Leg Exercises with Dumbbells

In this article, I’m going to show you the best leg exercises with dumbbells that are perfect for toning and strengthening your lower body. Dumbbells are excellent equipment to target your thighs since they provide a more extended range of motion, we can do uneven exercises that activate stabilizer muscles, and we can perform the following activities comfortably at home.

What will you learn here?

  • Various lower body exercises with dumbbells.
  • Sample leg workouts with weights.
  • Workout advice on how to build legs at home.

So, in the end, you will know many leg exercises at home to create your custom leg workout routine.

Exercise Tutorials

1. Dumbbell Squat

The squat is the most important lower body exercise of all. It strengthens all the leg muscles at once. Squats also increase heart rate so they are good for burning fat.

  • Stand with shoulder-width with the dumbbells in your hands. Keep your back straight.
  • Slowly bend your knees until the weights almost touch the ground. How deep you can go depends on the length of your arms, but try to go deep for the full range of motion.
  • With the power of your thighs, push yourself up back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

Related: Bodyweight squats benefits

2. Dumbbell front squat

This is an excellent compound exercise that works the entire body. We have to hold the weights this way the shoulders work, but the core and posterior also activated to stop following forward. Of course, it’s more difficult than the traditional squat.

  • Stand with shoulder-width and press the dumbbells in front of you. Keep your back aligned.
  • Slowly bend your knees and go down as deep as you can to get the full range of motion. I prefer deep squats, but you can also do half squats when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Push yourself back to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

3. Sumo Squat

Another squat variation that targets the inner thighs well.

  • Stand wider than shoulder-width and slightly rotate your feet outwards.
  • Tense your core, buttocks, and thighs and slowly go down until the dumbbell almost tough the ground.
  • Press yourself back tot he starting position.

4. Bulgarian Split Squat

Compare to regular squats, this leg exercise is much harder. The move is uneven. This way, the core works hard to keep the balance. Also, since mainly one leg works, it’s great for developing the strength of quats.

  • Place one of your feet on something elevated, for example, on a chair. Hold the dumbbells next to you.
  • Place your front foot with such a distance that you will have enough room when you go down. Test various positions to find out which is the most comfortable for you.
  • Slowly go down until your rare knee almost touches the floor, and your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • With the power of your quats, press yourself up to the starting position.
  • Do the required repetitions, and switch your legs.

5. Dumbbell step-up

For this you need a stable object that is about 20 inches high. For example, I use the stairs to step up.

  • Stand in front of the elevated object by holding the dumbbells next to you.
  • Step on it, and with the power of your leg, push yourself up.
  • Step back with the same leg.
  • Switch your leg and do the same.

6. Stiff-Legged deadlift

How do you work your hamstrings with dumbbells? Well, the various squats target the hams, but the stiffed-legged deadlift is perfect for targeting those areas.

  • Stand with a narrow stance and hold the dumbbells at the hip level.
  • Slowly bend forward until your back is parallel to the floor. Don’t bend your knees. Keep them stiffed during the whole movement. Also, keep your back straight.
  • By focusing on your hamstrings and glutes, get back to the starting position.

7. Single leg hamstring deadlift

This exercise is the unilateral version of the stiffed-leg deadlift. Hence, much harder to perform, but the strength benefits are even better. Plus, since it’s hard to keep the balance, the core has to work hard. It’s a great exercise to bring out muscle imbalances.

8. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

Hip thrust works the posterior part of the legs, mainly the glutes and hams. So, perfect for shaping the backside. We usually do it on a workout bench, but you can do it on a chair without a backrest.

  • Sit in front of the chair. The seat is under your shoulder blade.
  • Place the dumbbell on your lower abs.
  • Place your feet so far when you push yourself up, your thighs can be parallel and your shins right-angled to the floor.
  • Now, tighten your torso and push your hips ups until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Slowly lower your hips, but don’t drop them on the floor.
  • Repeat.

If you don’t have an object to exercise with, you can do it on the floor. That practice is the weighted glute bridge.

9. Dumbbell lunges

Lunges, or split squats, are excellent unilateral leg exercises that also improve balance and coordination. Lunges are great for targeting the quadriceps and glutes.

  • Stand straight with a narrower stance than shoulder-width. Hang your arms with dumbbells next to you.
  • Make a long step forward until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Your rare leg bends naturally during the movement.
  • With the power of your front leg, push yourself back to the starting position.
  • Do the same with your other leg.

10. Reverse lunge

  • Stand with a slight narrow stance and hold the weights next to you. Keep you back aligned.
  • Step backward with a distance, which is about one and a half longer than your typical step.
  • Go down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Push yourself back to the starting position with the power of your rare leg while lifting yourself a bit with your front leg.
  • Repeat.

11. Lateral Lunge

  • Begin with a shoulder-width stance. Hang the dumbbells a bit in front of you.
  • Step to the side and bring your bodyweight. Go down until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Don’t bend your non-woking leg.
  • Step back to the starting position.

Guide to leg workout at home with dumbbells

Now, you know many thighs exercises with dumbbells, so the next step is to create a workout routine. A home leg workout should be complete. I mean, it would work all the muscles of the lower body such as the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Most of the exercises above are compound movements, so they target more muscle groups at once. So, with 3-4 activities we can have a complete workout for legs.

leg muscle anatomy

Can you build legs with dumbbells? The size depends on the resistance, so if you want to improve the strength and muscle mass, you should use weights with which you can do about 8-12 reps. But, don’t use too heavy dumbbells that ruin the correct form.

Here is a sample dumbbell leg workout for mass for men that can be done once or twice a week.

  • Squats: 3×12 reps
  • Lunges: 3×10 reps for each leg.
  • Ham deadlift: 3×15
  • Hip thrust: 3×15

The same routine with higher reps 15-20 is suitable for women as well to shape their legs.

A dumbbell leg workout for beginners includes 2-3 exercises, and they should use lighter weights. Do 2-3 sets with 15-20 reps.

To sum up

For effective at-home lower body weight training, these compound leg exercises with dumbbells are perfect. Create a routine with 3-5 practices and do it once or twice a week. Don’t underestimate the benefits of this type of training.

Written by Imre

Imre has been working out for over 20 years. He likes all sorts of strength training and boxing. Since he's a busy father he works out only at home.