Work Your Way Towards Strong, Lean Legs with These Four Lower Body Exercises
You want defined legs? It's called progressive overload.
When leg day rolls around it seems to be the one workout everyone loves to hate—especially when all is said and done and you come face to face with a staircase. But for me, training my lower body is one of my personal favorite workout routines. Your legs are composed of some of the strongest muscles in your body, and it can be very rewarding to see yourself move some heavier weights you may have previously doubted you could manage.
Training for strong and lean legs doesn’t just mean you’ll be able to lift heavier weights in the gym—you’ll feel improvements everywhere in your life, from your hike up the stairs of that elevator-free building you live in to your nights out on the dance floor.
Below are four lower body dumbbell moves to add to your workout repertoire. Remember that change doesn’t happen unless you progressively overload the muscle with heavier weights and/or more reps. Your legs are super strong, and are able to tolerate a lot more weight and time under tension than you believe. Try each one for 10-15 reps and 3-5 sets before increasing the weight and/or reps.
1. 1.5 Squat
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells by your shoulders. Sit back into your hips and lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground, or as low as you can get while maintaining balance and keeping a straight back. Push into the ground to bring yourself halfway up, then back down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then all the way up to standing. Start with 10-20 pound dumbbells.
2. Hip Bridge
Laying on your back, rest one heavy dumbbell on top of your hips (use a mat to cushion if necessary). Drive your heels into the ground and push your hips up, squeezing your glutes. At the top, your knees should be at around a 90 degree angle—adjust your foot position closer as necessary. Keep your knees in line with your body to prevent them from collapsing in. This is similar to a rear kettlebell hinge. Start with a 20-30 pound dumbbell.
3. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
In a standing position with knees slightly bent and feet hips-width apart, hold the dumbbells close to your quads. Keep your shoulders and core engaged for a neutral spine and push your hips back. Once you have reached anywhere from knee to mid-shin level, ascend up the same way you came down, squeezing your glutes hard through the movement. Start with 10-20 pound dumbbells.
4. Reverse Lunge to Knee Drive
While standing, hold both dumbbells by your side with straight arms. Bring your left foot back into a reverse lunge, keeping your right heel on the ground and your right knee at about a 90 degree angle. Drive your left leg forward towards your chest, and set your foot down to rebalance only if necessary. Execute all your reps on the left before switching to the right. Start with 10-20 pound dumbbells.