When planning an exercise program it is important to consider the whole body to obtain maximized results and prevent injuries that can marginalize your progress. While there are many different training plans and programs, a common solution is to dedicate different days to different muscle groups to maintain specific routines and give them time to rest while you work on other areas. Common groupings include abs, arms, legs, and back.
What equipment do you need to train legs at home?
Arm, shoulder, back and abs home workouts can be accomplished quite easily and without much equipment depending on your regimen. However, the day that you do legs can sometimes present a problem to exercise and get results. While it is commonly said that effective leg training requires a squat rack and barbell equipment, the space required to have such equipment could be a limitation.
However, many of the compound workouts that exercise the major muscles of the legs (hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads) can also be done with a set of dumbbells. Doing leg exercises using dumbbells offers many advantages, including less space required for storage and use, versatility in a multitude of workouts that target different muscle groups, and scalability when using an adjustable dumbbell set. Dumbbells also offer a safer way to perform certain exercises, as many barbell workouts require you to hold the weight on your shoulders, making it difficult to quit the workout or drop the bar if something goes wrong. With the dumbbells you can simply release them to avoid injury.
Many home gyms don’t have heavy enough dumbbells. This is especially true for advanced and intermediate lifters. If an adjustable base weight set isn’t heavy enough for your training level, look for an additional set of dumbbells that will allow your weights to meet your training needs. A weight bench can also be a great piece of equipment to have in your home gym. It can be used during many of your training days for a variety of muscle groups. With an adjustable weight bench, you can adjust incline, drop, and other angles that add even more variety to your exercise routines.
Exercises to do when training weights
For the day you train your legs, give yourself at least an hour to complete the different workouts. Not sure where to start? Consider the following 5 compound workouts designed to increase the strength and muscle mass of your legs.
1. Dumbbell lunges
3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions. Lunges primarily work the quadriceps but also work the calves, hamstrings and glutes. As you stride, always make sure to keep your back straight and prevent your knees from sliding into your toes during the movement to avoid stress on the knee joint.
- Select an appropriate but challenging dumbbell weight and stand straight while slightly bending your knees. Hold the dumbbells at your sides.
- Step forward with one leg and keep the other leg in place. Keeping your balance, squat at your hips while keeping your back and torso straight.
- Begin to regain position by returning to your initial position.
- Repeat these steps, alternating the leg with which you take the initial step.
Looking for an added challenge in your dumbbell strides? Take a step back instead of forward for a more challenging balance.
2. Dumbbell squats
3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions. You have several options to choose from when performing dumbbell squats. The most common is what is known as the goblet squat or front squat. While this compound exercise works all of your major leg muscles, it can also strengthen your shoulders and core depending on how you hold the dumbbells.
- Stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a weight vertically by one end. Here’s where you can add some variation: hold the dumbbell in the center of your chest, higher, or further out for a different shoulder and core workout.
- Squat up straight into a sitting position with your hips aligned with your knees.
- Return to your starting position while keeping your back straight.
* The front squat can also be performed with kettlebells, which makes kettlebells a great piece of equipment to have at your home gym.
3. Dumbbell step ups
3 or 4 sets of 15 repetitions. This is a compound workout that requires a weight bench or elevated platform. The step ups can also be intensified by raising the platform. During all movements, keep your back straight and your eyes looking forward.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side and stand straight in front of your weight bench or elevated platform.
- Raise the knee of your right leg, step onto the platform, and firmly place your foot on the raised platform.
- Using your foot firmly planted, push up and lift the rest of your body.
- Plant your left foot on the platform and stay in that position.
- Step back with your left foot and then the other to return to your starting position.
- Repeat the movement, alternating the starting foot.
4. Dumbbell Deadlift
3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions. The deadlift is an excellent compound exercise that targets the hamstrings but also works the other major leg muscles. However, it is an exercise that requires a lot of attention in its execution, since a poorly executed deadlift can cause serious injuries. One of the most important things when doing the deadlift is to keep your back straight and not bend it. Keeping your eyes up can help prevent this. Another great step in this exercise is to bend at the waist without moving the hips back. This moves tension from the hamstrings to the lower back, which can also lead to serious injury.
- Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent. Keep the dumbbells at your sides. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- While keeping your back straight, lean toward the waist. As you lean in, your hips should move back if you are using proper form. Your knees should not move at this point and you should lower the weights onto your feet.
- You should feel tension in your hamstrings. Keep lowering the weights until you can’t lower yourself comfortably
- Without bending your back, lift the weights. Keep your eyes up and lift the weights in a straight motion to your starting position.
5. Dumbbell Hamstring Curl
3 or 4 sets of 10 repetitions. This is another workout that requires an exercise bench to perform. Hamstring curls are an isolation workout, meaning they only target your hamstrings. During this exercise, try to keep your upper body and legs as still as possible and make sure that the weight of the dumbbells you select is not so heavy that it causes your body to sway.
- Select your weight with the dumbbells and place it on the floor at the end of the bench.
- Lie face down on the bench and align your knees with the end of the bench. Fully extend your legs so they hang over the edge of the bench.
- Using your feet and keeping your upper body and legs rigid, lift the weight between the arches.
- Bend your knees and focus on moving the weight with your hamstrings, flexing the dumbbell in a controlled motion.
- Pause when you have raised the dumbbell to a comfortable position and then lower the dumbbell to the starting position.
When planning your exercise program at home, remember that rest days for your muscle groups are equally important. Give yourself 4-5 days between leg workouts to allow yourself a full recovery. During rest days, switch to other muscle groups and consider adding a day for cardio.