Forget the gym — you only need 1 pair of dumbbells and 5 moves to build stronger legs

Man performing a dumbbell push press with dumbbell on his shoulder in a squat position
(Image credit: Getty images)

Your legs house some of the body's largest and strongest muscles, so building and maintaining lower-body strength is absolutely worth your time. There's lots of gym equipment that can help, but you can simplify your approach and work with just a pair of dumbbells to effectively build strength and muscle in your legs.

Granted you have access to some dumbbells, whether that be in your local gym or perhaps you own your own set of the best adjustable dumbbells, you are all set to try this lower body session. 

The workout comes from fitness trainer The London Fitness Guy on Instagram, and aims to target multiple muscle groups in the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and adductors.

Depending on where your fitness levels are at, don't start with too heavy a weight to begin with. It's easily done setting off with a big weight to begin with and then noticing your form and muscle stamina give in before the end of your reps.

So, start low and then allow yourself to move up the weight as you get more comfortable with the routine.

What is the five-move dumbbell leg workout?

There are five exercises to familiarise yourself with and among the selection of lower body moves are a mix of compound and isolation exercises. The aim is to complete 12-15 reps of each move and strive for three to four sets. 

  1. Sumo squat
  2. Lunge & knee drive
  3. Lateral lunge
  4. Glute bridge
  5. Romanian deadlift

As this workout combines a mixture of compound and isolation exercises, it aims to enhance overall lower body strength and muscle growth while addressing specific muscle groups. 

In the isolation vs compound exercise debate, more often than not, compound comes out top trumps, as they engage multiple muscles at once, which is very helpful when you need an efficient, effective workout. Compound moves in this dumbbell routine include the RDL, lunge and knee drive and sumo squat. 

However, the inclusion of glute bridges and lateral lunges (which are a bit of a hybrid between the two) will play a key role in the development of leg strength, helping to refine muscle activation and growth in more specific regions of your lower body.

Looking at the repetition range recommended by Stirling for this routine, performing 12-15 reps for each exercise should challenge your muscles to a good degree and stimulate hypertrophy. 

If you tackle all four sets you're going to want to allow your legs at least 48 hours of rest before training them again. You can still move around but it's a good idea to prioritize more gentle movements such as walking, swimming or completing a short stretching routine.

If muscle growth is what you want to achieve in your lower body, then it is worth looking into increasing the weight, reps, or sets of the exercises and applying progressive overload, which is a fundamental principle for muscle growth. 

While leg day is crucial for building lower body strength and muscle, it's equally important to incorporate exercises targeting other muscle groups, like your upper body and core, into your strength training program for balance and functionality.

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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.