10 Best Dumbbell Leg Exercises For Lower Body and Full Body Workouts

Dumbbell leg work should be a large part of most lower body strength and conditioning programme. With this list of exercises you’ll be able to create a diverse lower body workout routine that used all the key movement patterns available to the lower body within strength training.

5 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
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In This Resource
  • Benefits Of Leg Training With Dumbbells
  • Unilateral Training
  • Easy Skill Acquisition
  • Less Overall Fatigue, More Local Muscle Fatigue
  • Huge Variety of Exercises
  • Movement Patterns For Training Legs
  • Hinge Exercises
  • Squat Exercises
  • Hip Dominant Exercises
  • Training Consideration
  • Sets and Reps
  • Handling Positions
  • Side or Suitcase
  • Goblet
  • Further Reading
  • References

No they are not used as the primary lifts most of the time as they cannot overload a movement pattern as effectively as the barbell or landmine can. That being said they are on of the most effective tools for building muscle and strength in the lower body due to the volume that can be created.

Dumbbell leg workouts are an excellent way to improve both health and fitness especially when combined with other forms of resistance training that require you to move your full body.

When most people think about lower body training they just think about leg exercises like squats with weight. But a complete lower body workout will include hinge movements and hip dominant exercises. These lower body moves come together to create a very effective dumbbell leg workout.

Benefits Of Leg Training With Dumbbells

Unilateral Training

Dumbbells are an excellent way to add unilateral training into your workouts. Unilateral training is great for both leg strength and stability, with exercises like Bulgarian split squats and dumbbell walking lunges being some of the most effective lower body unilateral variations.

Easy Skill Acquisition

Dumbbell reverse lunges, walking lunges and goblet squats all require low skill sets and can be done by the vast majority of individuals. This should make them a go to variation for beginners who want to overload the leg muscles without having to worry about too much technical development.

Less Overall Fatigue, More Local Muscle Fatigue

As dumbbells don’t load the spine like some of the barbell exercises that have very similar movement paths, dumbbell variations create a lot less central nervous fatigue. However they are very effective at generating high levels of local muscle fatigue, making them excellent at creating adaptations in the leg muscles.

Huge Variety of Exercises

Consistent training often comes from enjoying the training experience. A lot of people enjoy varied workouts and dumbbells offer a large amount of movement variety. This makes them a very valuable tool in your tool kit when designing your training plans.

Movement Patterns For Training Legs

Let’s break down the different types of movements that can be used when using dumbbells to grow the glutes.

Hinge Exercises

These will be used to build and strengthen the hamstring muscles in the legs.

Squat Exercises

Squats are probably the most well rounded lower body exercises in the sense that adaptation occurs in all muscle groups.

Hip Dominant Exercises

These exercises work predominantly the glute muscles and do not have that many variations that can be done with them. That being said the exercises that are available are very beneficial within an all dumbbell training regime.

Training Consideration

Sets and Reps

The process of building strong and muscular legs is all about getting a large amount of volume through the movement patterns above. If you can consistently train each movement pattern for between 6-12 sets per week, you will build strong and muscular legs. If you would like more information about training volume have a read through the study referenced below by Brad Jon Schoenfeld, Jozo Grgic & James Krieger. For more practical and bodybuilding style training read through the industry leaders advice on the topic at RP Strength.

Handling Positions

One major benefit of the dumbbell is how easy it is to hold. The ability to be held out front or on the side allows us to create a huge number of exercises. Two different handling positions are predominately used for dumbbell strength exercises.

Side or Suitcase


Further Reading

Each dumbbell exercise seen in this list can be reviewed in more detail if you click through to the exercises page. We also have a full exercise library for people looking to find new exercises and build their own workouts. These can help you raise the level of your training to new heights or get you back to previous levels of performance.


  • Brad Jon Schoenfeld, Jozo Grgic & James Krieger (2019) How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency, Journal of Sports Sciences, 37:11, 1286-1295, DOI:  10.1080/02640414.2018.1555906
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    This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

    Sean Klein


    Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

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