The 30-Day Dumbbell Challenge builds strength from head to toe. Get all the details on the challenge here.
There's a reason you should never skip leg day: Your lower-body muscles power all your daily movements from walking to climbing stairs to getting up off the couch. Keeping them strong is imperative to staying active while remaining injury-free.
"You'll be able to walk, climb, run or bike without getting tired quickly," says Mathew Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and founder of Forzag Fitness on the NEOU App. "Plus, working out our legs — which is one of our bigger muscle groups — will help us burn more calories, as having more muscle will keep your body burning all day long."
And while body-weight exercises like squats and lunges are great for beginners, adding dumbbells to those exercises helps you build muscle and get stronger even faster. That's because your muscles need a challenge: Eventually, they adapt to your workout and you have to up the ante so they're forced to grow.
The four exercises below from Forzaglia, our 30-Day Dumbbell Challenge host, target all the muscles in your lower body — including your glutes (the muscles in your butt). You'll do this workout every time our 30-day calendar says "Legs and Butt." (You can also do this workout anytime outside of the challenge!)
Every six days, the rep scheme changes so that you're doing the following:
- Round 1: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Round 2: 2 sets of 12 reps
- Round 3: 2 sets of 15 reps
- Round 4: 3 sets of 10 reps
- Round 5: 3 sets of 12 reps
Move 1: Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- Begin standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart and turned out slightly. Hold a dumbbell at the center of your chest by cupping both hands around one end of the weight.
- Hinge your hips back and sink into a squat, keeping your tailbone pointed toward the ground and your chest elevated by engaging your core.
- Press through all four corners of your feet to return to standing.
Move 2: Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step your right leg 3 feet behind you and lower your body down, bending your knees until they form 90-degree angles. Your right knee should hover an inch above the ground and your left thigh should be parallel to the ground.
- Keep most of your weight in your left leg as you press into your left heel and straighten your left leg.
- Bring the right leg back to the starting position as you return to standing.
- Do all your reps on one leg before switching to the other side.
Move 3: Dumbbell Step-Up
- Stand in front of a sturdy chair, plyo box, exercise bench or staircase holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Starting with your right foot, step up onto the chair one foot at a time.
- Once both feet are on the box, step back down, leading with your left foot and following with your right.
- Complete all reps starting with your right foot before switching to leading with the left.
Move 4: Dumbbell Hip Thrust
- Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and pointed up to the ceiling. Hold a dumbbell on your lap over your hips.
- Keeping your chin tucked and neck straight, push your hips up until your body forms a line from knees to hips to shoulders.
- Hold at the top of the motion for one second, squeezing your glutes.
- Reverse the motion slowly, lowering your hips back toward the ground.
You can also begin seated against a box or exercise bench, with the edge of the bench aligning with the bottom of your shoulder blades, and do your hip thrusts from there. This gives you a greater range of motion in the hips, increasing the intensity of the exercise, Forzaglia says.