Wondering about dumbbell leg exercises? I am not a big fan of leg workout with dumbbells.

Yes I do calf raises and sometimes lunges, and that's pretty much it, and you?

First things first, which leg exercises can we do with dumbbells?

Dumbbell Exercises SquatHere is the full list:

  • Dumbbell Squat
  • Dumbbell Lunges
  • Step Ups
  • Deadlifts/Stiff Leg Deadlifts
  • Calf Raises

Dumbbell Leg Exercises

Dumbbell Squat

Let's start from the one that I don't like...dumbbell squat. I have to tell you, I don't even bother doing it, but it's a dumbbell leg exercise, some people like, so I list it here.

Why don't I like it? Amongst all the dumbbell leg exercises, this is the most dangerous, together with deadlifts.

Think of this, if you weigh 180 pounds it is safe to expect that with some training you can squat with 180 pounds.

The olympic barbell is 45 pounds. That's a total of 225 pounds that you lift each rep.

Try to do the same with dumbbells now. Each dumbbell would have to be 112.5 lbs!


It's insane to think of holding two huge dumbbells for 10 reps or so. You can seriously damage your forearms tendons or sprain muscles. plus you'd lose the feeling in your fingers for a while.

It happened to me by doing deadlifts.

Also, your hands are going to get tired long before your legs are. That means you have to stop before you really stress your leg muscles.

Anyway, if you just want to warm up your legs, or if your purpose is to tone leg muscles...yes, dumbbell squat can be an option.

I see many ladies doing it, most times using kettlebells.

The correct form is the following.

Place your feet shoulder width apart, tiptoes slightly pointing outside. And place two dumbbells beside your feet so that when you grab them your palms face your body.

Squat down keeping your back rigid and grab the dumbbells. Your knees should never go beyond the tiptoes to preserve your ankles and avoid sprains.

To do that, you should really try to push your hips back (which also means bend forward).

Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Squat Profile

It is very important to keep your heels on the ground the whole time, and pushing your hips back allows you to do so. One of the most common squat mistakes is that people lift their heels and push with the front part of their feet.

That's because they have the wrong balance, they don't push their hips back and their knees often go beyond the tiptoes.

I suggest to try the movement without weights until you learn the exact form, before you do this type of dumbbell leg exercises.

Anyway, back to the movement, I like to lift the dumbbells and bring them on my shoulders. It's just a preference, I like to replicate the same exercise that is usually done with a barbell.

Start pushing up (push on the heels) and extend your legs, and in the last phase of the movement, bring your back to an upright position. This is the final position.

Some do dumbbell squat in a different way. They keep their arms extended, so the weights "slide" on their legs.

It's up to you to decide which one works better for you.

Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Squat Start
Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Squat Finish

Dumbbell Lunges

Lunges is the second best of the dumbbell leg exercises because it's a very complete workout.

The initial position consists of being in upright position holding the dumbbells with extended arms.

Then you start with one leg, step forward and kneel down when the leg behind, keeping your back upright. This is the negative phase of the exercise.

From there, return to the initial position.

Then repeat with the other leg.

Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Lunges Start
Dumbbell Leg Exercises -kneel down
Dumbbell Leg Exercises -back upright

Note: once you start you'll probably wonder how wide the step should be. On general basis, both knees should form a 90 degree angle.

You noticed that I step forward and return to the initial position. You can also bring the back leg forward instead, and then repeat with the other leg. This is basically a walk. The pictures above just show you how to do lunges without moving forward.

Dumbbell Step Ups

Step ups can be considered a different form of lunges, where instead of kneeling down, you literally...step up.

If you have a flat bench, great, otherwise stepper, stairs, a small stool...or anything can serve the purpose.

The initial position is upright holding two dumbbells in front of the bench or stool.

Move one foot on the stepper and then step up with the other foot, always keeping the back rigid. Then step back down and repeat with the other leg.

Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Step Up Start
Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Step Up Middle
Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Step Up Finish

Deadlifts/Stiff Leg Deadlifts

Deadlifts and stiff leg deadlifts are both in the dumbbell leg exercises and back exercises because they work the following muscles:


  • quads
  • glutes
  • hamstrings
  • lower back muscles

Stiff Leg Deadlifts:

  • hamstrings
  • lower back muscles

Please see Deadlifts and Stiff Leg Deadlifts in Dumbbell Back Exercises.

Calf Raises

Calf raises, amongst the dumbbell leg exercises, is the one that I do more often. It's a very simple exercise to describe.

Same initial position, upright holding two dumbbells, feet a few inches apart.

Simply push up with your calves, as much as you can, and return to the initial position.

Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Calf Raise Start
Dumbbell Leg Exercises - Calf Raise Finish

Looking to Buy Dumbbells? Here Some Ideas

I realize that not everybody can have a set of N dumbbells at home, because the truth is...they take a lot of room. That's why, if you're looking to buy dumbbells to use at home, I strongly recommend the following types. My favourites are the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells, even though I have different types. In fact, they're not the only ones out there. For example I have a different type of adjustable dumbbells, those where you add the plates to obtain the desired weight. I prefer the Bowflex dumbbells because you can change the weight in one "click". I had a chance to use the last model I showed you when I trained in a hotel gym...here is the actual pair I used:


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