It’s tempting to rely on slamming gym machines and heavy dumbbells on leg day, but you can use much lighter equipment and still challenge yourself – as this simple leg workout proves. use only dumbbell exercises. This six-move routine was designed by personal trainer Cian O’Reilly, who is a huge advocate for glute exercises.
“Your glutes are crucial when performing lower body exercises,” she says. “They are part of your ‘core network’, so building the strength of these muscles is paramount to protecting you from injury and promoting safe movements, such as when doing squats, for example.”
She advises that this workout is for people with a bit of experience with weights, but it can be modified for all levels. If you’re having trouble doing an exercise or aren’t sure your form is on point, try dropping the dumbbell and completing the lift with just your body weight. You’ll also find plenty of beginner-friendly moves with our selection of the best leg exercises and glute exercises for all levels.
The exercises target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, with the glutes and quads picking up most of the work during the concentric (lifting) phase of the movement. We recommend doing this glute workout at home first to activate the muscles before adding weight.
You’ll need a pair of dumbbells (shop our recommendations for the best dumbbells to outfit your home with) and a box or bench.
There are several ways to turn these dumbbell leg exercises into a workout. O’Reilly suggests a superset circuit format. Perform all reps of exercise one, then all reps of exercise two, then rest for 30 seconds. Proceed to exercises three and four and use the same format. Take 60 seconds of rest after exercises five and six. It’s a circuit. Complete four circuits in total.
If you’re short on time, try doing each exercise as a circuit for 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest for four rounds.
Representatives 8-10 Rest 0sec
Stand facing a knee-high box or bench, holding dumbbells by your side. Put one foot on the box. Your toes or the top of your foot can rest on the box.
Keeping your back straight and making sure your front knee goes no further than your toes, bend your front knee to lower yourself. Drive through your front foot to stand for one rep. Do all your reps on one side and then switch legs.
The depth of your squat will depend on your range of motion, but aim for a 90° bend in your front knee. Try to avoid turning your back knee during the descent – keep your hips straight. You can progress the exercise by explosively pressing up to add a small jump.
2 Crouching Frog
Representatives 10-12 Rest 30sec
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing at 45°. Bend forward at the hips and bend the knees in a low squat position; your back should be straight with your shoulders pulled back and your buttocks low. Hook your elbows inside your knees to keep them from collapsing inward and hold a dumbbell with both hands. Slowly tilt your chest towards the floor and lift your butt without fully extending your knees, then return to your starting position for one repetition.
Continue in a rocking motion.
Representatives 8-10 Rest 0sec
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing at 45°, with the dumbbells on the floor between your feet.
Hinge forward at the hips and push your butt back, while keeping your chest up and back flat, and bend your knees to reach and grab the dumbbells. Engage your core, move your shoulders back and down, then squeeze your glutes and cross your heels to stand for one rep.
Push your hips forward when standing, but not too far or you’ll overstretch. Avoid any rounding of your spine.
4 Buttock bridge with butterfly abduction
Representatives 8-10 Rest 30sec
Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together, heels close to your buttocks, and knees apart to the sides. Tilt your pelvis toward your spine to flatten your lower back and place a dumbbell on your hips.
Engage your core and glutes, then push through the sides of your feet to lift your hips until you form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees; you should feel your outer glutes engage. Pause at the top, then slowly come back down.
To progress this exercise, place your feet on a box or bench to create a deficit and increase your spine’s range of motion. Try to keep your hips lifted at the top of the movement to avoid pressure on your lower back.
Representatives 8-10 on each side Rest 0sec
Stand in front of a box or bench at knee height, holding dumbbells. Engage your core, then place your right foot on the box and push yourself up to bring your left foot onto the box. Come down overhead with your right leg for one rep. Repeat on the other side. To progress in this exercise, choose a higher surface to walk on.
Representatives 8-10 Rest 60sec
Stand facing a box or bench, holding a heavy pair of dumbbells close to your chest. Shift your weight to your right leg and begin to lift your left leg in front of you as if doing a pistol squat. Bend your right knee to lower your butt onto the box. Step on your right foot, keeping your left leg lifted, to stand for one rep. Do all your reps on one side, then switch legs.