Dumbbell exercises do not have to be less effective when it comes to building your legs – as long as you choose the right dumbbell leg exercises. In this video, I will show you the best dumbbell exercises for legs that will hit your quads, hips, glutes and hamstrings. As always in this series, I’m showing you which moves are best for the different training goals you might be shooting for.
I will cover the best exercises for building strength, muscle hypertrophy, power, metabolic overload, a total body option, corrective movements and a specialized exercise for the outer hips and lower back.
First up, we cover strength. Here, is is always most challenging to find exercises for the legs since the most effective and utilized leg movements for building strength are done with a barbell; namely the squat and deadlift. That doesn’t mean however that you cannot build strength with dumbbells if you choose the right exercise. The dumbbell reverse lunge is great at doing this while at the same time protecting the knees.
Make sure that you keep your torso upright while stepping back and out to keep a wide base of support and not let poor balance undermine your ability to use this to progressively overload. For the posterior chain you would perform a Romanian Deadlift. The key here is to mimic the movement path of the bar as you would on a traditional RDL and keep the tension and driver of the exercise as the glutes and hamstrings.
For hypertrophy there is no better dumbbell exercise for legs than the Bulgarian Split Squat. The fact that you can either front load the exercise to better hit the quads by standing upright or back load the exercise to better hit the glutes by leaning forward, gives you a great option and flexibility here as well. The best part about this leg exercise is that it also allows for intensification techniques to be added, like one and a half reps, that can further induce overload and muscle growth.
For power, I love the dumbbell jump squat. The exercise trains triple extension through the ankles, knees and hips and is a great precursor to performing the power clean, hang clean and even the squat clean shown later in this video as the total body option. Make sure to land soft and eccentrically load through your quads, reset and perform the next rep with precision and quality. When training for power it isn’t about training to failure or fatigue but producing a limited amount of highly precise reps.
Speaking of the total body movement, my pick here is the dumbbell squat clean. This is great because it requires you to lift the dumbbells from the floor and clean them. You can add an additional press overhead if desired to involve even more upper body and make this an even better total body movement.
The metabolic dumbbell exercise of choice is a killer. This is called Walk the Box. This is something that I did when the USO’s and Sheamus from the WWE came in for a lower body workout and it brought them to their knees, literally. The idea here is that you want to train to metabolic fatigue and find a way to resist the burn for as long as you can. The buildup of metabolites creates a chemical stimulus for muscle growth that is dependent on exploring this type of brutal but effective training.
For the correctives and specialized dumbbell exercise categories we want to target the hip complexes. One from the outside in and the other from the inside out. The adductor muscles are hit incredibly well with the Goblet Adductor Lunge shown. Make sure that all of the work to get back to the standing position is being done by the muscles on the inside of your leg. On the offset lunge, make sure you keep your pelvis level and stable to make the glute medius do all the work.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to build bigger better legs without having to throw in the towel if all you have is dumbbells. This is one of the benefits of training like an athlete. When you know why you’re training the way you are, then you can expand your exercise repertoire to include dumbbell exercises for legs that will still get the job done. If you’re looking for a complete training program that puts every workout in your hands step by step, head to the link below.
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