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The 14 Best Leg Workouts with Dumbbells You Must Try NOW!

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Most people serious about working out have at least one day per week dedicated to their leg muscles. Oftentimes, leg-day workouts are designed for a full gym setup and require barbells, medicine balls, squat racks, boxes, and more equipment. But if you need to do leg day at home, you need dumbbell leg workouts. With a few pairs of hand weights, you’ll have a highly effective leg day without the gym. 

We’ve outlined some of the best leg workouts with dumbbells in this article to help you freshen up your workout routine without heavy equipment. Let’s get those legs looking toned and strong using just dumbbells and body weight

A man doing leg workouts with dumbbells at the gym
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Benefits of Using Dumbbells on Leg Day

Dumbbells are a great addition to any workout regimen. There are so many great benefits to incorporating dumbbells into your leg workouts. Let’s explore a few of them here!

Accessible–Most People Own Dumbbells 

This piece of equipment is very easy to acquire. Most people already have a pair of dumbbells in their homes. If you don’t have any, they’re pretty easy to find inexpensively. And you can always find them used on Facebook marketplace, yard sales, or Craigslist.

If you buy new, expect to pay about $1 per pound of weight. You’ll want a pair for light use, a mid-weight pair, and a heavy pair at the least. When you grow out of this set, you can always buy more, breaking up your purchases to make the expense easier to handle.

Tone Leg Muscles

Dumbbells can help you tone those leg muscles faster by isolating specific muscles. And they allow you to do more than you normally could with just your body weight. As an added bonus, they also help improve your grip strength and help tone your forearms at the same time.

Increase Resistance

Because of the many sizes to choose from, you have an extensive range of hand weights that you can work with to increase resistance. It’s a great option for adding more resistance to your workouts and putting more work on your legs. 

Workout One Side at a Time

Asymmetrical workouts are a great way to build muscle mass. You do these by only working out one side at a time with a single dumbbell. This allows you to tone and increase strength equally on both sides, preventing muscle imbalances. It’s also a great time to focus on the correct form for each side.  

Burn More Calories

You’re naturally burning more calories by adding resistance with dumbbells. Your body is working up more of a sweat by adding a heavier load to each movement.  Muscle burns more calories than fat, so as your muscle mass increases, so does your calorie output.

A muscular man doing leg workouts with dumbbells at the gym
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Can You Do Dumbbell Leg Workouts Every Day?

Technically you could, but most trainers advise against this because it can make you more prone to muscle tears and injury. It’s possible, however, to do a lighter workout every day.  The pro to this would be maintaining your range of motion and muscle mass.  The downside is that it would be hard to increase your strength and weight because your muscles need the rest in between those harder workouts to recover.  

14 Best Leg Workouts with Dumbbells

There are many excellent leg workouts out there, and adding dumbbells is a no-brainer for building muscle fast. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the 14 we’ve chosen for you.

1. Reverse Lunge

Grab a pair of dumbbells and set your shoulders back while you stand up straight and engage your core muscles. With feet hip-width apart, you’re ready to lunge. Step your left leg back and lunge down until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position of the reverse lunge.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

You’ll need a sturdy bench and some balance to perform Bulgarian split squats. Prepare yourself just as you would for a squat and grab a heavier dumbbell. Hold it close to your chest with both hands. Lift one leg behind you on the bench so you’re balancing in a split squat stance. From here, lower down, keeping your knees over your toes, and squeeze those glute muscles. Return to the starting position.

3. Deadlift

Place the dumbbells at your sides in line with the midline of your feet. Get into a squat position by pushing your glute muscles into a seated position with your knees over your toes. Your chest is lifted as you reach down and grab the weights. Stand up, gripping the weights on each side of you, and lower them back down.

Return them to the starting position and this time, fire them back up again.

4. Romanian Deadlifts

This is another great way to work your glutes and hamstrings as well as a few other muscles. Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) are essentially the same as a deadlift, but you’ll start from a standing position rather than from a bent position. 

Begin by standing up straight, holding your dumbbells in front of you parallel to your body.  Maintain a slight bend in the knee, engage your core muscles, and keep your back flat as you hinge forward at the hips. Lower the weights just below the knees and return to an upright position.

5. Dumbbell Step-ups

Talk about a workout for your thighs! The dumbbell step-up makes it easy to add more weight and build those quad muscles in a simple, effective way.  To do this move, all you need is a step or a plyo box and some dumbbells.

Grab your dumbbells and bring them to shoulder height. Use correct form by engaging the core muscles and maintaining a neutral spine. Step up on the box with your right foot and straighten your leg as your left foot steps up next. Bend your right knee and step back down with your left foot. Your right foot follows to meet your left foot on the ground.


6. Goblet Squat

Goblet squats differ a little from traditional squats by engaging your whole body and giving you an all-over workout. Grip the top of a single dumbbell with both hands like you’re cupping a goblet. Your shoulders are back and your chest is lifted. Assume a wide stance and slowly lower down into a sumo squat. Return to standing position and repeat.

7. Weighted Glute Bridge

Adding a little weight to the glute bridge is an effective way to build muscle mass in those glutes.   Lying with your back and feet on the floor with your knees up, place a dumbbell over your hips. Generally, it’s best to choose a heavier weight with this move since you’re working a larger muscle group.

Lift your glutes as high as you can in the air and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Lower back down and repeat.

8. Squat to Press

Here’s another great all-over workout to help you strength-train your whole body. Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at shoulder height. Your feet are shoulder width apart with your shoulders back.  

Squat as if you were sitting in a chair with your glutes back and knees in line with your toes. As you come back to a standing position, press the dumbbells into an overhead military press rotating your wrists in one movement. Repeat.

9. Lateral Lunge

This lunge variation should use a heavier set of dumbbells to maximize gains in your quads. Hold the weights to your sides as you step one leg to the side and lunge down with the weights on either side of the bending knee. Keep your back flat and your chest lifted throughout the entire motion. Return to the top of the movement and repeat.

10. Calf Raise

Work those calf muscles in one simple movement by adding dumbbells during your calf raises. Feel free to go heavy on the weights with this one! The weights stay at your sides the entire time while your calves do all the work.

Check for correct form by rolling your shoulders back, lifting your chest, and engaging your core while keeping your spine neutral. Roll onto the balls of your feet, squeezing those calf muscles and glutes as you go up. Repeat.

11. Dumbbell Swing

The dumbbell swing is a popular CrossFit move and will test your core stability as you swing a single dumbbell between your legs and over your head. It’s traditionally performed with a kettlebell weight, but a dumbbell works well too as long as you keep a good grip on it.  

Your feet are shoulder width apart and your chest is lifted with a flat back. As you hinge forward at the hips, your glutes shoot straight back while you swing the dumbbell backward between your legs. Send the dumbbell forward again above your head level with an explosive movement, coming back to straighten out your posterior chain. Repeat.

12. Curtsy Lunge

If you want a lunge variation to really fire up those glutes, the curtsy lunge is for you! The dumbbells will remain stationary at your sides the entire time with one in each hand parallel to your midline.  

Always check for correct posture before you begin by aligning your spine and lifting your chest as you pull those shoulder blades back. With your feet hip-width apart, you’re ready to step your left leg back and cross it behind your right leg. Lower down until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Return to the start and repeat.

13. Burpee Squat Press

This advanced move is guaranteed to kick your workout routine up a couple of notches. It’s much like a regular burpee, but you add a squat and a dumbbell press to up the ante.

Rest your dumbbells flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Grasp the handles of the dumbbells as you assume plank position. Keeping a firm hold of the dumbbells on the ground, jump your feet forward to the back edge of your dumbbell. 

Immediately, go into a squat and press, raising the dumbbells above your head before squatting back down and jumping into your starting plank position. Repeat.


14. Weighted Surrender

Talk about a great way to build killer quads! 

Start on your knees with the dumbbells held tightly at your shoulders the entire time. Really engage that core to maintain correct form. Bring your right leg forward followed by your left into a squat. Stand up straight and explode the movement with an even jump from both feet. Return to a kneeling position by moving one leg at a time and repeat.

How much weight should you use?

If you’re in reasonably good health and have no significant health concerns, you could start with a light to moderate set of weights. However, if you’re brand new to working out and are uncertain, start out with very light weight and work your way up.

Beginners should invest in weights ranging between 5 and 25 pounds. Those with more strength should look at weights that go as heavy as 50 pounds.

More serious trainers could invest in a dumbbell set with adjustable weights. These are like mini barbells with weight plates that you can add or remove to change the weight. This is a great solution for those who work out at home regularly. It offers space-saving and gives you the flexibility to grow with your workouts. 

How Many Sets and Reps of Each Workout?

Most trainers recommend doing about 3 sets of repetitions with 8-12 reps of any workout. Rather than increasing the sets and reps, you’ll increase the weight to get the most out of the workout. Increasing weight and doing a move until failure is the best way to grow muscle mass quickly. 

However, if you’re working out at home, and the dumbbells you have aren’t heavy enough for you to max out, you may aim for muscle endurance rather than muscle growth. Therefore, you’ll increase the number of reps you do rather than increasing the number of weights. You’ll likely do 15+ reps in every set with 3-5 sets. 

Listen to your body and pay attention to your form as you go up in weight. It should be challenging towards the end of each set but not so challenging that you lose form.

A woman doing leg workouts with dumbbells outside
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A Note on Safety with At-Home Dumbbell Workouts

Dumbbells can be dangerous if not used with proper care. Always be aware of your surroundings when using them. Be sure you have plenty of space from people or other objects you could potentially hit while working out. 

Choose your weight max carefully. Lifting weights that are too heavy could result in injury. 

Always bend with your knees to avoid injury to your back when lifting heavier weights off the floor or rack. 

Additionally, you could drop the weight if it’s too heavy, increasing your risk of injury. It’s wise to store them in a secure location like a rack or a closet to avoid tripping over them or young children gaining access to them. 

FAQs About Doing Leg Workouts with Dumbbells

We’ve covered quite a few moves in this article and given you a lot of information to digest.  We’ve answered a few more questions below. 

Can You Build Leg Muscle Effectively with Just Dumbbells?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes! Dumbbells are a great way to build leg muscles. The versatility of the weight you can add and the moves you can do makes it ideal for just about everyone.

Simply adding dumbbells to your leg workouts helps you build a variety of muscles such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. It also targets all the smaller muscles that make up those larger muscle groups.

Who Should Do Dumbbell Leg Workouts?

Anyone can do dumbbell leg workouts. Even bodybuilders can deadlift using heavier or adjustable dumbbells. If you prefer having smaller equipment to store at home, dumbbells are a great option for you.

If you want a greater range of motion than say some of the machines at the gym, dumbbells are a great way to go.

You might consider skipping the dumbbells, however, if you find yourself losing form. Or you could just go lighter on the weight. Add in weight as you get stronger and build more endurance.

How Long Does It Take to See Results with Dumbbell Leg Workouts?

Typically any workout routine is going to take about 3 weeks to see results. Consequently, that’s also about how long it takes to establish a new routine.

If you can stick with it for about 21 days, you won’t regret it! Hang in there, and you’ll start seeing an overall increase in your body strength and muscle mass.

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