I tried this 20-minute lower body dumbbell workout, and I actually enjoyed it

After skipping leg day for far too long, I decided to tackle Juice & Toya's high-intensity routine

Man performing dumbbell lunges
(Image credit: Future)

In certain circles, leg day—focusing on training your lower body for a day—is something you can switch out in favor of an upper-body or arm workout. I've accidentally slipped into this way of thinking, neglecting my legs and not focusing on lower body strength.

I have a set of the best adjustable dumbbells but mostly use these for upper body-based isolation (single muscle) exercises like bicep curls or compound (multi-muscle) moves like bench presses.

Some compound moves, like squats and lunges, do work your legs. When I added these into my routines, it was more of an afterthought than a dedication to building lower body strength.

But your legs form a strong base for most exercises, including weightlifting and running, and help with your posture. A few months ago, I noticed that Juice & Toya, some of my favorite fitness YouTubers, put out a 20-minute lower body dumbbell workout.

Watch Juice & Toya's 20-minute dumbbell workout

The goal is to challenge yourself by lifting a weight that's on the heavy side, but isn't uncomfortable or impacting your form. In this workout, Toya uses a set of 15-pound dumbbells, while Juice lifts a pair of 25-pound weights. 

Like most people who put off leg day, I added this session to my to-do list, but I'd always put it to the back of the line. Instead, I'd opt for a 15-minute dumbbell arm workout or a 10-minute dumbbell chest workout to take its place.

Since three is the magic number, I decided it was time to give Juice & Toya's lower body routine a shot to complete my dumbbell workout trilogy. Until I gave it a go, I wasn't sure if it'd be a satisfying ending, but I learned a lot in the 20-minute session. Here's what happened.

1. Working with weights can boost your metabolism

If you picture someone lifting weights, you might imagine someone performing a few repetitions at a slow pace, taking a couple of minutes to rest, and then doing another few lifts. Taking breaks can help you get stronger, but that doesn't mean you can't train intensely and get results.

Juice & Toya's routine only takes 20 minutes because they've designed it to be intense throughout. It's an exercise style known as High-Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT), where the aim is to raise your heart rate, boost your metabolism, and burn energy.

I used to think that cardio exercise was the only way to lose weight, but after digging into cardio vs weights for weight loss, I realized that building muscle also increases your metabolic rate. So with this routine, I got stronger and fitter and started losing fat as well.

2. Lower body workouts strengthen your core

Man holding a dumbbell goblet squat

(Image credit: Future)

I've made a common error; I've mixed up leg muscle and lower body strength. They sound similar, but your lower body includes more than just your legs. Your core, a group of mid-body muscle that includes your rectus abdominis (the six-pack ab muscle), also forms part of your lower body. 

In the past, I've used core strengthening exercises to target my abs, though I typically prefer doing activities that'll work multiple muscles simultaneously. That's why I found Juice & Toya's workout so enjoyable, as dumbbell squats and lunges fit the bill.

This is backed up by a paper published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which found that performing squats with weights is an effective way to train your core and develop lower body muscle.

3. Some moves are popular for a reason

Reverse lunges are a great bodyweight exercise that you can do anytime; start from a standing position and step one leg back, lower until your knee is parallel to the floor, raise back up, and step your feet together again.

I sometimes use lunges and squats as a quick way to build strength while brushing my teeth, but I don't usually pick up a set of dumbbells to do it. This lower body routine showed me that adding weights into the mix makes you focus on your form, tighten your core, and use your legs for power.

It's easy to take fundamental moves like these for granted and then switch them for variations or exercises with complicated names because they sound more intense. But, as I found, mastering the basics plays a vital role in building lower body strength.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.