Forget squats — all you need is one dumbbell and these three moves for bigger legs

There’s no excuses for skipping leg day now

Man lunging with dumbbell
(Image credit: Getty)

Strengthening our lower body is super important, but, when it comes to this, glutes are often king. But building your legs should also be a priority, however, one reason you may avoid it is because you don’t like squatting. We get it, there’s those who love them and others who don’t. Some even find them painful. If you’re the latter then we’ve got you and have three exercises that will help build and strengthen your legs with one single dumbbell.

We can’t ignore the fact that our legs play a huge role in our everyday lives — they’re what help us walk, stand and do other physical activities. They even play a role in upper exercises you may enjoy doing, like bench pressing. Also, by avoiding them, you’re actually increasing your risk of injury too, such as lower back pain, ALC injuries and a lack of mobility.

These three moves shared by Mirafit one require one dumbbell only. If you don’t own one, then you should really consider, as it’s the most versatile piece of workout equipment you can buy (check out our best dumbbell guide and our adjustable dumbbells if you have minimal space at home). You’ve only got three exercises, so try and aim for three rounds and eight to 10 reps of each exercise. Here’s what you’ve got to do:

1. Dumbbell seated leg extension 

Sit on a chair, or a weight bench if you have one, and pop a light dumbbell in between your feet. Hold onto the sides of the chair for stability and extend your knees. When your legs are fully extended, squeeze your quads and hold for a second before slowly lowering.

2. Bulgarian split squat

Arguably the most loathed leg exercise, but the reason for that is because they’re so good! Facing away from a chair, raise one leg onto it, with your other foot just in front of you (don’t have your front foot too far away, otherwise you will be targeting your glutes more). Have your dumbbell in the hand of the leg you have in front of you. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle and drop your back knee to the floor. Then push through your front heel to drive yourself back up to starting position.  

3. Forward lunge

Stand upright with your feet together, then take an exaggerated step forwards (have the dumbbell in this hand). Your back knee should just be hovering above the ground and your front leg bent. Then, drive the floor away with your front foot to return to your starting position and repeat on the other side, taking the dumbbell in your opposite hand.

If using one dumbbell is too easy then you can always add another one into the mix (apart from on the leg extensions), but we'd say to go for a light to medium weight, as these are quite tricky exercises that require good balance. If it's too hard, you can ditch the dumbbell altogether on the lunges and Bulgarian split squats. If you've got a little more time on your hands, then you should definitely give this 30 minute dumbbell quad workout a try, or work the entire lower body  with this insane 10 minute lower bodyweight workout, which targets your glutes, quads and calves.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.