Build leg muscle fast with this personal trainer’s 30-minute dumbbell workout

Pushing it on leg day at the gym is always daunting, but adding dumbbells to a leg workout can help to build muscle quicker

Woman doing leg workout with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty)

Building muscle in the legs will result in improved stability for the whole body, including the core, while also helping you to burn calories faster. 

Using weights, like the best adjustable dumbbells, means your workout will become tougher, but you’ll be building muscle at a faster rate too. Eating protein after a workout, or including one of the best protein powders for weight loss in your diet, is also a great way to increase your metabolism and burn calories quicker.

PT and creator of the six-week online workout ‘Power of Mum’, Nicole Chapman (opens in new tab) has created a 30-minute dumbbell workout for Fit&Well, which will help tone your legs and core.  

Watch PT Nicole Chapman's leg workout

Chapman encourages you to ​​perform each exercise for 10 reps, with one-minute rest between exercises - then repeat all six exercises.  

30-minute dumbbell workout

Sumo squat

  • Start in a standing position with your toes pointing out at a 45-degree angle. Bend at the hips and knees sitting back, keeping your chest up and knees driving out.
  •  Keep lowering until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Either hold both dumbbells on your shoulders or hold one or two weights between your legs with your arms straight.
  • Push through your heels, extend your legs, keep your chest up, return to the standing position and squeeze your glutes.

Muscles targeted: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Shoulders, Adductor muscles (inner thighs)

1.5 Goblet squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Cup your hands around the head of the dumbbell and place it close to your chest. Send your hips back and bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your chest lifted and your knees driving out.
  • Once at the bottom of your squat, push through your heels and come half way up, then return to the bottom of your squat before driving again through your heels and extending your legs - squeeze your glutes at the top.

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Erectors (lower back)

Side plank with rotation
(10 reps on each side)

  • Lie on your left side with your forearm flat on the floor, bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder, and both legs extended out. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor. You can keep your hand on your hip or raise your top arm straight above you reaching for the ceiling.
  • Lower your arm and rotate your core as you thread your top arm through the space underneath you. Unthread your arm and return to the starting position. Keep your hips raised throughout. Repeat on your right side.

Muscles Targeted: Obliques, Shoulder, Back, legs from heel to hips

Walking lunges

(Image credit: Getty)

Walking lunges

  • Standing tall, feet hip-width apart with your core tight. Weights in both hands or bodyweight only. Take a big step forward with your left foot and slowly drop your right knee towards the floor until your left thigh is parallel to the floor until you reach the lunge position.
  • Push your left heel into the floor and drive the back leg straight and step with the right leg into another forward lunge. Keep your torso upright and your core activated as you move.

Muscles Targeted: Quads, Glutes, Hamstrings, Core

Suitcase deadlifts

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes facing forward. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides. A good cue is to imagine you have a suitcase in each hand that you want to put down on the floor directly behind you.
  • Keeping your chest lifted, send your hips back and bend at your knees. Maintain the weights close to your side and lower until they are ideally mid-shin. Drive through your heels and return to standing keeping your chest lifted.

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, shoulders.

Plank drags throughs

  • Starting in the high plank position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and directly beneath your shoulders. Place the dumbbell directly behind your left hand. 
  • Squeeze your bottom and try to keep your hips parallel to the floor and as stable as possible. Reach your right hand across your body and grab the bar of the dumbbell lifting it slightly off the floor and pulling it across until it's under your right palm.
  • Return your right palm to the floor above the weight, keeping your shoulder above your wrist. This is one rep. Now grab the weight with your left hand and pull across.

Muscles Targeted: Shoulders, Core, Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Triceps.

Why do this workout?

Adding dumbbells to any workout will increase the resistance -  helping them to grow stronger over time. However, building muscles in the leg and core, with either dumbbells or the best kettlebells, will have other benefits too.

When you increase the resistance of your exercise your metabolic rate will be boosted, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) (opens in new tab) - especially for those who work out with weights twice a week. When your metabolic rate is boosted you also burn more calories, resulting in weight loss. 

Another study on German sleepers (opens in new tab) found that strength training resulted in improved levels of sleep. The study, which looked at 23,000 adults' exercise and sleeping patterns found that all participants who took part in resistance based workouts slept better as a result.

Sarah is a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and wellbeing for the BBC, Woman&Home and Tech Radar. During lockdown she found her love of running outside again and now attempts to run around 50 miles a month. When it comes to other fitness, she loves a sweaty cardio session – although since she’s been working out from home she’s sure her downstairs neighbors aren’t too happy about it. She also loves to challenge herself - and has signed up to do hiking holidays, intense bootcamps and last year she went on her dream activity holiday: paddle boarding around deserted islands in Croatia. On her rest days, she loves to recover with a simple yoga flow session – the perfect antidote to her active fitness schedule.