Strong quads are vital for full-body fitness, and adding dumbbells to your leg exercises will bring you a whole new world of quads strength, taking your workout to the next-level.
If you’re looking to build strong legs without machines or barbells, you can include quad dumbbell exercises in your workout routine.
There are a number of benefits associated with dumbbell quads exercises and workouts. Dumbbells allow you to do it at home without having to invest in a pricey piece of gym equipment. In fact, dumbbells tend to get the job done better than the fancy machines and barbell racks.
In this article, we’re going to break it down for you:
- Anatomy and function of the quadriceps
- Advantage of doing quad exercises with dumbbell
- The benefit of strong quad muscles.
- The 10 best quadriceps dumbbell exercises
- How to build Quad Muscle strength and mass
- Dumbbell Quad Workout Plan For Beginner To Advanced
Anatomy and function of the quadriceps
The quads, or quadriceps femoris, located in front of the thigh, has four separate heads:
1. Rectus femoris arises from the front of the pelvic bone.
2. Vastus medialis arises from the inner edge of the femur.
3. Vastus lateralis arises from the outer edge of the femur.
4. Vastus intermedius arises from the front surface of the femur and lies underneath the rectus femoris.
The four heads merge together, attach onto the patella (knee cap), and then insert via a single (patellar) tendon onto the tibia, just below the knee joint.
All four of these muscles help your knee joint extend, and due to the rectus femoris’ attachment to the ilium, it’s also a flexor of the hip; Hence why the muscle group is so important in walking, running, jumping and squatting.
Advantage of Doing Quad Exercises With Dumbbell
This post contains detailed descriptions of all the best dumbbell quad exercises for leg workouts that focus on the quadriceps muscles, and help you build muscle mass and strength of your Leg.
There are many advantages of doing dumbbell quad strengthening exercises, such as:
- Dumbbells require more balance than barbells or machines that can lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment.
- Dumbbell quad strengthening exercises allow unilateral training, increase core stability, and improve muscular imbalances.
- It affords a greater level of variety, which prevents physical and mental burnout.
The benefit of strong quad muscles
Beyond aesthetics, there are several good reasons to focus on building muscle size and strength in the quadriceps. Here are some of the key benefits you will enjoy if you have strong quad muscles.
1. The Quads Power All Kinds of Daily Movements.
From a purely functional standpoint, you need strong quads simply to move about your day. They work together to allow you to move the lower leg at the knee and the upper leg at the hip joint. You use the quads to stand, walk, run, jump, sit, and stand, basically for everything.
2. Strong Quads Improve Athletic Performance.
Strong quads support speed in running and in sports that require sprinting, like soccer. They power jumps in games like basketball and make you a faster cyclist. In all sports, they stabilize the knees, so you can move with greater agility.
3. Build Stronger Quads to Prevent Injury
Because the quads play such a big role in so many movements, weakness can lead to injuries and especially to problems in the knees. You need strong quad muscles to support movements every day. Weak, imbalanced muscles can lead to falls, twists, and joint damage.
Studies have even shown that having weak quads increases your risk of losing cartilage and developing osteoarthritis in the knees.
4. Stimulates hormones
Leg workouts can stimulate the release of large amounts of hormones. Working your legs helps to produce hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and human growth hormone (HGH).
5. Other benefits
Building a powerful quad also helps to:
- Tone and sculpt legs
- strengthen core muscles
- burn calories and promote weight loss
- improve overall fitness
- reduce joint pain
- strengthen bones
- alleviate lower back pain
- create an aligned, balanced, and symmetrical body
- improve mobility, stability, and range of motion
- improve posture
10 Best Quad Dumbbell Exercises
These dumbbell quad exercises can be used by people of different experience levels and for different requirements, such as building power, strength, muscle mass, and endurance.
1. Dumbbell Squat
If you’re looking for straightforward quad dumbbell exercises to add to your routine, dumbbell squats are a great staple exercise to get you started.
Dumbbell Squats are an excellent alternative to barbell squats that help to build the muscle mass in Quads muscles.
One benefit the dumbbell squat has over the barbell squat is that you can perform it anywhere, and there’s no need for a spotter.
How To Do Dumbbell Squat
- Grab hold of a pair of heavy dumbbells and stand upright with feet shoulder feet apart.
- Bend your knees and lower yourself with your back straight and head up until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Now raise yourself up using only the thigh power, keeping your back straight in a position with legs nearly locked out.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Keep your torso upright, shoulders back, head up, and feet flat.
- Warm up well before Heavy Squats.
2. Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat is another great exercise for your dumbbell quad workout. The Bulgarian split squat is a different level from other variations. Because your rear foot is elevated and not in contact with the floor, you have effectively taken it out of the exercise. This means that you are relying heavily on the quadricep of the forward leg to lift a significant portion of your weight.
The dumbbell Bulgarian split squat is an effective auxiliary exercise for improving your squat and lunge. It is also great for enhancing your balance and developing unilateral functional strength.
How To Do Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms by your sides, and stand with your back facing the side of a bench. There should be three or four feet of space between you and the bench.
- Extend one leg backward and place the top of your foot on the bench so that your body is being supported by only one leg.
- Keeping your torso upright, inhale as you squat down with your supporting leg until the knee of your back leg nearly touches the floor.
- Exhale as you push yourself back up to the starting position, driving through your heel.
- Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions. Repeat the exercise with your opposite leg.
- When you squat, your front knee should not pass your toes.
- Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.
- If you suffer from balance problems, it is best either avoid it, or just use your own bodyweight while holding on to a steady object.
3. Dumbbell Lunges
Dumbbell Lunges are an excellent exercise to build quad muscles and glutes. The forward lunges will cause more damage to the quads because they rely on the quads to lower themselves on the eccentric portion. The reverse lunge uses the hamstrings to control the eccentric.
It requires good balance, so if you have issues keeping your balance, start off by doing the lunges exercise without a dumbbell as you learn the proper form.
How To Do Dumbbell Lunges
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms by your sides, and stand upright.
- Keeping your back straight, take a step forward, bending your knees and getting them as close to the floor as possible.
- Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat with the other foot.
- Keep alternating the leg with which you lunge.
- Bend as far and low as possible without losing form.
- Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.
4. Dumbbell Sumo Squat
The dumbbell sumo squat is one of the best exercises to train your quad muscle with only a single dumbbell. The dumbbell sumo deadlift is an excellent exercise to use with dumbbells to really help isolate the quads.
It is performed with a wider than shoulder-width stance, which increases the demand on the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors while still benefiting the quads, core, and upper body.
How To Do Dumbbell Sumo Squat
- Grab a heavy dumbbell and hold one end with both hands.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and turn your feet out, externally rotating your hips.
- Take a deep breath in, then push your hips backward, lowering into a squat. Keep your core tight, back straight, and knees forward.
- Pause, then exhale and make sure you’re pushing through your heels and engaging your inner thighs as you come back to your starting position.
- Do not allow the dumbbell to contact the floor.
- The lower back should have a natural arch with chest out. Keep your abs tight throughout exercise.
5. Dumbbell Jump Squat
Squat jumps are a great dumbbell leg exercise to include in-home quad workouts, since they can be done in a small space without any equipment.
Dumbbell Jump squats are the power packed HIIT version of squats. This exercise is another great option that will help you to target the quads and grow your legs.
How To Do Dumbbell Jump Squat
- 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.
- Keep your head up and your torso upright.
- Don’t perform this exercise with cold muscles. Do a cardio warm up before it.
6. Dumbbell Front Squat
The squat and the dumbbell front squat work the same target and synergistic muscles. However, the dumbbell front squat recruits more stabilizer muscles, including various back muscles, your shoulders, and your chest.
Back squats and front squats are both excellent movements. However, if you are trying to isolate the quadriceps more, go ahead and use the front squat.
How To Do Dumbbell Front Squat
- Step on a Smith machine and get the bar on your shoulders in front of you, grasping it with your crossed arms and lift it off the rack.
- Maintain the natural arch in your lower back and keep your head directed forward.
- Perform a squat, bending your knees and driving your hips back to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- From this position, push yourself back to the starting point.
- Start light and add weight gradually, allowing your legs and lower back time to adapt.
- If lifting heavy, have a spotter ready, or use a squat rack or power rack.
7. Dumbbell Reverse Lunges
Dumbbell Reverse Lunges are an excellent leg exercise to build quad muscles and glutes.
A small lunge places emphasis on your quadriceps, whereas a large lunge places emphasis on your gluteus maximus.
How To Do Dumbbell Reverse Lunges
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms by your sides, and stand upright.
- Keeping your torso upright, inhale as you take a large step backward with one leg and plant your forefoot behind you. As you do so, flex the knee and hip of your front leg to allow yourself to descend into a kneeling position. However, do not allow your rear knee to make contact with the floor.
- Exhale as you get back up into the starting position by extending the knee and hip of your front leg and pushing off with your rear leg.
- Repeat the movement with your opposite leg.
- Keep your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.
- Keep your torso upright and your head facing forward.
- Be careful that the knee of the forward leg does not extend past the toes as you bend the leg.
8. Dumbbell Box Squat
The Dumbbell box squat is a compound exercise that uses a dumbbell and plyometric box to work for muscle groups throughout your body.
The posture of box squats puts slightly less pressure on your knee joints when compared to front squats or back squats.
How To Do Dumbbell Box Squat
- Place a box or bench that is about knee height behind you in the power rack or squat rack.
- Unrack the bar and move back so that you are several inches in front of the box or bench.
- Your posture should be tall, with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Your shoulders should be directly over your hips, with your head and neck in a neutral position.
- Squat back and down until your glutes make contact with the box, and immediately explode back up by pressing through your heels until you’re back in the standing position. Do not “plop” or fully sit down on the box.
- As you stand, keep your chest high and squeeze your glutes
- The goal is to squat down slowly and softly on the box and then immediately explode up.
9. Dumbbell Step Up
If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with your dumbbell quad workouts, why not try dumbbell step-up?
It is a great exercise for building lower-body strength and power. This exercise targets quads and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.
How To Do Dumbbell Step Up
- Place a knee-high box or bench in front of you and grasp a dumbbell in each hand, or use just your body weight.
- Stand with your feet in a comfortable hip-width stance. 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 box, 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.
- Control the movement, using your muscles to slowly lift and lower yourself.
- Be sure to keep your low back in its natural arch and your upper body upright throughout the whole movement.
- Keep your body upright and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.
10. Dumbbell Goblet Squat
The dumbbell goblet squat is a variation of the squat and an exercise used to build the muscles of the legs. In particular, the dumbbell goblet squat will place a lot of emphasis on the quads.
The dumbbell goblet squat is a classic squat variation that utilizes a ton of knee flexion, making it a perfect choice to train the quadriceps.
This dumbbell compound leg workout will help you build serious leg and glute strength.
How To Do Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- Select a dumbbell and position it at chest height 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
- Experiment with a “false” (i.e. thumbless) grip, as this helps to eliminate elbow and wrist issues in some folks.
- As you stand, keep your chest high and squeeze your glutes
Build Quadriceps Mass & Strength
If you need a refresher regarding rep ranges and desired outcome, you can follow these guidelines:
- 0-5 Reps – Power/Strength
- 6-8 Reps – Strength/Hypertrophy
- 8-15 Reps – Hypertrophy
- 15+ Reps – Endurance
You should attempt to have a good mix of these reps ranges in your workout programming.
Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:
- Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
- Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
- Advanced: ~20 sets per week.
When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress.
The best rep ranges and loads to work with.
- 6-8 reps with heavy load
- 8-15 reps with moderate load
- 15-20+ with light load
The load should bring you to or near failure within the given rep ranges to be effective.
Dumbbell Quad Workout Plan For Beginner To Advanced
1. Quad Workout for Beginners
This is your basic quadriceps workout. It’s ideal for beginners because it activates and wakes up all four heads of the muscle.
Complete all the repetitions for a given exercise before moving to the next one. Take no more than a 90-second break in between sets.
- Dumbbell Box Squat: 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
- DB Lunges: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
- Dumbbell Step Up: 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
2. Intermediate-Level Dumbbell Quadriceps Workout
Let’s take your dumbbell quad workouts to the next level by using the super setting method. This is when you perform one exercise and immediately move into the next one with no rest. Use a lighter weight than you normally would for superset.
- Dumbbell Squat: 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
- DB Reverse Lunges : 3 sets of 8-10 reps Superset with step-up
- Dumbbell Step Up: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
3. Advanced Dumbbell Quad Workout
For Advanced workout of Quad use can add superset along with Plyometrics, or plyos for short, are explosive exercises that require you to generate a large amount of force in a short period of time.
- Dumbbell Front Squat: 4 sets of 6-8reps with 2.
- Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
- DB Goblet Squat: 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
- Dumbbell Jump Squat: 3 sets of 15 reps.
Machine and barbell workouts are essential for quads. However, the dumbbells work best for you without that equipment.
The dumbbell exercises you’ve seen in this article are different from each other and help you target the muscles of the quad from every angle so that you can develop muscular legs.