Ditch the squat rack — this 4-move workout builds strength and sculpts lower body muscle with just a pair of dumbbells

a woman performing a dumbbell lateral lunge
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The squat rack isn't the only piece of exercise equipment that will help you build a stronger lower body. Dumbbell only workouts are a perfect substitute if you can't get your hands on a barbell or if you simply don't like working with this type of weight. Get to know these four dumbbell exercises for your next lower body pump.

Working with a standard pair of dumbells or a pair of the best adjustable dumbbells is a great way to work with a wide range of exercises that target all the major muscle groups in the lower body, such as lunges, goblet squats, glute bridges and Romanian deadlifts.

The workout we are about to share with you below is a perfect example of this. It comes from popular online fitness trainer Kayla Itsines and with demonstrations from the trainer herself to show you how it's done. Let's take a look.

What is the dumbbell only lower body workout?

So you only have four exercises to perform with your pair of dumbbells but, the challenge is to complete three rounds of the routine in total.

Below we've outlined how many reps you will need to perform of each move and you'll also find video demonstrations in the post below to help you nail great form throughout.

  1. Romanian Deadlift: 12 reps
  2. Lateral Lunge: 16 reps (8 each side)
  3. Curtsy Lunge: 16 reps (8 each side)
  4. Glute Bridge: 20 reps

The variety of movements included in this lower body targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, inner and outer thighs, and core — which is ideal if you are working toward developing balanced muscle growth in this section of your body.

The exercises in this routine will help to enhance functional strength. For example, the inclusion of moves like lateral and curtsy lunges, in particular, helps enhance lateral movement and hip mobility, contributing to better balance and coordination. If you aren't familiar with the term functional strength, it's essentially what betters your ability to perform everyday activities with ease. 

Unlike larger weight training equipment you find in the gym, dumbbells are much simpler to handle and can be used in a variety of settings, whether that be training in a gym or at home. Their smaller size and shape allow for a greater range of motion, which can help engage muscles more fully. Dumbbells will also provide constant tension and resistance throughout the full range of motion and help to build muscle tone and definition in the lower body.

Additionally, resistance training with dumbbells will allow you to gradually increase the weight as you go, making it easier to apply the principle of progressive overload, which is essential for muscle growth and toning. If you continue to progressively increase the weight or the number of repetitions over time, your muscles will be consistently challenged, leading to increased strength, size and definition.

If you want to further your strength and muscle gains in the lower body beyond this routine then you should aim to incorporate principles like progressive overload, vary your workouts, and focus on proper nutrition and rest.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.