When aiming to buff up, we often focus too heavily on the upper body and overlook the legs. They just don’t quite give the same wow factor for our appearance.

But unless you want to look like an inverted triangle, it’s just as important to focus on working out the legs.

Strong legs not only give an overall balanced appearance, but they are also vital for full-body strength. While your standard squats and lunges are a great way to work out the lower half of your body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, sometimes they don’t just quite cut it.

Adding a set of dumbbells to your leg workouts enables you to take your workout sessions to the next level. If you’re up for the challenge, here are some of the best leg workouts with dumbbells to try.

But first, let's quickly take an anatomy lesson and learn about the main muscles in your legs you will need to target.

Leg Muscle Anatomy

Leg workouts strengthen the five major muscle groups, which support daily functional fitness and provide power, stability, and balance. They include:

Quadriceps: these are large muscles at the front of your thighs and are one of the strongest muscle groups in the body. They help you straighten and stabilize your knees, flex your hips, absorb force, and power leg movement.

Hamstrings: these are the large muscles at the back of your thighs. They work with your glutes (buttock) to bend your legs, extend your hips, and straighten your legs.

Adductors: these are an important group of muscles located on your inner thighs. They work to bring your legs forward, flex your hips, stabilize your knees, and support rotation of the thighs.

Abductors: you’ve guessed it! These are opposite to the adductors and are located outside your thighs. They help you pull your legs out and away from the midline of your body and provide important stabilization.

Calves: these are found in the lower leg and run from the back of your knee to your ankle. They are involved in any movement that uses the feet, such as walking, running, or extending, as well as providing stability to the ankle.

The leg exercises listed below are great for targeting all the muscles in the legs and the glutes. All you need to get started are a pair of dumbbells and your determination!

Bulgarian Split Squat

This leg workout is great for strengthening and building the muscles on your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. The Bulgarian split squat can help improve balance, stability, and coordination by targeting one leg at a time.

How to do it:

Start by standing two feet from a bench, facing away, with a dumbbell in each hand.

Reach one foot back to rest it on the bench.

Bend your knees and lower your body as far as you can. Keep your body and chest back, and don’t hunch.

Pause here and then push back into the starting position.

Repeat until you have completed the desired number of reps, and then switch sides.

Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a great full-body workout that targets your quads, calves, and glutes while also strengthening your core, arms, and grip.

How to do it:

Start by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed outwards.

Use both hands to hold one dumbbell in line with your chest.

Engage your core and lower down into a squat, keeping a flat back.
Hold for 5-10 seconds and then return to starting position then repeat.

Calf Raise

As the name suggests, this one is great for exercising those calf muscles! Strong calves are more important than you might think. They help power any leg movements and also protect the ankle from injury.

How to do it:

Use a step or any raised surface that’s no more than 3 inches off the ground. Place your toes and balls of your feet on the raised surface and rest your heels on the floor, with a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.

Use your calf strength to lift your heels off the ground as far as possible.
Hold for a few seconds and then lower back down.


Lateral Lunge

Exercising one leg at a time is an effective way of building your balance and strength.

By working on one side at a time, you can target your weaker side and help prevent muscle imbalances from developing. Lateral lunges target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings - a solid combo for strong thighs!

How to do it:

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.

Step to the side with one foot and bend your knee to lower down until your knee and hip are at a 90-degree angle.

Keep your arms and left leg straight and lower them with you.
Straighten the bent leg and shift your weight onto the other foot to return to your starting position.

Repeat on both sides.

Dumbbell Step-Ups

Step-ups combined with dumbbells are a great way to add an extra challenge to your workouts. This exercise mainly targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings and is excellent for improving hip mobility.

How to do it:

Stand behind a bench or surface suitable for holding your weight, with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.

Step one of your feet onto the surface, straighten your leg, and follow with the other foot until you are standing on it.

Lower the same foot back down to the floor first and then the other.
Repeat, alternating which foot leads.

Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift is a fantastic exercise for working out the whole posterior chain, including the back, glutes, and hamstrings. Standard deadlifts don’t strain your legs much, but this variation kicks your hamstrings into gear!

How to do it:

Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and a soft bend in your knees. Hold a dumbbell at your side in each hand.

Push your hips back, keeping a flat back, and squeeze your shoulder blades.
Lower the dumbbells until they reach just past your knees.

Push through your heels and glutes to return to the starting position.


Leg workouts are just as important as working out the upper body. Neglecting your lower half during your workouts can cause imbalances in the body and will not achieve a well–rounded muscular physical appearance.

Spice up your workouts by including a number of these dumbbell leg exercises, and those chicken legs should grow in no time.