With this lower-body dumbbell workout, you don't need to go to the gym to build strength. In fact, one of the best ways to boost your endurance and develop full-body muscle at home is with a pair of dumbbells.
They're particularly great for building strong legs, if you have a slightly heavier pair of weights. Or, you can invest in a pair of some of the best adjustable dumbbells, so you can change the weight depending on the type of workout you're doing.
And if you're looking for an effective lower-body dumbbell workout you can do at home to build stronger legs, we spoke to personal trainer Andy Cannon, a coach at 1Rebel and trainer for the wellbeing and fitness app TRUCONNECT.
Andy Cannon is a personal trainer and coach at 1Rebel. His 'Zone' workouts are also available on the fitness and wellbeing app TRUCONNECT, which is part of The Original Fit Factory's ecoystem of fitness and wellbeing-boosting platforms.
Andy Cannon's five-move lower-body dumbbell workout
The five-move programme is entirely dumbbell-based, proving you can build full-body muscle at home. "[This workout will target] your main leg muscle groups, and take you between 15 and 20 minutes to complete — you can repeat as desired," Cannon says.
You'll be moving for between 30-60 seconds for each exercise, so if you're wondering which dumbbell weight to use, choose a weight that is challenging but manageable for this time period, and you can switch loads between exercises if that works best for you.
Perform the workout as below:
- Round 1: 60 seconds on each and 30 seconds rest.
- Round 2: 45 seconds on each and 15 seconds rest.
- Round 3: 30 seconds on each and no rest.
Rest for between 60 and 90 seconds after each round to allow muscles to briefly recover. Repeat all three rounds again if you want a challenge.
1. Dumbbell Romanian deadlift
Cannon says: "This is typically your heaviest lift and the best movement for growing your hamstrings."
- Hold your dumbbells in front of your thighs with your feet hip-width apart.
- Slowly hinge at your hips, keeping a slight bend in the knees throughout and shoulders directly over your toes. Lower the dumbbells down the front of your body while keeping your back flat.
- When you feel the stretch in the hamstring, hold for a second, then drive through the floor to return to your starting position. That's one repetition.
2. Dumbbell squat
According to Cannon, "this is a quad and glute dominant full body movement. It will hit your legs, lungs, and core muscle."
- Start your set-up with your dumbbells resting on your shoulders and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- With your bodyweight in your heels, slowly lower into a squat, keeping your knees in line with your toes. Focus on keeping your chest up and back straight.
- Drive through your heels to return to your starting position to complete one repetition.
3. Dumbbell split squat
"This is an awesome movement for loading one leg at a time! If you’ve got a stronger leg, you will find out with this movement," explains Cannon.
- Start in a lunge position with one foot forward and the other back. Keep your feet planted throughout.
- Holding your dumbbells at your sides, slowly lower the back knee toward the ground whilst keeping the front knee in line with the ankle.
- Drive through the front heel to return to the starting position to complete one repetition. Switch sides halfway through the set.
4. Single dumbbell side lunge
Cannon notes that this is "another unilateral movement to challenge stability and work on your single leg strength."
- Hold your dumbbell in a goblet position on your chest and place your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Shift your weight to one side, bending that knee while keeping the other leg completely straight.
- Push off the bent leg to return to the starting position and complete one repetition, then repeat on the second side.
5. Single dumbbell swing
This move is a bit like a kettlebell swing, but with a dumbbell instead. As Cannon explains, "[this move should be] a staple in your workout conditioning. This will spike the heart rate, challenge your legs, grip strength, and cardiovascular ability."
- Start your set-up with your single dumbbell in both hands between your legs, feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge at the hips and swing the dumbbell back between your legs. Explosively drive your hips forward to create momentum and swing the dumbbell to shoulder height height.
- Control the swing back down to complete one repetition and repeat.
As this routine only takes 15-20 minutes, it can be a standalone workout (especially when you're tight on time) or part of an extended full-body session. However, it's also important to keep things varied and work your muscles in different ways.
So, if you're after a plan that'll target your legs specifically, consider alternating Cannon's exercises with these dumbbell leg workouts, or combine several of your favorite moves for a dedicated lower-body dumbbell workout.
It's likely you'll feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day, so it's important to eat enough protein to help your body repair the tiny tears in your muscle fibers and promote recovery.
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Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.
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