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20-Minute Beginner Leg Workout

The BEST beginner leg workout at home or at the gym! This all strength lower body workout targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, thighs and calf muscles – all in 20 minutes, using just a set of dumbbells. Modifications are included for each leg day exercise to scale the intensity up or down.

You loved the all strength beginner arm workout we shared last week. So we’re balancing it out with a brand new LEG DAY workout that’s perfect for beginners, pregnancy/postpartum, or anyone looking for a solid strictly strength lower body workout.

This is a naturally low impact lower body workout that is ALL strength training, featuring the best leg exercises for beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts alike.

This workout targets the front of the leg (quads), back of the leg (hamstrings), butt (glutes), inner thighs (adductors) and hips (abductors).

You choose how challenging this beginner leg day workout is based on the weights you pick up. The last 2-3 reps of each move should feel challenging to complete with proper form; that’s how you know you chose the right weights.

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two women performing a lateral squat as part of beginner leg workout

Beginner Leg Workout FAQs

What Should A Beginner Do For Leg Day?

Beginners should include a variety of movements in their leg day, including a hip-dominant movement (deadlifts), a knee-dominant movement (squats), and moving in different planes of motion. Additional popular leg day exercises include hip thrusts/glute brides and lunge variations.

How Long Should Leg Day Be For Beginners?

In general, it’s recommend to train legs 2-3 times a week, depending on your fitness goals. Beginners should aim for each training session to last between 15 and 30 minutes. A well-rounded fitness plan includes a variety of workouts to allow your muscles proper time to rest and recover before training the same muscle group again.

Does Leg Day Burn Fat?

Most of the largest muscles in the body are in the legs. These large muscles require more energy to work — which means they burn relatively more calories. This makes leg workouts an efficient way to burn calories and fat.

two women performing a knee  drive to target the glutes as part of beginner leg workout

20-Minute Beginner Leg Workout

Build strong legs with this ALL STRENGTH beginner leg workout with dumbbells!

A complete leg day workout that hits all the major lower body muscle groups in under 25 minutes, using just a set of dumbbells.

Add this lower body workout to your beginner workout plan 1-2 times a week to build and maintain strength in the lower body.

Workout Equipment:

Medium Set of Dumbbells.

I recommend between 5-25 lbs depending on your fitness level. We used 10, 15 and 20 lb dumbbells in today’s workout. Option to drop weights at any time and do this workout with just your bodyweight.

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Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Leg Day for Beginners on YouTubeled by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 4 Circuits (1-2 beginner leg exercises per circuit)
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds of work, 20 seconds rest; complete as many repetitions as you can in the timed interval)
  • Repeat Each Circuit x2 Sets
  • 1-Minute Power ‘Burnout’ Exercise Between Circuits

Workout Outline

CIRCUIT ONE: Squats

  1. Goblet Squat
  2. Side Step Goblet Squat and Pivot Squat

Burnout: Lateral Squat Thruster

CIRCUIT TWO: Lunges

  1. Split Lunge
  2. Reverse Lunge and Lateral Lunge

Burnout: Lunge Knee Drive Switch

CIRCUIT THREE: Deadlifts

  1. Staggered Deadlift

Burnout: Dumbbell Swings

CIRCUIT FOUR: Glute Bridges

  1. Dumbbell Glute Bridge

Burnout: Glute Bridge March

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Beginner Legs

6 Leg Exercises for Beginners

Goblet Squat

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip abductors, chest and core.

two women performing goblet squats to target legs and glutes

How To Do A Goblet Squat

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Hold one dumbbell vertically at your chest in a goblet-hold.
  2. Inhale as you bend your knees and sit your hips back (as if sitting down in a chair). Aim for 90-degree bends at each knee, focusing on pushing your knees out (not letting them cave in). Keep your torso upright.
  3. Exhale as you press through your heels to stand tall, driving your hips forward to return to standing.

Side Step Goblet Squat and Pivot Squat (Transverse Squat)

Targets: The glutes (outer gluteus medius), quads (including the VMO, the small teardrop-shaped muscle group that helps move the knee joint and stabilizes the kneecap) and core.

two women performing a goblet squat and pivot squat as part of beginner leg workout

How To Do A Side Step Goblet Squat and Pivot Squat

  1. Begin in neutral standing position, feet shoulder width apart. Hold a single dumbbell at chest level (goblet hold).
  2. Step out with your right foot, feet slightly wider than hips, and lower down into a squat, pushing your hips back and down until your hips align with your knees (knees bent at 90 degrees). Left foot remains planted, toes facing forward. Drive knees out toward your pinky toes.
  3. Then drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes as you stand tall. As you stand, bring your right foot back in to starting position.
  4. Once standing, lift your right foot off the mat and step your right foot 45 degrees behind you, “pivoting” through your left foot. Moving from the sagittal plane into the transverse plane of motion.
  5. Lower down into a squat, then drive through your heels to return to standing. As you return to standing, step your right foot forward, returning to starting position.

Split Lunge

Targets: Legs, quads, hamstrings, butt and calves.

two women performing split lunges to target quads and glutes as part of beginner leg workout

How To Do Split Lunges

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  2. Step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, dropping your right knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips until both knees reach a 90-degree angle, front thigh is parallel to the floor. Lower slowly and with control.
  3. Exhale, squeezing your left glute and keeping the weight in your left heel as you push up, returning to standing position.

Modification: Hold one dumbbell horizontally at your chest, or do this exercise with just your bodyweight.

Reverse Lunge and Lateral Lunge

Targets: Glutes (gluteus medius), quads, hip adductors (inner thighs), hamstrings and core.

Focuses on the outer glutes or hip abductors that assist with side-to-side movements, as well as stabilizing your pelvic floor.

two women performing a reverse lunge and lateral lunge combination move

How To Do A Reverse Lunge and Lateral Lunge

  1. Start standing, feet6 shoulder width apart. Hold dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Step your right foot back into a reverse lunge, bending both knees at 90-degree angles and aiming to get your front thigh parallel to the ground.
  3. Push through your front heel to stand tall, returning your right foot to starting position.
  4. Then, step your right foot out wide to the right. As you step out, sit your hips back, bending your right knee while leaving your left leg straight. Think of performing a single leg squat with your right leg while your left leg remains straight.
  5. Push off your right foot to return to starting position, standing tall with your feet under your hips.

Modification: Hold one dumbbell horizontally at your chest, or do this exercise with just your bodyweight.

Staggered Deadlift

Targets:  Legs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, hips and core.

two women performing a staggered deadlift with dumbbells

How To Do A Staggered Deadlift

  1. Start standing, feet hip width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in towards your body.
  2. Stagger your feet, so your right leg is slightly in front of your left foot. Kickstand your back right foot, right heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front foot, 20% in your back toe.
  3. Maintain a staggered stance as you hinge at the hips. Push your hips back towards the wall behind you as you glide the dumbbells down the front of your legs until you feel a stretch along the back of your left leg.
  4. Then, press through your front heel to push your hips forward, pulling the dumbbells back up towards your hips as you stand tall.

Modification: hold one dumbbell in the opposite hand from your working foot.

Dumbbell Glute Bridge

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hips and pelvic floor.

two women lying on their backs performing dumbbell glute bridges

How To Do A Dumbbell Glute Bridge

  1. Start laying on your back, feet flat on the floor under knees. Place dumbbells on your hips.
  2. Press through your heels to lift your glutes off the mat, squeezing your glutes as you lift. Think about keeping your core engaged and knees in line with your hips.
  3. Exhale, slowly lowering your hips to hover an inch above the mat.

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