A leg routine at home with limited weights can be tough. I have been asked about getting a good workout with just dumbbells available. I recommend still doing the basic exercises you would do at the gym like squats, lunges and dead lifts but with slight differences to use dumbbells instead of a barbell.
As with most exercises when trying to develop definition, do 3 – 4 sets of 8 – 12 reps each. The only difference will be for dead lifts and hamstring curls where you will do 10 – 12 reps.
Leg Routine Part 1 – Squats
There are three forms that work well. Regular dumbbell squats are done with the weights held one in each hand beside you as you go down to at least a 90 degree angle in your legs. Goblet squats are much the same except the position of the weight. Hold a dumbbell in front of your upper chest with both hands when doing the squat. This is very much like a front squat. The Bulgarian split squat is a one-legged squat done with your back leg on a bench as you squat with the front leg only. Check the link for a complete description and picture.
Leg Routine Part 2 – Lunges
There are four versions. Regular lunges are described in a previous article. Reverse lunges are done by moving in the opposite direction. Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing you. Place one foot back and lower your body until both knees form a 90 degree angle. Pause and push yourself upright.
Stationary Lunges are done in the same way as reverse lunges except your feet do not move from their positions. Keep one foot in front and one behind you and lower yourself as before. Do all reps for one leg before switching positions.
Side Lunges follow the same procedure as a regular lunge but the foot placement when stepping will be sideways.
Leg Routine Part 3 – Dead Lift
With using dumbbells, I would recommend stiff legged dead lifts. Hold a dumbbell in each hand instead of a barbell across your shoulders and perform a regular dead lift with your legs kept straight throughout the movement.
Leg Routine Part 4 – Calf Raise
You can do a basic calf raise while holding dumbbells and standing on the edge of a stairs or a 2 x 4. Do them with both legs at once or one leg at a time. The other variation is to do them while sitting and place a dumbbell on your knee when lifting.
How to use all of these? Perform TWO squats, one lunge, one dead lift, and one calf raise exercise. Add to these the following two leg routine exercises:
1. Step-up: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, step up onto a low bench or stairs using the same leg for all 8 – 12 reps before switching legs.
2. Dumbbell Hamstring Curl: Lie face down on a bench or other raised flat surface with a dumbbell held between your feet. Raise the weight to your butt and slowly lower to the start.
As a whole, you have variations in the exercises to choose from and a good mix of angles and styles to develop good muscle development.