Written by John Muldowney
If you ask most gym bros what you need to do to get big legs and glutes, most of them will probably tell you that you need to squat heavy. While heavy back squats are terrific for growing a monstrous lower body, you can grow muscle without them. For those who don't have access to barbells or heavy weights, you can still trigger a lot of muscle growth with a single pair of dumbbells! Here's a workout you can use to grow huge legs and glutes at home using only dumbbells.
Dumbbell Bulgarian split squats, 4 sets of 10-20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
In order to maximize tension on the quads and glutes without using a lot of weight, we're going to work one leg at a time. This may make the workout take a little longer, but it will give your muscles the stimulus they need to grow. To perform a Bulgarian split squat, take a dumbbell in each hand and rest one of your feet on a chair or a box behind you. While keeping your back in an erect posture, squat down with one leg until your thigh is parallel with the floor, and then push yourself back up. After completing 10-20 reps on one leg, switch to the other. If you can't balance on one leg, take a dumbbell in one hand while using the other to brace yourself against a wall or a piece of furniture until your balance improves enough for you to do exercise unassisted.
Single -leg dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, 3 sets of 10-20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
With a dumbbell in each hand, lean forward on one leg while lifting the other behind you. Do not round your lower back! As you lean forward, keep the leg you are standing on perpendicular to the floor. You should keep it as straight as you can without locking your knee. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. After 10-20 reps, switch legs. Again, if you can't yet do this on one leg without support, do it with a single dumbbell so that you can brace against something with your free hand. Warning: your hamstrings will be sore the next day!
Dumbbell glute bridges, 2 sets of 10-20 reps, 2 sets of 10-20 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Place a dumbbell on your waist and hold it with both hands. Raise your hips off the floor until your knees, hips and shoulder form a straight line, flexing your glutes as hard as you can at the top. Then slowly lower yourself back to your original position. You'll know that you're doing these right if your glutes are on fire afterwards!
Stair calf raises, 3 sets of 20-30 reps, 60 seconds rest between sets.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand on the edge of a step so that only the balls of your feet are on it. Lower your heels below the step until you feel a stretch in your calves, then extend up onto your toes before returning to your starting position. The rep range for this exercise is higher because your calves tend to have a lot of slow-twitch muscle fibers.
One of the key tenets of bodybuilding is progressive overload, which basically means you need to make your workout a little harder each time in order to progress. You can do this in 4 ways.
- Add more weight
- Increase time under tension
- Increase the number of sets
- Decrease rest time
The best way for you to progressively overload your workouts is to add more weight. If you have several sets of dumbbells, or a single set of adjustable-weight dumbbells, this is easy. However, if adding weight isn't an option and you find yourself doing over 20 reps per set easily, try increasing time under tension. You can do this by slowing down the eccentric or downward portion of the lift and/or pausing at the bottom for 1-3 seconds. As you progress, you may also want to increase the number of sets per workout, or decrease the rest time between sets in order to make the workouts harder
I would start out doing this workout twice a week. If you get to a point where you're not sore at all the next day, you can bump it up to 3 times per week. Soon enough, you'll have those tree trunk legs you've always dreamed of!