The Best Dumbbell Exercises For Your Lower Body



In part two of this series, we will look at the best dumbbell exercises for your lower body. These exercises will target everything below the waist:

  • Glutes

  • Hamstrings

  • Quads

  • Calfs


Why it’s Important To Train Your Lower Body

Having a strong lower body is vital for performance AND mobility. These muscles are required for moving your entire body around so it is vital to keep them strong, especially as we age. Having strong leg muscles can also prevent common injuries such as knee and hip issues. Further, because these are the largest muscles on the body, they burn A LOT of calories if you are looking to shed some extra pounds.


Let’s get into the exercises. The only 5 dumbbell exercises you need to train your entire lower body


Dumbbell Squat

The squat is the king of lower body exercises. It looks a little different when performed with dumbbells, but it still works. The preferred method is going to be using a front-rack position which will cause a more upright torso. This will put more load on the quads (the knee will bend more to compensate for less hip flexion), AND higher core activation.


How To Perform The Dumbbell Squat

  1. Place your feet about shoulder-width apart with toes pointed straight out. You can point them outward slightly if needed.

  2. Bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Your elbows need to be kept high as the dumbbells rest on the meat of your anterior deltoid (front of your shoulder)

  3. Keeping a relatively straight torso, sit back by bending your knees with minimal hip flexion. Your knees will come forward a bit more with this method than a barbell back squat.

  4. Come down until the top of your thigh is parallel to the floor, and then drive your torso back up.

If you lack the mobility for this method, you can opt to just let the dumbbells hang down to the side. This is actually more similar to what’s known as a “trap-bar deadlift” but the biomechanics are actually very similar to a squat. The main difference is you will likely have slightly more hip flexion during the descent.


Either method will get the job done.


Romanian Deadlift

Performing a conventional deadlift with dumbbells is very hard to do. But no worries, the Romanian deadlift is the next best thing and can easily be performed using dumbbells. This exercise is going to train your entire posterior chain, including the Glutes, Hamstrings, and the Spinal Erectors


How To Perform The Romanian Deadlift

  1. Stand with a normal stance and toes pointed straight out ahead

  2. Hold the dumbbells in front of your body with a pronated grip (hands turned down so you can see the back of your hands

  3. Slightly bend your knees and push your butt back so that the dumbbells begin to lower

  4. Make sure the dumbbells remain close to your legs but not on them (2-3 inches away is fine)

  5. Make sure to keep your back straight and shoulders pull back

  6. Continue to lower until you are limited by your mobility or your form begins to break (this occurs when your back begins to round and your shoulders come forward)

  7. You should have a lot of tension built up in your hamstrings

  8. Pull your torso back up by concentrating on extending your hips


Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift (Plie Squat)

Now, you can perform a sumo deadlift with dumbbells (sometimes called a pile squat dumbbell. There are two ways to perform this move:

  1. With one dumbbell that is flipped on one end. You then hold the other end with both hands

  2. Hold two dumbbells in front of your body with a pronated grip (so you can see the back of the hands). Make sure the dumbbells are very close, even touching.

Due to the extensive knee flexion and minimal back flexion, this is a fantastic movement for the quads and glutes. It’s also is a unique exercise in its ability to hit your inner thigh.


Plus, it is perfect for those with a weak lower back (or one prone to injury) as the torso is much more vertical with less sheer force on the back.


How To Perform The Sumo Deadlift (Plie Squat)

  1. Decide what method you will use from above. The benefits are virtually identical. Some trainees just prefer one method over the other.

  2. Stand with a relatively wide stance. Feet should be farther than shoulder-width apart, and your toes point outward

  3. Get into starting position

  4. Method #1- Hold one dumbbell with both hands in front of your body

  5. Method #2- Start in the top position with the dumbbells hanging closely in front of your body

  6. Go down by pushing your hips back and keeping your knees aligned with your feet

  7. Be sure to keep your back relatively vertical

  8. Go down until the BOTTOM of your thighs are almost vertical with the floor (depth will differ with everybody)

  9. Drive your torso back up and concentrate on pushing your legs down


Walking Lunges

Lunges are a unilateral exercise that will challenge your entire lower body while increasing balance and stability. If you have never performed lunges before, start without holding on to dumbbells until you are comfortable with the movement. Advanced trainees can actually then hold on to just one dumbbell for increased core training.


How To Perform The Dumbbell Lunges

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand

  2. Take one step forward about twice the distance of a normal step

  3. Let your body come STRAIGHT down. Do not come down and forward

  4. Your front shin and back thigh should both be vertical and perpendicular to the floor. It will take a little time to find the correct distance you need to step

  5. Drive up and bring your back leg to meet the front * If you do not have room to do walking lunges, you can just push back and bring your forward leg back to your back leg.


Calf Raises

Calf raises are the only isolation movement you can do with dumbbells. It’s essential to have well-developed calf muscles as they are responsible for absorbing the shock of every single footstep you take. These are a great exercise to target this group of muscles, and they are relatively easy to do.


How To Perform The Dumbbell Calf Raise

  1. Try to find a place where you will have something that can elevate the toes and allow the heel to drop. A ledge works great, but you can also use a thick weight plate if you’re at the gym.

  2. Place your toes on the ledge so that your heels drop. Ideally, your heel touches the ground. If not, you will need to only hold one dumbbell while you hold onto support.

  3. Let your heel drop below your toe

  4. Drive your body up by driving your heel up

  5. Try to get as high on your toes as possible.

  6. Give a little pause at the top and then come down slowly.