If you’ve ever envied a celeb’s gorgeous gams—like Jessica Chastain's, Margot Robbie's, or Sofia Vergara's— first of all, you’re not alone. And you’re also in the right place: The routine below from personal trainer and Bells Up founder Lacee Lazoff, CPT, is designed to sculpt your legs fast. The best part? You’ll only need eight minutes and a pair of heavy dumbbells.
When it comes to working your legs, dumbbells can go a long way. For one thing, they’re versatile, Lazoff points out. You can use them at home or at the gym, she explains, adding that you might find them less intimidating than jumping on a weight machine or loading up a barbell. Plus, they’re good for lifting heavier, since you can find them in many sizes and they’re easy to hold onto.
Meet the expert: Lacee Lazoff, CPT, is the founder of Bells Up.
How do you know your dumbbells are heavy enough for you? Start with a weight that you feel like you could do six to eight reps with, she suggests. Then, ask yourself: Did you lift it well? How many reps do you have left in the tank?
Your answers help you determine the ideal weight. “Let’s say you could do 15 with that weight,” Lazoff says. “Then it might not be heavy enough for you for that movement.” On the other hand, she notes, if six reps is your absolute max, you probably want to go down a bit.
8-Minute Dumbbell Workout For Strong, Sculpted Legs
Ready to get going? Thought so. Below, the super-efficient heavy dumbbell leg workout, programmed by Lazoff and with step-by-step instructions for each exercise.
Time: 8 minutes | Equipment: Dumbbells | Good for: Legs
Instructions: Perform the following exercises in order for 30 seconds each, resting for 30 seconds between movements. For an 8-minute workout, complete two rounds of the circuit.
Pro tip: You can play with the number of rounds depending on how much time you have, Lazoff says. For strength, if you’re going heavy, she notes that the sweet spot is 3 to 5 rounds of a movement, but if you’re pressed for time you can stick to two rounds. For most people, working legs two days a week is great, according to Lazoff.
Front Racked Squat
- Stand with feet hip-width or slightly wider apart and hold two dumbbells at your shoulders with elbows slightly raised and toes pointed forward or slightly out.
- Maintain an engaged core and breathe in through your nose while lowering your hips in a sitting motion, keeping your chest upright. Build tension through your body during the descent, moving weight into your heels. (Avoiding losing tension at the bottom of the lift.)
- Push through the floor with the inner and outer soles of your feet to return to standing, breathing out through your mouth and tensing your glutes and quads. (Your body should feel tight and compact throughout the movement.) That's 1 rep.
Why it rocks: “I love this for all different levels, especially with free weights, because a big part of squatting is managing your center of mass,” Lazoff says. You want to stay upright and keep your chest tall in a squat, she explains. Where the weights are held in this movement forces you into that position. She also loves that holding the weights up works your core.
What it works: Squats work your quads primarily, along with your hips, glutes, and inner thighs, according to Lazoff. Meanwhile, your core, back, arms, and shoulders are working to hold the weight, she adds.
Pro tip: For this one, Lazoff says you have the option to raise your heels on wedges while keeping the soles of your feet on the floor (and making sure your wedges are pointing the same direction as your toes). In fact, she says most people can benefit from doing so, since it will help you align your shoulders over your hips and target your quads a bit more.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding two dumbbells, with your palms facing your body. Squeeze your armpits and belly button to maintain tension in your core and back while keeping a tight grip on the dumbbells.
- Breathe in laterally (to the ribs) through your nose and begin sending your hips back in space.
- Maintain minimal knee bend, hinging at the hips and allowing the dumbbells to move down your shins while your hips go back.
- Stop once your wrists pass your knees. (Do not touch the floor with the dumbbells).
- Thrust your hips forward while breathing out, rising to standing. That's 1 rep.
Pro tip: Keep a strong connection to the inner sole of your foot and avoid letting your bodyweight roll to the outsides of your feet while deadlifting.
Why it’s awesome: The Romanian deadlift (RDL) targets the backs of your legs—basically, the opposite of what you’ll hit with the front racked squat, per Lazoff.
What it works: With this one, you’ll get your glutes and hamstrings, the trainer explains. Plus, she adds, holding the dumbbells works your back, arms, and core.
- Stand with feet hips width apart, holding two dumbbells at your sides, suitcase style.
- Take a big step back and to the left with your right foot, crossing it behind your left.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips until your left thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your torso upright and your hips and shoulders as square as possible.
- Push through your front foot to return to standing. That's 1 rep.
Bonus burn: Combine with a lateral lunge for more challenge. Alternate between a lateral lunge and curtsy lunge on the same side. Step out wide with your right foot and send your hips back and down like you're squatting as you bend your right knee.
Why it’s awesome: “I always love to add in lateral movement, because it’s one of the things people miss a lot in their sessions,” Lazoff says. And the combo is fun, she adds, because it makes your brain work a little bit, too.
What it works: You’ll get your inner thighs, outer hips, and glutes, according to Lazoff.
Erin Warwood is a San Francisco-based writer, runner, and sparkling water enthusiast. She holds a B.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University. In her free time, you can find her watching Survivor, trying new Peloton workouts, and reading Emily Giffin novels. Her ultimate goal: become a morning person.
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