Dumbbells are a useful tool because of their availability, mobility and versatility. Because they are, by nature, lower in weight, dumbbells are ideal for conditioning and hypertrophy (muscle growth). Strength training, typically lower in reps and higher in weight, is conversely suited better to barbell work.

Feel the burn with this dynamic lower body workout using only dumbbells. For each exercise, complete 3-4 sets and adjust the weight and repetitions depending on your goals.

  • Conditioning/fat loss: 12-15 reps at 50-60 percent of your 1RM (one rep max)
  • Hypertrophy/muscle growth: 8-12 reps at 70-80 percent of your 1RM (one rep max)

 

Bulgarian Split Squats: 
Any time you’re doing unilateral—one side at a time—training, you should start with an exercise that is as stationary as possible. Kick this workout off with Bulgarian split squats before moving on to work that is more dynamic.

Stand with your right foot behind you on a bench or another surface of similar height; hold one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inwards.

Inhale and slowly lower your torso towards the ground by bending your front (left) knee. Try to keep your rear knee as straight as possible, only allowing a bend if necessary—too much bend will take the emphasis off of your hip.

Pause briefly once your front (left) thigh is parallel to the ground, then exhale and push up through your front (left) heel to return to the starting position.

Complete all reps on one side before switching legs. When lowering your body, keep your foot and heel flat on the ground to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on your knee joint.

 

 

Reverse Lunges
Start in standing position holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inwards and thumbs forwards. Reach backwards with your right leg and plant your foot approximately two feet behind your front foot. Keeping your torso upright, bend your front knee while making sure your entire foot including the heel is planted on the floor.

Push up to return to the starting position—a more extended lunge and push from the heels will emphasize the gluteus maximus, while a shorter lunge and push from the balls of your feet will emphasize your quadriceps.

 

 

Goblet Squats 
Grab a single dumbbell and hold it against your chest, holding the weight vertically with your hands cupping the top end. Stand with your toes pointed slightly outwards, feet shoulder-width apart.

As you inhale, slowly lower your torso by bending at the knees. As you descend, make sure your knees are tracking in a straight line over your toes. Pause once your thighs are parallel to the floor with your knees at approximately a 90-degree angle, then drive through your heels to return to the starting position as you exhale.

To maintain a straight back throughout the process, keep your head up and eyes forward. Looking down will knock you off-balance.

 

 

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
Start in a shoulder-width stance, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your thighs.

Bend at the hips and slowly lower the dumbbells towards your feet, stopping once you’ve gone as far as your hips will allow you. Be careful not to let the lower back or shoulders dominate the movement—this move can still be effective without a long range of motion.

Your hips should move horizontally backwards, rather than downwards, and your legs should remain mostly straight with just a slight bend in the knees. Keep the dumbbells close to your body, almost as if you are sliding them down your legs.

Pause at the bottom of the movement, exhale and drive through your heels to return to a standing position.

 

 

Lateral Lunges
Begin with your feet together, and your hands held together in front of your chest. Take a big step sideways with your right foot, lowering yourself into a lunge. Keep your torso as upright as possible, sinking your hips back rather than leaning forward.

Once your plant leg reaches approximately 90-degrees, push back up through the heel of your extended leg to return to your initial stance. To complete the recommended number of reps and sets, you can alternate back-and-forth between legs, or complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg.

Lateral lunges can be done with just bodyweight, but if you’re looking to increase the difficulty, you can add dumbbells. Keeping your arms extended in front of you, hold one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing towards your body. As you complete the lunge, make sure the dumbbells don’t cause your upper body to lean forward and out of position.