Forget the gym — you can do this 15-minute leg workout at home with just one dumbbell

woman holding a dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty/SrdjanPav)

When it comes to powering up your lower body, there are a couple of classic leg exercises that are hard to beat — the squat and the deadlift. Whatever else your leg workout involves, if you’re doing those two moves as part of it then you can be sure you’re getting an effective session in.

This 15-minute leg workout created by fitness trainer Caroline Girvan and posted on her YouTube channel goes heavy on the squats in particular, with the first four moves in the session all being squat variations.

All of the exercises can be done with one or two dumbbells, with Girvan herself using one 25kg weight. If you don’t have a dumbbell you can also sub in one of the best kettlebells, or Girvan even suggests filled water bottles would be a good substitute if you don’t have any weights at home.

What is the dumbbell leg workout?

There are five exercises in the workout, and you’ll be doing three rounds of each of them before moving onto the next one. You work for 40 seconds and rest for 20 for a total of 15 minutes, before a challenging sumo squat finisher.

With all of the moves being compound lifts that enlist the major muscle groups in the lower body you will be able to use a fairly heavy weight. That said, given the amount of squats you’ll be doing in particular it might be worth having a lighter option you can switch to when your muscles start burning.

Or you can use a set of adjustable dumbbells and change the weight on them as and when required. The first move in the workout is a high squat where Girvan has her heels elevated, something you can replicate by standing on a step, or you can just perform regular squats.

Heel-elevated squats allow you to go deeper into the squat and can help you to keep your back straight and torso upright. The heel-elevated squat also targets the quads more, but you’ll be working the same muscles with the squat whether your heels are raised or not, so go with whatever feels best to you.

Both the squat and the deadlift are highly-effective exercises for building strength and muscle in the lower-body, and a workout like this is also great for your cardiovascular fitness, because your heart will be pumping owing to the short rests and fast pace.

It’s important to nail your form with both the squat and the deadlift to do them safely and effectively, so pay close attention to Girvan’s instructions. You can also read our guides on how to squat and how to deadlift to get pointers on technique

Back to Dumbbells
Any Price
Showing 3 of 3 deals
Nick Harris-fry
Senior Writer

Nick Harris-fry is an experienced health and fitness journalist, writing professionally since 2012. He spent nine years working on the Coach magazine and website before moving to the fitness team at Tom’s Guide in 2024. Nick is a keen runner and also the founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers, which specialises in reviewing running shoes, watches, headphones and other gear.

Nick ran his first marathon in 2016 after six weeks of training for a magazine feature and subsequently became obsessed with the sport. He now has PBs of 2hr 27min for the marathon and 15min 30sec for 5K, and has run 13 marathons in total, as well as a 50-mile ultramarathon.

He runs 50-80 miles a week and races regularly with his club, which gives him a lot of opportunity to test out running gear: he has tested and reviewed hundreds of pairs of running shoes, as well as fitness trackers, running watches, sports headphones, treadmills, and all manner of other kit. Nick is also a qualified Run Leader in the UK.