It Takes Just Two Dumbbells And Six Moves To Build Leg Strength

Man performs squat in his living room, holding dumbbells by his shoulders
(Image credit: Antonio Diaz / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Your leg muscles are big, which is one reason barbell exercises like the back squat and the leg press and leg curl weight machines feature heavily in most leg workouts. But you don’t need a working knowledge of the squat rack or an active gym membership to build leg strength, you just need a pair of dumbbells (heavy ones, but still).

Don’t believe us? Then try this six-move routine posted on TikTok by Kirra O’Brien, trainer and founder of Strong Sisters United who specializes in strength training for beginners. The workout will help to build strong quads and calves when the squat rack is off-limits, and all you need is a pair of dumbbells and above average tolerance of lactic acid.

Watch Kirra O’Brien’s Leg-Strengthening Video


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The routine is broken into three supersets, the first starting with the front squat, the second the reverse lunge and the third the goblet squat. The key is to pick a weight that is heavy enough to challenge you but not so heavy that you can’t finish the set.

A pair of adjustable dumbbells is ideal for this routine if you’re working out at home because you have different weight settings to choose from. If you don’t own a pair you can find our recommendations in this guide to the best dumbbells

More importantly, you can repeat the workout a week later and increase the weight. This approach is called progressive overload and it’s a tried-and-true way to build muscle. It’s what O’Brien recommends as well—this workout is part of her three-week Get Lean program. O’Brien recommends adding 2.5-5lb to each exercise in week two and the same amount again in week three. Simple, but incredibly effective.

You can watch a follow-along video of this workout on YouTube, which also includes a warm-up (always warm up) and a bonus finisher. We also recommend finishing with some static stretching to help reduce your chance of injury or muscle strain. Unsure what stretches to do? Follow this warm-down stretching routine.

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness writer

Lois Mackenzie is a fitness writer working on news, features, reviews and buying guides for Coach and sister site Fit&Well. Lois is a hill walker and avid runner who has just completed her first marathon. Before joining Coach, Lois worked as a senior SEO reporter at Newsquest Media Group.