Dumbbell quad workout for strength

If you’re looking to build strong legs without machines or barbells, you can include quad dumbbell exercises in your leg day workout routine.

The quadriceps muscles are some of the largest muscles in the body and can require more weight and volume to grow and strengthen. 

You might think of squats first when you think of training your quads, but they’re not the only exercise for your quads. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell also can add benefits to your strength and performance. 

dumbbell sumo squats quad workout

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What role does your quad play?

Their main responsibility is to flex the knee and extend the hip. These muscles help to stabilize the knee cap during any type of movement. Whenever you run, walk, jump, or kick, you’re using your quadriceps.

The quadriceps femoris is a four-headed muscle: 

  • Vastus Lateralis 
  • Rectus Femoris 
  • Vastus Medialis 
  • Vastus Intermedius 

Each of the four heads of the muscle starts at the femur and connects to your kneecap. The main function of the quads is to extend your leg from your knee. It also stabilizes the patella, which is the small bone in front of the knee.

Benefits of training your quads

Improves imbalances

Dumbbells can provide unilateral benefits that you just can’t get from a barbell. With a barbell, if one side is weaker than the other, the stronger side can compensate for that weakness, creating more muscle imbalances.

Improves athletic performance

Your quadriceps are the primary muscles responsible for various athletic movements. Studies show that the quadriceps are essential for movements like kicking, jumping, cycling and sprinting.

Prevent risk of injury

Strengthening your quad muscles also helps to stabilize the knee, preventing injury and reducing knee pain.

Some of the best quad exercises

When training your quads, you can use dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell. Dumbbells and kettlebells allow for more unilateral work and can require more stability than using a barbell because the weight isn’t equally distributed. 

Dumbbell leg extension

When you don’t have a leg extension machine, using dumbbells in this way allows you to still perform the exercise.

  • Sit on the edge of a bench or stable surface.
  • Safely secure a dumbbell in between your feet.
  • Start with your feet planted on the ground and keep your chest tall.
  • Slowly start to extend your knees to raise your legs.
  • Stop when they reach hip height.
  • Return to the starting position. 

Goblet squat

woman doing goblet squat in the gym
woman in long sleeve shirt doing goblet squats
  • Select a dumbbell and position it at the front of your chest with one hand under each edge of the dumbbell.
  • Take a deep breath and descend by simultaneously pushing the hips back and bending the knees.
  • Once your thighs reach parallel with the floor, begin to reverse the movement.
  • Keep your abs braced and drive your feet through the floor.
  • Drive back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Dumbbell step-up

This exercise also involves calves and glutes and hip flexors.

dumbbell step ups
  • Place a bench in front of you and grab a dumbbell in each hand, or use just your body weight.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with one leg onto the step and drive through that thigh to bring your body upward.
  • Bring the trailing leg to the top of the step and stand on the bench, then step back with the opposite leg to the floor and lower yourself.
  • Alternate legs with each rep. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tip: Try to keep the weight on your front leg that is on the bench.

Dumbbell squat

woman in long sleeve doing dumbbell squats
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a pair of dumbbells
  • Brace your core and lower yourself by bending your knees and until your quads are parallel with the ground.
  • Keep your chest up by focusing on raising your sternum.
  • Pause for a second and then return to your starting point.

Dumbbell lunges

Dumbbell lunges are an excellent exercise to build quad muscles and glutes. There are several variations you can add to your workout. You can choose from reverse lunge, forward lunge or curtsy lunge.

Lunges are one of the best exercises you can perform for total lower body strength and balance. 

Forward lunge

The forward lunges will target your quads more because they rely on the quads to lower themselves on the eccentric portion. The reverse lunge uses the hamstrings to control the eccentric.

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand and place your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Step forward with one leg until the thigh is parallel to the floor. 
  • Push through your heel and lift yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Squat jump

woman in long sleeve shirt setting up jump squat
woman in long sleeve shirt jump squats

Dumbbell jump squats are plyometric versions of squats

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Quickly drop down by bending at the knees and hips, letting your glutes track backward to lower yourself into a squat.
  • At the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, quickly and explosively reverse direction, driving up through your heels and the balls of your feet to lift your body off the floor as high as possible.
  • Land with soft knees and immediately lower into the next rep.

Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat

Bulgarian split squats are unilateral exercises, like lunges.

dumbbell bulgarian split squat starting position
woman in long sleeve doing dumbbell bulgarian split squats
  • Stand with your back to a bench or stable surface.
  • Place your right foot behind you on the bench and the left foot planted on the ground. This should resemble a lunge position.
  • Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands and keep your chest tall and core tight.
  • Lunge down to the ground until you’ve reached full range of motion. 
  • The majority of the weight should be kept over the front foot with the additional weight on the rear foot.
  • To stand back up, drive through the heel on your front foot and come back to a standing position.
  • Repeat and then switch sides

Dumbbell sumo squats

This compound exercise also works your inner thighs (adductors), which are activated in different ways than during a conventional squat. 

  • Stand with a wide stance and your feet turned outwards slightly.
  • Hold a single dumbbell in your hands toward the floor between your feet, squat down, bending your knees.  
  • Stop when your legs reach a 90-degree bend and push up back to the starting position. 
  • Repeat the movement. 

Dumbbell quad workout

Increasing the strength and power of your quadriceps is beneficial for X, pushing power and athletic performance.

All of these quad exercises will be great for your leg workouts.

WORKOUT A – Super sets

For this workout, perform one exercise and immediately move into the next one with no rest. Only after you’ve completed one set of the two exercises should you take 60-90 seconds to rest.

The exercises below have been labeled “A” or “B”. Perform both “A” exercises back-to-back, take a break, then repeat the “A” exercises. Do this until you complete all of the sets and move on to the “B” exercises.

A: Dumbbell goblet squat: 3 sets of 15 repetitions

A: Dumbbell front lunge: 3 sets of 10–12 repetitions per leg

B: Sumo squat: 4 sets of 10–12 repetitions

B: Leg extension: 3 sets of 10–12 repetitions

C: Dumbbell step-ups: 3 sets of 15 repetitions per leg

C: Jump squats: 3 sets of 15 repetitions


Dumbbell Step-Ups: 4 sets of 10 -12 repetitions per leg

Bulgarian Split Squat: 4 sets of 10 -12 repetitions per leg

Side Lunge / Lateral Lunge: 3 sets of 10 repetitions per leg

Goblet Squat: 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions

Deficit reverse lunge: 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions per leg

dumbbell quad workouts
dumbbell quad workout
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