Lower Body Dumbbell Exercises


These lower body dumbbell exercises strengthen and tone your thighs, glutes, thighs, calf muscles and hips. There are step by step instructions and an illustration for each type of exercise

Make sure to have multiple weights in order to continually change the resistance and increase the challenge to your muscles. Use the heavier weights for more resistance and a lower weight for a lighter challenge and resistance.

The exercises in this series will target the lower body muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs, calves and more. If you are unsure what types of dumbbells to use or types of dumbbell workouts, check out this article on dumbbell exercises for more details.

List of Lower Body Exercises

To view the instructions for these lower body dumbbell exercises, use the links below or simply scroll down the page. If you are looking for more strengthening exercises using dumbbells, check out the upper body dumbbell workout page..

Benefits of Dumbbell Workouts

Dumbbell workouts are a great way to strengthen and tone your body. The weights are fairly inexpensive and easy to store. You can have multiple weights so that you can continue to increase the challenge on your muscles.

With dumbbells, you can easily strengthen and tone the upper body, lower body, back muscles and more. Many of these exercises can have a slight variation to work different muscles or different areas of the same muscle.

If you are just starting out with your lower body dumbbell exercises, then use the lighter weights first and move up to higher weights when needed. This type of equipment is easy to use at home or at the gym. Unfortunately, they don't travel as well as the lighter resistance bands. So if you are planning a trip, try doing some of these lower body exercises using a resistance band instead.

Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #1 - Calf Raise

For the standing dumbbell calf raise, you will need a small step or board to do this exercise. This should be only about 2 - 3 inches tall. This lower body exercise, as the name suggests, primarily targets the calf muscles in the lower legs.

Additional lower leg muscles will also be strengthened with this exercise. The flexor digitorum longus and flexor hallucis longus muscles assist the calves while performing the calf raise. You will also be strengthening some of the muscles in your feet and toes with this move.


How to do the Calf Raise

Balance can sometimes be difficult when doing this exercise. You can use a chair or the wall to place your hand on for additional support if needed. Make sure your step is not too high for this exercise. A board generally works best for this.

  1. Place a dumbell in each hand and hold them to your side.
  2. Place the balls of your feet on the step and your heels on the ground.
  3. To start, point your toes forward. You can change where you point your toes to alter this move and work different areas of the muscles.
  4. As you exhale, raise your heels up off the floor standing on your toes on the step.
  5. Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to starting position as you inhale.
  6. Repeat this for several repetitions. 

If you need a chair or wall to help with balance, just hold a dumbbell weight in only one hand and use your other for balance.

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Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #2 - Forward Lunge

The primary muscle targeted is the quads. Secondary muscles include the hamstrings and glutes as well as the hip flexors and lower back muscles. As with any lunge exercise, you want to make sure you are doing it properly so that you don't stress the lower back. Proper form is a must for this exercise in order to build and strengthen these muscles without injuring them.

How to do the Forward Lunge

Below are the step by step instructions with an illustration to ensure you are doing this exercise correctly.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and back straight.
  2. Place a dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your side. You can also hold these up by the shoulders in a racked position.
  3. Take a giant step forward with the left leg.
  4. Bend both knees and press down towards the ground to where the back knee is almost touching the ground.
  5. Keep bending and lifting up on this leg for several reps.
  6. Return to starting position and repeat on the other leg. 

You can also do this as an alternating lunge by performing this exercise on one leg and then alternating to the other leg. Another alternative to this exercise is to move forward with each lunge. This gives it a bit of aerobics to the workout.

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Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #3 - Reverse Lunge

As with the forward lunge, the primary muscle targeted with this dumbbell exercise is the quadriceps. These are the large muscles located at the front of your upper leg. Other major muscles that are engaged during this workout include the hamstrings, gluteus maximus (your buttocks), the adductors (inner thighs) and the soleus in your calves.

The hamstrings and muscles in your calves act as stabilizers for the knee joint during this exercise. Additionally the erector spinae and the quadratus lumbordum in the lower back as well as the gluteus medius and minimus help stabilize posture so are strengthened as well but to a lessor degree.

How to do the Reverse Lunge

When doing this exercise, take the lunge to the point where you feel the strengthening without putting undue stress on the knees.

  1. Holding a dumbbell weight in each hand, place your arms by your side or place hands with weights on your hips.
  2. Start by standing with both feet together maintaining a good posture with head up and shoulders back.
  3. Now stepping back with your right leg on your toe, bend down until the right knee is almost touching the ground.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat this on the other leg.
  6. Continue alternating legs and do 10 to 20 reps for each leg.

Tips: Don't lean forward at the hip. When stepping back, don't let the knee cross the plane of the front toe.

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Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #4 - Side Lunge

The dumbbell side lunge is similar to the forward lunge, but you will be lunging sideways as the name suggests. With this lower body exercise you will be strengthening the quadraceps, hamstrings and glutes.

How to do the Side Lunge

Use the step by step instructions along with the illustration to ensure you are doing this lower body dumbbell exercise correctly.

  1. Stand with feet about slightly apart.
  2. Place a dumbbell in each hand and hold them at shoulder height. This is called racking the dumbells.
  3. With your left leg, step wide to the side keeping both toes pointed forward.
  4. No sit back into the lunge as if you were sitting down in a chair. Be sure to keep the back flat to make sure you don't put stress on the back.
  5. Stand back up to starting position.
  6. Repeat the side lunge on the other side.
  7. Keep repeating sides (adding the press if you want) for several repetitions.

You can always combine a lunge with an upper body move to get a full body strengthing workout. Try doing a shoulder press or bicep curl at the same time.

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Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #5 - Squats

The dumbbell squats exercise really works those lower body muscles, especially the quads and glutes. The primary muscle targeted in this move is the thigh muscles, better known as the quadriceps.

You will also feel this in other muscles like the gluteus maximus which are the butt muscles. Additional muscles targeted include the hamstrings, calves and lower back.


How to do the Dumbbell Squats

Many people avoid doing squats as they start to feel pain in their lower back. This is due to improper posture when doing this exercise. So make sure you follow the directions to ensure you are doing it correctly.

  1. Place a dumbbell in each hand and hold them down at your sides. You can also place this up by the shoulder in a racked position.
  2. Stand with your feet should width apart and flat on the floor.
  3. Slowly sit back as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat for several repetitions based on your fitness level.

If you are having problems with proper form, use a chair to help you. Place the chair behind you and while doing the exercise, let your rear end slightly touch the seat of the chair.

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Lower Body Dumbbell Exercise #6 - Deadlift

This dumbbell deadlift is also called the stiff leg deadlift. This exercise gets it's name as it feels as if you are lifting dead weight. This exercise targets many lower body muscles and helps to strengthen the back.

How to do the Dumbbell Deadlift


As with any exercise that engages the back muscles you want to ensure you do them properly. If you start to feel too much strain in the back, take a break and stretch the back before continuing.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your side.
  2. Stand with feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.
  3. Bend your knees slightly. Keep your chest out and shoulders back.
  4. Bend over at the hip letting your hands (holding the dumbbells) hang in front of you with the palms facing you.
  5. Keep bending until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
  6. Return to the starting position making sure you maintain proper posture with chest out and shoulders back.
  7. Repeat this for several reps. 

The back muscles used in this movement include the erector spinae and the latissimus dorsi muscles. This is primarily considered a back exercise however it works several lower body muscles as well.

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