Training legs often require lots of different equipment making it hard to do the same leg workout in two different gyms. The ultimate dumbbells leg workout only requires dumbbells and a bench/elevated surface, making it doable in every gym and the perfect leg workout at home.
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The muscles worked
The major muscles in our legs include glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, all crucial for both aesthetics and functionality.
The glutes, which consist of three muscles, are what we often refer to as the butt or booty. It’s responsible for both internal and external rotation in the hips amongst other things. Having well-developed glutes can reduce the risk of hip and back injuries.
The hamstrings are placed on the back of the leg, from the glutes to the back of the knee. It’s responsible for extending the hips and flexing the knees.
Thequadriceps, often called quads, are placed at the front of your leg and are responsible for extending the knee.
The calves are placed on the backside of your lower legs and are responsible for push-off when stepping and stabilizing the feet. The calves are for many the most difficult muscle to grow making it a muscle often skipped. Sure genetics plays a part but consistency and good technique are often the real reason why they won’t grow.
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Dumbbells leg exercises
Dumbbell leg exercises are great for building size and strength on their own but can also be used to support your heavier barbell lifts such as back squats and deadlifts.
The goblet squat works the major muscles in the legs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves and is a great exercise to work on your mobility. It puts less tension on the lower back reducing the risk of back injuries.
How to do the goblet squat
- Hold a dumbbell with your palms up in front of your chest.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Engage your core and slowly go down into a squat
- Go down to a bit below 90 degrees and hold for a second. Make sure to keep your core tight.
- Return to the starting position as fast as possible without compromising the technique.
Think about pushing the floor away from you during the exercise. This will allow you to open up your hip and go deeper.
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Romanian deadlift with dumbbells
The Romanian deadlift with dumbbells is a great exercise for the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It teaches us how to hinge the hip correctly which can be used to safely lift heavier weights in squat and deadlift.
How to do the Romanian deadlift with dumbbells
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards you.
- Engage your core and pull your shoulder blades together and down.
- Hinge your hips backward and lower the weights towards the ground. Keep your knees slightly bend and your back straight. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings if done correctly.
- Stop a bit below the knees and hold for a second.
- Reverse the movement and squeeze your glutes at the top. Be careful not to push your hips forwards or lose the core.
A common mistake when people do Romanian deadlifts is keeping your eyes on yourself in the mirror while going down. This puts unnecessary strain on your neck and makes it harder to keep your back straight.
Keep your neck in a neutral position during the whole lift and allow yourself to look away from the mirror for a while.
Dumbbell hip thrust
The dumbbell hip thrust is another great exercise for building both strength and size at your posterior chain with an emphasis on the glutes. Having strong glutes will reduce the risk of injury, especially in the lower back and hips.
How to do the dumbbell hip thrust
- Sit against a bench or something else you can use to elevate yourself. It should be just below your shoulder blades when sitting down. Hold a dumbbell on top of your hips.
- Engage your core, tuck in your chin, and look up, towards the ceiling.
- Draw your knees in and extend your hips until your knees create a 90-degree angle.
- Squeeze your glutes and hold for a second before returning to the starting position.
A common mistake when doing the dumbbell hip thrust is not going through the full range of motion to lift heavier weights. While you will be able to lift heavier doing half reps, you won’t be able to activate your glutes properly.
You’ll be able to further engage your glutes by pointing your toes slightly outwards.
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Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is working all the major muscles in the leg with an emphasis on quads. It’s known as one of the most painful dumbbell leg exercises but also one of the most effective.
It’s a unilateral movement which makes it great for making up for strength and size differences.
How to do the Bulgarian split squat
- Stand with one foot on a bench and the other foot lunged around 50 cm (20 inches) forwards while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your core should be engaged and your hips squared.
- Bend the front knee and slowly lower yourself until your front thigh is almost parallel with the floor.
- Drive up through the front leg while contracting the quad.
Experiment with the distance between your front leg and the bench before doing your first real set and find the right distance for you. Prioritize technique over weight to avoid injuries.
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Dumbbell calf raises
The dumbbell calf raises works the calves and are the last exercise in the ultimate dumbbells leg workout.
Calves are often forgotten or just skipped in the gym because of the belief that they’re impossible to grow. But with correct technique, everything is possible.
How to do the dumbbell calf raises
- Stand with your toes and balls of your feet on a weight plate or another elevated surface with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Raise your heels as high as possible, pressing through the balls of your feet.
- Hold for a second before reversing the movement. Stop when you feel a stretch in your calves or just before you touch the ground.
- You’ve done one rep.
The key to training calves is being extremely strict with technique. Pick a weight heavy enough to challenge yourself but light enough to keep a nice technique.
Doing this in the tempo 2-1-2-1 can help you grow your calves faster. The 2-1-2-1 means that you should use 2 seconds when going up or down and hold for 1 second both at the top and bottom. It might be more challenging but the results will follow.
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The ultimate dumbbells leg workout
The ultimate dumbbells leg workout is great for building both size and strength using only dumbbells. It can be done no matter the lifting experience.
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Training legs with dumbbells is a great alternative to barbells and machines for building big and strong legs. The exercises can either be used as the program above or as a substitute for some of the exercises in your current workout.