Centr Trainer Ingrid Clay performs a dumbbell lunge with the Centr SmartStack dumbbells.
Luke Zocchi

7 dumbbell exercises for an epic leg day at home

Luke Zocchi

You know the rule: don’t skip leg day.

But what happens when the squat rack is busy, you can’t get to the gym or you just prefer to get it done at home?

It is still possible to build seriously strong legs with only a set of dumbbells. And I’m here to get you started with the best dumbbell leg exercises to do at home.

A young man works out at home using the Centr Smart Stack adjustable dumbbells.

Level up your home strength training with the Centr Smart Stack 50 adjustable dumbbells.

The benefits of doing leg exercises with dumbbells

I’ve already mentioned the big one – working out at home. Dumbbells don’t take up a lot of space, making them a convenient option to work your legs at home without a lot of bulky equipment.

But the benefits of leg training with DBs don’t end there.

  1. Big variety: Because they’re versatile and come in different weights, the range of lower-body exercises you can do with dumbbells is almost endless – from targeting smaller muscle groups to your big-ticket quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
  2. Stability and balance: Speaking of smaller muscle groups, dumbbells engage stabilizer muscles you probably don’t even know you have – building a more stable and functional body.
  3. Work your weaker side: Most of us have one side that’s not quite as strong as the other. Dumbbells are perfect for unilateral (or single-leg) exercises that address these imbalances by isolating a particular side, as well as zooming in on certain muscle groups.
  4. Range of motion: Dumbbell exercises usually allow you to have a greater – and more natural – range of motion than training on machines. And by working through that full range of motion, you’ll be keeping your joints healthy and mobile.
  5. They’re cost-effective: Compared to big pieces of gym equipment, dumbbells are relatively affordable, meaning you can build strength on a budget. And if you set yourself up with light, medium and heavy dumbbell weights – or combine multiple weights into one piece of equipment like with the Centr Smart Stack 50 – you’re investing in getting even stronger in future.

Now you know the benefits, let’s start getting those leg gains.

1. Dumbbell Romanian deadlift

Target: Hamstrings, glutes, back, core

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the dumbbells in an overhand grip in front of your hips. Keeping your back straight and your head up, hinge at the hips and push your butt back – lowering the dumbbells until they reach shin height. Push up through your heels to return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.

Form tip: Drive your hips backward as far as you can while keeping a straight back – this will ensure you feel these lifts in your hamstrings, not your lower back.

2. Alternating dumbbell side lunge

Target: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip abductors, and adductors

How to do it: You can perform this move with a dumbbell in each hand, or hold one dumbbell by the end with both hands (goblet style) under your chin as Bobby does here. Standing tall with your feet together, step your right foot out to the side, landing with a bend through your right knee and pushing your hips out to the side. Your opposite leg should stay straight. Push back up to standing and repeat on the other side.

Form tips:

  • Ease into the move by working within a range that is comfortable yet challenging.

  • Only move at a pace that allows good foot placement and control.

  • Ensure your knees are moving in the same direction as your toes.

3. Dumbbell front squat

Target: Glutes, quads, core, hamstrings

How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Hinge at the hips to push your butt out, put your weight into your heels, and lower your body down into a squat. Rise back up by pushing away from the floor with your feet, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

Form tips:

  • Chest and elbows up.

  • Engage your core to keep your torso upright, and avoid arching or rounding your back.

  • Toes pointed out and knees in line with toes.

4. Bulgarian split squat

Target: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

How to do it: Stand with the back of your heels against a box or bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand down by your sides. Step one leg slightly forward and raise the other foot back to rest your toes on the box. Tilt forward from the hips slightly, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Keeping your chest up, shoulders locked down and hips square, bend through your front knee to lower yourself into a split squat. When your back knee is as low as you can comfortably lower it without curving your back or compromising your core, push through your front foot to rise back up to standing. Complete your set number of reps, then switch sides.

Form tips:

  • Make sure the bench height is not too high for your back foot to rest on – aim for knee height or just below.

  • Keep your butt tucked in and glutes engaged on the rear leg to help open up your hip and retain stability.

  • Your front knee should be soft (not locked) and aligned with your toes.

5. Dumbbell calf raise

Target: Calves

How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Lift your heels off the floor, rising up onto your toes and squeezing your calves. Then, lower your heels to return to the starting position.

Form tips:

  • Shoulders back and down, chest up, and body in a straight line.

  • Activate core and glutes.

  • Lock your legs – your ankles should be the only joint moving.

  • Keep movement slow and controlled, aiming for maximum raise and contraction at the top of the raise.

6. Alternating dumbbell forward lunge

Target: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

How to do it: Stand up tall, a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Engage your core then step one foot forward and drop your back knee toward the floor into a lunge. Your torso should remain upright throughout. Push back up to starting position, then repeat by stepping forward with the opposite leg.

Form tips:

  • Make sure you are well balanced before lunging.

  • Watch your knees aren't caving inward – they should be moving in the same direction as your toes.

  • Try to create a 90 degree angle with your forward knee when you lunge.

7. Alternating dumbbell step-up

Target: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

How to do it: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand by your sides and a box (or bench) in front of you. Step your left foot up onto the box, then bring your right foot up to join it. Pause standing on the box for a moment, then step your left foot down first, followed by the right. Then repeat the move by stepping up with your right foot first.

Form tips:

  • Select a box height that allows you to perform with the correct form. It shouldn't be too high or low.

  • Place your whole foot onto the box to generate the force to step up.

  • Move at a pace you can control so you stay balanced.

Want more exercise tips from the experts?

Luke Zocchi

Chris Hemsworth may wield the hammer, but it’s his personal trainer Luke Zocchi who cracks the whip. A certified personal trainer, Luke is renowned for his fast and efficient training methods, using weights and bodyweight to get maximum results in minimum time. He’ll also show you how to fuel your training with quick, easy and healthy recipes.

Luke Zocchi


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