You only need these 6 dumbbell moves to sculpt your lower body

a photo of a woman doing a reverse lunge with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty/Josh Manore)

As a fitness editor, there’s nothing I love or loathe more than a leg workout — the kind of workout that makes walking down the stairs the next day a struggle. With this in mind, I’m always on the lookout for a leg finisher to add to the end of my strength session, and fitness trainer Aubrie Edgington has found one that’s bound to get your heart rate up. Read on to find out more. 

The workout uses a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and six exercises to work the lower body. “This is perfect for when you’re short on time, are at home, need a workout finisher, or just want to get that heart rate up and burn out those [legs]!” Aubrie writes. When it comes to selecting the right weight, you should grab a set of dumbbells that feel challenging by the final few reps, without compromising your form. 

As a reminder, if you’re new to exercise, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to ask a personal trainer to check your form before adding weight or reps. Moving with bad form can put you at risk of injury. If at any point this workout feels too intense, lower the weight of your dumbbells, or continue with just your body weight. 

Aubrie Edgington’s brutal leg workout 

This workout follows a pyramid format, where you start doing 30 reps of each exercise, then 20 reps, then 15 reps, then 10 reps, then 5. Aubrie recommends you take a minute or two to rest between rounds. 

Ready to get started? Here are the six exercises to try: 

Reverse lunge press: To do a reverse lunge press, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and step one leg back behind you, keeping your hips square to the wall in front of you. Bend your back knee and aim it towards the floor, letting your front knee bend to around a 90-degree angle as you lower yourself. Keep your front knee aligned with the center of your foot, and your front heel firmly planted. Once you’ve reached the end of your range, press through your front heel to stand tall again, and step forward with your back leg to the starting position. At the top of the movement, press both dumbbells up towards the ceiling, then lunge on the opposite side. 

RDL, clean, squat: For this exercise, hold a dumbbell in each hand and do a Romanian deadlift (here’s how to do a Romanian deadlift and the modifications to try). As you stand back up, do a dumbbell clean to lift the dumbbells up to your shoulders, then squeezing your core, squat down.  

Jump squat: Holding one dumbbell against your chest, squat down, and then jump back up to your starting position. As you land from the jump, squat again. This one is tough, and if you find it too difficult, feel free to drop the dumbbell and just use your body weight. 

Curtsy lunge: To do a curtsy lunge, start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and step your right leg back behind your left leg. As you do so, bend your knees and lower your body down until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your torso straight for the entire exercise. Stand and return to your starting position before repeating on the other side. Hold your dumbbells on your shoulders for the entire workout. 

Pulse squat: With a dumbbell in each hand against your shoulders, squat down. At the bottom of the squat, pulse a few times before raising back to your starting position. 

Shuffle lunge: The good news? You won’t need your dumbbells for this exercise. The bad news? It’ll send your heart rate soaring. Almost like a jump lunge, for this exercise perform a lunge on one leg, then as you rise back up shuffle jump your legs back and forth, before lunging on the other side. 

This workout targets the muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Building a powerful lower body can help you improve your overall fitness, and increase your endurance in a number of different sports. Plus, working on your leg strength can help improve muscle imbalances, and help you avoid injuries. 

This workout also follows a reverse pyramid training style, as you reduce the number of reps each set. As the workout gets slightly easier as you go, you can really push yourself each round, knowing the next one will be fewer reps. If you want a real challenge, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells as the reps lower, but either way, this workout challenges your lower body by improving your endurance. 

As with all strength training, this workout can help you grow strong muscles in your legs, but it’s important to prioritize rest and recovery to allow the muscles to repair. Investing in one of the best massage guns or the best foam rollers can help.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Check out these core 5 dumbbell exercises to build muscle mass, strength and power, plus read what happened when our fitness editor did 100 goblet squats a day for a week.  

Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.