No training equipment? That’s no reason to skip leg day! Commercial gyms are filled with various training equipment for your lower body muscles, but you can build your quads, hamstrings, and glutes using only dumbbells. StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells is everything you need: the best dumbbell leg exercises for the best possible results.
You can use StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells to build lower body strength and muscle regardless of your fitness level. This article outlines the workout, describes how you can incorporate it into your training routine, and walks you through the exercises and how to perform them.
This leg workout is one of many premium workouts in the StrengthLog workout tracker app, which you can download for free using the buttons below.
Benefits of Building Strong Legs
Much like a house needs a solid foundation, your entire body looks and functions better when built upon a pair of strong legs.
- Leg strength is essential in most sports, and even everyday activities like walking up a long set of stairs become much easier with above-average lower body power. The term “functional strength” might be overused, but having a strong lower body is definitely functional.
- Weak legs limit your overall strength and muscular development. You’d be surprised at how much your legs are involved when you train your upper body. Many compound exercises using free weights for your back, chest, and shoulders rely on your legs for stability and power.
- A strong lower body likely helps reduce the risk of injury, aches, and pains. For example, regularly performing exercises like lunges and squats help prevent knee injuries and muscle imbalances. Weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors can cause back pain, and few things are more effective for strengthening those muscles than lower-body resistance training.
- Your lower body muscles are essential for your balance. Unilateral movements like dumbbell lunges and Bulgarian split squats help immensely in improving balance and mobility.
- Many of us experience stiff muscles and don’t feel as mobile as we’d like, especially in the lower body. Strength training is just as effective as stretching in improving mobility and range of motion.
We’ll get to the workout soon, but let’s take a minute to go through the basics of how your leg muscles function.
You find the quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh: the vastus lateralis, the vastus intermedius, the vastus medialis, and the rectus femoris. Your quads help with leg extension and hip flexion, stabilize your kneecap, and maintain your posture. Together, they form the most voluminous muscle of the human body.1
- The vastus lateralis is the largest of the four quad muscles. It’s located on the outside of your thigh.
- The vastus medialis, on the inside of your thigh, is the teardrop-shaped muscle right above your knee.
- The rectus femoris is the only quadriceps muscle that crosses the hip. It helps extend the knee and functions as a hip flexor.
- The vastus intermedius muscle lies between the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis and beneath the rectus femoris muscle.
On the back of your thighs, your hamstrings bend your knees and extend your hip. They consist of three muscles: the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris. The hamstrings are antagonists to your quads; as one contracts, the other relaxes.
Your buttocks are primarily composed of the three gluteal muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus is the single largest muscle in your body. There are several more muscles in your rear, but they don’t contribute much to the total muscle mass of your butt, and you usually don’t have to train them specifically, as they are involved in all exercises that target your glutes.
Your glutes help stabilize your pelvis and upper body. They are essential for most locomotive tasks, including walking, running, jumping, squatting, and everyday tasks like standing up from a sitting position and picking something up from the floor. Strong glutes generate large amounts of force in many athletic situations and improve performance in most exercises for the whole body.
As you can see, your lower body consists of many muscle groups, all of which require attention for optimal leg and glute development. Fortunately, you can train them all effectively with at-home leg workouts and a set of dumbbells.
Do you need a fully equipped home gym with a squat rack, barbell, and weight plates for your lower body workouts to be effective?
No! The best exercises for your lower body can all be done with dumbbells, whether you’re going for muscle growth, building a strong set of legs, or simply want to keep fit and stay in shape. You can get the best leg workouts of your life using only a pair of dumbbells.
However, you do need at least one pair of dumbbells. Bodyweight exercises are highly effective for training many parts of your body. Still, when it comes to leg training, you’ll struggle to build significant muscle mass and strength using nothing but your body weight.
It’s difficult to say precisely how light or heavy weights you should use. It depends on your strength level and training experience. Weights that are suitable for you might be too heavy for someone else, and vice versa.
In addition, different exercises require different weights. You will want to use heavier weights in an exercise like the dumbbell squat than in the dumbbell lunge, a unilateral exercise where you train one leg at a time. Single-leg exercises always require lighter weights than when you can utilize the force of your entire lower body.
While you can get a good workout using fixed dumbbells, I suggest you get a pair of adjustable dumbbells for your at-home workouts. They allow you to quickly change to the right weights mid-workout as needed with the flip of a switch.
Before you jump into the workout, it’s a good idea to take a couple of minutes to warm up, both your body in general and your lower body muscles in particular. You prepare your body and brain for the activity to come and might even reduce the risk of injury. That risk is already low, but the lower, the better, right?
Jogging in place, jumping jacks, and maybe even some burpees, if you’re brave, will raise your heart rate and break a light sweat. A couple of minutes is enough. After that, do a few sets of bodyweight squats and lunges, and you’re good to go.
How long should you rest between sets? Research shows that taking a 2–3 minute break between sets is better than resting a single minute if your goal is muscle growth.2 If you have the time, rest up between sets. However, the difference is not huge by any means. It might not even be significant. If you prefer a higher tempo or are short on time, feel free to shorten your rest intervals. At least a minute of rest between sets is a good idea, though.
StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells: The Exercises
This dumbbell leg workout consists of five exercises targeting your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Let’s take a closer look at each exercise, with videos showing proper form. You can see the exact number of sets and reps in StrengthLog.
The squat is the best exercise to improve overall exercise performance and a staple exercise for anyone looking to build muscle in their lower body. Dumbbell squats work the same muscles as traditional barbell squats, meaning your quads and glutes primarily. In addition, squats train your adductors (the muscles on your inner thigh that bring your legs together) and even your lower back, and, to some extent, your calf muscles.
The main advantage of the dumbbell squat compared to the barbell squat is that you don’t need a squat rack to perform it, and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck at the bottom. You can simply drop the dumbbells at any time if you need to.
Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Squats
How to Do Dumbbell Squats
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Inhale, lightly brace your core, and squat down as deep as possible.
- Reverse the movement, and return to a standing position. Exhale on the way up.
The goblet squat is a full-body exercise emphasizing your quads and glutes. By holding the weight at or in front of your chest, goblet squats make it much easier to keep your torso upright and get into a deeper squat position for a full range of motion compared to the barbell or dumbbell squat.
The video below demonstrates good form in the goblet squat using a kettlebell (which you can use if you have one), but a dumbbell works just as well.
Muscles Worked in Goblet Squats
How to Goblet Squat with Proper Form
- Grab a kettlebell in the sides of the handle, and hold the kettlebell against your chest.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointing slightly outward.
- Inhale, lightly brace your core, and squat down as deep as possible.
- Reverse the movement from the bottom goblet position and return to the starting point. Exhale on the way up.
This picture shows how you hold a dumbbell when performing the goblet squat:
The dumbbell lunge is a compound exercise that involves many muscles in your lower body, primarily your quads and glutes, but also your hamstrings to a lesser extent. Lunges are also a great way to train your balance and body coordination.
If you prefer, you can take a step backward instead of forward, as shown in the instruction video below. The reverse lunge involves the hamstrings a bit more, and some find it easier on the knees than the forward lunge.
Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Lunges
How to Do Dumbbell Lunges
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Take a big step forward and sink as deep as possible in a lunge position, without hitting the knee of the back leg in the floor.
- Return to the starting position by pushing yourself back with the front leg.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a variation of the dumbbell deadlift where you have almost entirely shifted the work to your posterior chain: your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This hip hinge movement is easily one of the best dumbbell exercises for hamstring development.
Muscles Worked in Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
How to Do Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
- Stand upright holding a pair of dumbbells.
- Inhale, brace your core slightly, and lean forward by hinging in your hips. Keep your knees almost completely extended.
- Lean forward as far as possible without rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the dumbbells to the floor, although it is OK if you do.
- Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Exhale on the way up.
- Take another breath, and repeat for reps.
You finish off StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells with dumbbell step-ups. The step up activates your gluteus maximus more than squats or the hip thrust, making it an excellent exercise for butt strength and muscle mass.3 You can use whatever furniture you have at home: a stable chair, a footstool, or a chair step, for example.
Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands and stand in front of something solid to step up on. From the starting position, place your right foot on the step, and push your right leg to lift your body. After stepping down, step up with your left foot and drive yourself upwards with your left leg instead. Continue to alternate legs until you’ve completed the target number of reps.
If using an extra load is too challenging, and you can’t complete the target number of repetitions, feel free to ditch the dumbbells and step up using only your body weight.
Muscles Worked in Step Ups
How to Do Step Ups
- Stand in front of a chair, bench or something else that you can step up on.
- Place your foot on the chair.
- Lightly brace your core, and step up until your leg is straight.
- Lower yourself in a controlled motion.
- You can keep your foot at the chair, and repeat for reps.
That’s it! I bet your legs and butt are telling you they are pretty fried by now. You’ve hit every muscle fiber in your thighs and glutes and can feel satisfied after a job well-done. Keep at StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells consistently, and you’ll be rewarded with bigger and stronger lower body muscles.
How Many Times Per Week Should You Do StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells at Home?
For most people, performing the StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells once or twice weekly is ideal for building muscle and strength.
According to up-to-date research, 10–20 weekly sets per muscle group optimize strength development and muscle growth.4 5 With greater training experience, you can take advantage of doing more sets for a muscle group and go for close to 20. Instead of doing one long session, it’s better to split it into two, or the quality of your sets might suffer.
- Intermediates, meaning you have at least a couple of months of training experience under your belt, get enough training volume by doing this workout once weekly.
- Advanced lifters, athletes, and bodybuilders can add a session for two total workouts per week.
Regardless of your training experience, StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells gives your muscle fibers the stimulus they need to grow bigger and stronger.
To keep improving, forcing your muscles to become bigger and stronger over time, you need some kind of progression in your training. You can add more and more reps and sets to your workout, but sooner rather than later, your training sessions become long and tedious.
The primary way to continuously get results is progressive overload. Add a little weight to the bar, lower the pin on the machine’s weight stack, or select a heavier pair of dumbbells. In a dumbbell workout like this, your options depend on whether you have fixed or adjustable dumbbells.
With fixed dumbbells, weight progression is difficult if you only have one pair. Sooner or later, you’ll have to invest in heavier ones to keep progressing. Your body is stubborn like that: if it can already handle what you’re doing, it sees no reason to improve further. You have to challenge it by increasing the weights you use as you get stronger.
With adjustable dumbbells, you can increase the weight as needed for some time before you need to invest in a heavier pair.
How Do You Integrate StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells into Your Workout Routine?
Most people will likely not only train their lower body but also the rest of the body in some fashion. This is a complete and versatile leg workout that you can implement into any training routine. Let’s look at a few examples.
Upper/Lower Body Split
As the name suggests, an upper/lower body split entails training your upper body one workout, then the lower body the next. It’s one of the most popular and effective ways to train for general strength and muscle development.
A week of upper/lower body training implementing this workout could look like this:
- Monday: Upper body
- Tuesday: StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Upper Body
- Friday: StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Rest
The push/pull/legs (PPL) routine is a workout split for intermediate-level lifters and above. It is very popular with bodybuilders. You divide your body into three training days: your pushing muscles on the first day, your pulling muscles on the second, and your legs on the third.
In other words, StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells would be the third training day if you opt for a push/pull/legs split:
- Day 1: Chest, shoulders, and triceps
- Day 2: Back and biceps
- Day 3: StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells
You can then train your body once or twice per week, depending on your training experience and how much time you can dedicate.
Four-Day Training Split
You go a step further with a four-day routine and split your body into four training days. You can combine your body parts and muscle groups in many different ways, but one example looks like this:
- Day 1: Chest and triceps
- Day 2: Back and biceps
- Day 3: StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells
- Day 4: StrengthLog’s Shoulder Workout With Dumbbells and abs
Five-Day Training Split
Now we’re talking about a real “bro-split” or a workout routine where you focus on one major muscle group per session. It’s how most high-level and competitive bodybuilders train, although not necessarily the best way for a beginner to structure their workout week.
- Day 1: Chest
- Day 2: Back
- Day 3: StrengthLog’s Shoulder Workout With Dumbbells
- Day 4: StrengthLog Leg Workout With Dumbbells
- Day 5: StrengthLog’s Arm Workout With Dumbbells
Those are just some examples of how you can use this workout to your advantage when you plan your training schedule. If you prefer some other training split, simply insert StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells on your leg day and reap the benefits of the ultimate lower body dumbbell program.
Track StrengthLog’s Leg Workout With Dumbbells at Home in the StrengthLog App
That’s it! Stay with this workout consistently, and you’ll make consistent gains, guaranteed.
If you want to grow bigger and stronger, the key to fast and consistent gains in strength and muscle is progressive overload: you increase the weight you use in your training or do more reps over time.
It’s almost impossible to keep track of your progress without a workout log. Our workout log app is 100% free to download and use as a workout tracker and general strength training app. All the basic functionality is free – forever.
You’ll also find a bunch of training programs and workouts in the app. Many are free, but our more advanced programs and workouts (such as this one) are for premium users only.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
Download StrengthLog for free with the buttons below:
Good luck with your training!
If you enjoyed this workout, check out our other home dumbbell routines:
- StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Thigh Quadriceps Muscle.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: July 2016 – Volume 30 – Issue 7 – p 1805-1812. Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men.
- J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Mar; 19(1): 195–203. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review.
- J Hum Kinet. 2022 Feb 10;81:199-210. A Systematic Review of The Effects of Different Resistance Training Volumes on Muscle Hypertrophy.
- International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, Vol 1 No 1 (2021). Resistance Training Recommendations to Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy in an Athletic Population: Position Stand of the IUSCA.