Two dumbbells, 20 minutes and these four exercises for seriously strong legs

Man standing tired over a pair of dumbbells in the gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you can’t get on the squat rack, or you just want a simple session that’ll see you in and out the gym in less than 30 minutes, then this express workout is exactly what you need. In 20 minutes you’ll light up your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves all whilst staying in the same spot using just a pair of dumbbells, so you don’t have to waste time setting up bits of kit (or waiting for the gym bro who’s been hogging the leg press for the past half an hour).

To overload your muscles in minimal time, so you get more bang for your buck, this workout is circuit, which means constant movement with little rest. If you’re concerned this style of training won't reap rewards in comparison to heavy weightlifting, think again. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, circuit training prompts the same muscle fibre recruitment and anabolic signaling that conventional resistance training does. Plus, because of the shorter rest periods between each exercise you don't need to go as heavy with the weights.

For this circuit you’ve got four exercises to work through in total. You’re going to do each exercise for 30 seconds, so you’ll want to opt for a medium weight (whether that’s dumbbells or a kettlebell) that feels slightly challenging but allows you to complete the exercise unbroken. Rest for 10 seconds in between each exercise, then take a one minute rest after you’ve completed the entire round, before repeating three more times. Gym water bottle at the ready, here’s your workout:

  • Tempo squat (lower for three seconds, hold for one, come up for one)
  • Narrow squat into wide squat
  • Split squat (right leg)
  • Split squat (left leg)
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Squat into curtsy lunge

In order to prevent DOMS the following day, make sure you do a few minutes of stretching afterwards – here’s a seven minute stretch routine that you can try. If you own a massage gun, we definitely recommend giving your lower body muscles some TLC too. Want more lower body home workouts? Here’s another four-move workout for you to line up next.

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.