat and Bulgarian squat on stable and unstable surface. Int J Sports Med. 2014;35(14):1196-1202. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1382016
- Mangine GT, Hoffman JR, Gonzalez AM, et al. The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological Reports. 2015;3(8):e12472. doi:10.14814/phy2.12472