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 (plus one bonus ab exercise) from Forzaglia, our 30-Day Dumbbell Challenge host, target all the muscles in your lower body. You'll do this workout every time our 30-day calendar says "Legs." Remember, every six days, the rep scheme changes so that you're doing the following:
- Round 1: 2 sets of 10 as a circuit, doing one exercise after another
- Round 2: 2 sets of 12 as a circuit
- Round 3: 2 sets of 15 as a circuit
- Round 4: 3 sets of 10, doing all sets of an exercise back-to-back with 30 seconds rest between sets
- Round 5: 3 sets of 12 back-to-back
Join the LIVESTRONG.com 30-Day Dumbbell Challenge!
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 Lateral Lunge
- Start standing, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Root your right foot into the ground and step your left foot out to the side.
- Bend your left knee, keeping it in line with your left foot. Let your hands hang on either side of your bent leg.
- Hinge at the hips and sit your butt back without arching your lower back. Don't let your left knee extend over your toes.
- Push off your left leg and return to standing.
- Do all your reps on the left leg before doing the same number of reps on the right leg.
Move 4: Dumbbell Calf Raise
- Stand up tall with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- With a slight bend in your knees, raise up onto your tiptoes, using the muscles in your calves.
- Slowly lower back down, hovering just above the ground before going into your next rep.
Bonus: Dumbbell Weighted Crunch
- Hold a dumbbell with one hand grabbing each end directly over your chest and lie down on your back, knees bent and pointed up to the ceiling with your feet flat on the floor.
- Exhale and contract your abs as you raise your head, neck and shoulders off the ground, continuing to hold the dumbbell slightly away from your chest.
- Inhale and lower back down with control.