If you are not especially motivated to build a strong, muscular pair of legs, think again. There is nothing worse, and admittedly more hilarious, than a massive, sculpted upper body paired with two hairy sticks on the bottom! Due to the perceived difficulty of successfully training this body part, many bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts tend to neglect leg muscles in their otherwise thorough programs. In reality, building leg mass is hard because it requires great effort, self-discipline and of course, using the most effective exercises that will help you get the maximum out of each session.
Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to spurring new muscle growth in the legs, relying solely on machines just don’t cut it. Barbell moves, on the other hand, will provide the stimulation needed for superb gains and sculpt your core which in turn will allow you to use heavier weight. But there’s a less explored territory in the realm of leg development with seriously underestimated effects – dumbbell leg exercises. Done correctly, these can be super-efficient leg builders that jumpstart the growth process.
Below you’ll find detailed explanations on how to perform five of the most useful dumbbell exercises for leg training and their unique benefits. Easy to incorporate into your leg routine (and if you don’t have one, now it’s the time to create it!), dumbbell leg blasters will give your workout a beneficial diversity and prime your leg muscles for steady growth.
A great alternative to squatting with a bar on your neck, the goblet squat can be especially useful for beginners because it teaches proper squatting posture and technique, and powerfully tones the core and the posterior chain, allowing for a more upright torso. And since it presents a unique challenge to the entire body, it can also be a refreshing change in any advanced bodybuilding program.
To do it right, take the dumbbell with your palms facing up and place your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping the shoulders back and the back straight. Then bend your knees and bring your butt as close to the ground as possible while pushing the chest forward. Squeeze your abs and push through your heels to return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps each.
While all versions of the mighty deadlift will work great for building and toning your legs, the dumbbell deadlift is one of the most underused ones, which is a real shame because this highly effective exercise is the perfect antidote to lagging legs. Among the main muscles activated when performing dumbbell deadlifts are the glutes, hams and core muscles. Yet, since gripping dumbbells is much harder than gripping a barbell, one of the greatest benefits of this dumbbell move is that it will give you a grip of iron.
How to do it? Start by standing feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in front of the hips with the palms facing your thighs. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to keep your spine in a neutral position. Hinge at the hips, then bend your knees and push your butt back while lowering the dumbbells down, along the front of your legs. Pause when your torso is parallel to the ground, then drive through your feet to return to a standing position. At the top, give your glutes a hard squeeze. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps each.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Single-leg moves can definitely be tougher on your leg muscles than their two-legged counterparts, but they allow you to maximally exhaust each leg separately without having the stronger leg compensate for the weaker one, and immensely improve overall balance. The Bulgarian split squat, for example, is an awesome leg blaster that emphasizes the quads and glutes and there’s a good reason why this compound, full-body is a cornerstone of the workout routines of marvelously built bodybuilders.
To begin, take a dumbbell in each hand and step forward with one foot while resting the other on the bench with the top of the foot facing down. Lean forward at a 45-degree angle and place all of your weight on the heel of the front foot, but don’t let the knee go over your toes. Bend the front knee and lower yourself down into a squat, making sure that all of the work is being done by the front leg. Push back up through your heel and reverse the motion to return to standing position. Switch legs and repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.
One-Leg Romanian Deadlift
In addition to frying the glutes, this single-leg deadlift variant intensely targets the hams from the hips, which is really important considering that most standard leg building exercises such as the leg curl work the muscle from the knee joint. Since most people have prominently stronger quads than hams, the latter need to be properly trained in order to achieve muscular balance and prevent injury. And the one-legged Romanian deadlift is the perfect move for building thick, protruding hams. Don’t forget that just like with any other lift, form and technique are crucial.
For best results, start by standing on one leg while holding a relatively heavy dumbbell in the opposite hand, or a lighter dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back flat and core tight. With your chest up and arms straight, slightly bend the knee of your standing leg and lean forward until your body is parallel with the floor or until you feel a decent stretch in your hams, then bring your other leg up behind you. Flex your hams and glutes to reverse the motion and push through your heels to return to the starting position. Be careful not to do the actual lifting with your chest, arms and back. Switch legs and repeat. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps per leg.
Lunges are one of the most versatile exercises there is – you can do them in any direction, with the addition of different equipment, their range of intensity is huge and they provide a complete leg workout. That being said, walking lunges are perhaps the crown jewel among all lunge variants thanks to their functionality, taking the standard lunge to a whole new dynamic level that can help you build immense leg strength. Although there are many ways to incorporate them in your routine, walking lunges are ideal as finishers to any type of leg workout. In this program, you’ll be doing high-reps of this classic move to get that deep burn in your quads and glutes.
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Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand and take a step forward with one foot. Bend the knee of the front leg to lower your torso toward the floor but make sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes. Stop right before your rear knee touches the floor, then drive through the heel of the front foot to return to a standing position. Keep your core engaged all throughout the movement. Switch legs and repeat. Perform 3 sets of 15-20 reps per leg.