8 Killer Dumbbell Leg Exercises from Lita Lewis
What has your lower body training been missing? Dumbbells — and these killer moves from Lita Lewis. Adding dumbbells to your moves allows you to easily (and affordably) scale your leg workout at home.
“It’s important to build a strong foundation from the ground up,” Lita says — and that’s exactly what she’ll help you do in her four-week Openfit exclusive program. No matter your age, skill, or fitness level, these dumbbell leg exercises featured in her program will challenge and help you build your lower body strength.
Whether you’re already doing the best leg workout exercises or starting from scratch, add these moves to your routine to build that foundation.
1. Classic Squat
- While holding dumbbells, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees soft.
- Push your hips back as you bend your knees, but keep your chest up.
- Continue until your knees are at a 90-degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Push through the middle of your foot as you stand back up.
Tip: Depending on the dumbbells you’re using, your arms may need to drift slightly away from your sides as you lower into your squat. If you’re not quite sure how to push with your middle foot, think about moving the floor away from you with your feet as you stand up out of each squat. We’ve got you covered if you’re not sure how to do proper squats.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your dumbbells in front of your thighs (your palms should face your legs).
- Keeping your knees slightly bent, push your hips back as you lower your hands down your leg toward your toes.
- Keep your back straight and your head in line with your spine.
- Keep pushing your hips back until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
- Using your leg muscles (not your back), reverse the movement back to standing.
Tip: Keep your back straight and only lower as far as you can without rounding your back. Good form is more important than depth, and you can progress to a deeper deadlift next time.
3. Side Lunge
- Stand with your feet underneath your hips and a slight bend at the knees.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Step your right leg out to your right side, while keeping your feet parallel and toes pointed forward.
- Shift your weight to the right as you push your right hip back and bend your right knee.
- Keep your dumbbells on either side of your right leg.
- Lower into this position until your knee is at a 90-degree angle and your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Your left leg should be straight, but don’t lock your knee.
- Push through the middle of your right foot to straighten your right leg and stand back up.
- Step your right foot back to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg.
Tip: Don’t let your core crumple while performing these. Keep your chest up throughout this whole exercise. Imagine someone standing in front of you. That person should be able to see the front of your shirt while you perform these lunges.
4. Alternating Forward Lunge
- Stand with your feet under your hips, your knees soft, and dumbbells in your hands at your sides.
- Take a big step forward with your right foot.
- Shift your weight into this foot as you bend both of your knees.
- Lower your body until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle and your left knee almost touches the floor, also at 90 degrees.
- Press through your right foot to straighten your legs before returning your right foot to its starting position.
- Switch legs and repeat on your left.
Tip: This is one of Lita’s favorite moves since it’s so effective at targeting your quads. If you feel off-balance, switch to reverse lunges.
5. Jump Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your knees soft. Hold a weight in each hand by your sides.
- Push your hips back as you bend your knees.
- Keep the weights outside your legs as you sink into the squat, aiming to get your knees at 90 degrees and your thighs parallel to the floor.
- Push through your feet to straighten your legs and hop 1-2 inches off the ground.
- Land with your knees soft.
Tip: There are several ways to ramp up this exercise if you need more of a challenge. Grab heavier dumbbells, or focus on trying to jump higher on each rep.
6. Dumbbell Swing
- Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and soft knees.
- Holding one dumbbell in each hand, press them together in front of your body. Imagine the weights are one unit now.
- Keeping your knees bent softly, push your hips back and allow the dumbbells to travel back between your legs as you fold your upper body forward.
- Continue until you feel tension along the back of your legs and your chest is parallel to the ground.
- Use that tension in your legs to push your body back to a standing position while squeezing the glutes at the top.
- Your weights should naturally travel no higher than shoulder height before you begin lowering your upper body and pushing your hips back again.
Tip: If the force of the weights knock you off balance during this movement, think about grabbing the ground with your big toe. (Trust us here!) That can help anchor you in place.
7. Lateral Squat
- Start with your feet under your hips and a dumbbell in each hand down at your sides.
- Take a big step directly to the right of you with your right leg and keep the weights outside your legs. Your feet should still be parallel with your toes pointed forward.
- Center your weight between your legs before pushing your hips back and lowering into a squat until your thighs are parallel with the ground.
- Push the ground away from you to straighten your legs and return your right foot to under your right hip.
- Repeat on the left leg.
Tip: Make sure your lateral squats are different from your lateral lunges. During side lunges, you’re pushing your hip back, and most of your weight is on that leg. Even though you’re stepping to the side here, keep your weight distributed between both legs to ensure this movement is a squat and not a lunge.
8. Sumo Squat
- Start with your feet wider than shoulder width and your toes pointed out slightly.
- Hold the end of one dumbbell with both hands and let your arms hang fully extended between your legs.
- Push your hips back and bend your knees to squat until the lowest end of the dumbbell taps the floor.
- Think about pushing the ground away from you as you stand back up to starting position, while squeezing the glutes at the top.
Tip: As you lower into each squat, check that your knees point in the same direction as your toes. Don’t let your knees collapse inward! Think about keeping them out through the whole movement.