Build strength in the two largest muscle groups in the body: the legs and back! Eight compound exercises combined to target the hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, lats, traps and rhomboids. These are big, powerful muscle groups – which means that training them together is an efficient way to build muscle at home.
Build a strong lower body and back with this all strength workout – no squat rack, pull up bar or leg press machine needed. This dumbbell-only workout is proof you can build strength at home in less time than it would take to commute to the gym.
The legs and back are two big, powerful muscle groups. They work together to perform many of our daily movements: squatting, lifting, bending and pulling.
Pick up your heavy weights – this all strength workout combines multi-joint and multi-muscle movements to effectively build muscle, increase endurance and improve daily movement patterns.
Leg and Back Workout FAQs
Is It Good To Workout Legs And Back Together?
Your back and legs are the two largest muscle groups in your body. Training legs and back together strengthens core muscles (which also improves balance, low back pain and assists with daily activities) and maximizes muscle building and calorie burn (strength training large muscle groups burns calories for hours after your workout).
What Muscles Does This Leg and Back Workout Target?
This workout targets the lower body (quads, hamstrings, hips, glutes and calves) as well as the back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, levator scapulae and rhomboids). The compound movements also target the core muscles (transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and rectus abdominis).
20-Minute Leg and Back Workout
Strong 20: Day 1
Build strength in the two largest muscle groups in the body, using just a set of dumbbells.
This functional strength workout combines the best lower body exercises and back exercises to target the muscles that support your body through all your daily movements.
I suggest doing this legs and back workout once a week as part of a well-rounded workout routine.
A medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells.
I recommend 8-30 lbs depending on your fitness level. We’re using 10-20 lb dumbbells in this workout. The last 2-3 reps of each exercise should be challenging to complete with good form.
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A total body powerlifting exercise gets the heart rate up while strengthening multiple major muscle groups in your body.
How To Do A Staggered Deadlift and Clean Squat
Start standing with feet shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell in your left hand. Stagger your feet, so your right leg is slightly in front of your left foot. Kickstand your back left foot, left heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front foot, 20% in your back left toe.
Maintain a staggered stance as you hinge at the hips. Push your hips back towards the wall behind you as you glide the dumbbell down the front of your legs; core tight.
Then, drive through your heels to stand tall, bringing your left foot parallel to your right foot.
As you stand, bring the dumbbell up towards your chest (this is the “clean” portion of the clean squat).
Lower down into a squat position, lowering your hips down parallel to your knees. Drive your knees out toward your outer three toes. Keep the dumbbell up at chest level (front-racked).
Drive through your heels to stand tall again, finding a staggered stance again by stepping your left foot back. That’s one rep.
Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat this sequence of one staggered deadlift and one clean squat.
Modification: Follow Rachel (on the left) and omit the clean portion of the movement. Rather perform one deadlift and one squat; dumbbells remain at your sides the entire time.
Back Rows and Squat Switch Hands
Targets: The latissimus dorsi (or lats, the largest back muscle), quads, hamstrings and glutes. This unilateral exercise also engages the bicep and core.
How To Do Back Rows and Squat Switch Hands
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm in towards the midline of your body (narrow grip).
Hinge forward at the hips maintaining a flat back, belly button pulled back towards your spine.
Pull the dumbbell back towards your right hip (think of pulling from your elbow joint versus your wrist), as if you were starting a pull-start lawnmower. Stop once your elbow is in line with your rib cage, making a straight line from shoulder to elbow. Hold the row at the top for a moment squeezing your shoulder blade in.
With control, lower the dumbbell back to the starting position and repeat, completing five rows on the right side.
Then, perform a squat by sitting your hips back, lowering so that thighs are parallel to the mat. Place the dumbbell on the mat between your feet.
Switch hands, picking up the dumbbell in your left hand before pressing through your heels to rise, returning to a hinged position, knees bent.
Pull the dumbbell towards your left hip, then lower with control. Repeat, completing five rows on the left side.
Repeat this pattern, alternating five back rows with a squat set-down to switch hands.
How To Do A Single Leg Deadlift Hinge and Single Arm Row
Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Transfer your weight into your right foot and kickstand or float your left foot off the ground, balancing on your right leg. Option to add balance support by turning an additional dumbbell on its head and resting your left fingers on it.
Hold one dumbbell in your right hand (opposite hand as balancing leg), palm facing the midline of your body.
With your right knee bent, hinge at your hips extending your left leg long behind you as you lower the dumbbell down towards the ground, balancing on your right leg. Keep your hips square to the mat. You should feel a good stretch in your right hamstring (back of your right leg) at the bottom of this movement. Range of motion looks different for everyone.
Hold this single leg deadlift position, then perform a single arm row by pulling the dumbbell back toward your right hip.
Lower the dumbbell with control, then repeat.
Modification: Follow Rachel (on the left), omitting the single leg float and instead performing a staggered deadlift row.
Targets: Quads, thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves and core.
How To Do A Split Lunge (Or Split Squat)
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
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.
Then squeeze your left glute, keeping the weight in your front (left) heel as you push back up to a standing position.
Targets: The posterior deltoids (rear shoulders), and major upper back muscles including the rhomboids and trapezius.
How To Do A Back Fly
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
Grip a set of dumbbells, palms facing in towards each other.
Hinge forward at the hips until your body is in a straight line.
Open your arms, raising the dumbbells until they come in line with your shoulders as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Control the dumbbells back down. Return to the starting position, trying not to let the dumbbells touch at the bottom. Think up on a 1 count, down slow and controlled on a 2 count.
Split Lunge Hold, 2 Back Flys and 2 Back Foot Tap In’s
Targets: Legs, glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, shoulders, back (lats), abs and core.
How To Do A Split Lunge Hold, Two Back Flys and Two Back Foot Tap Ins
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in towards each other.
Step your left leg back into a reverse lunge, dropping your left knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips, staying low in both legs.
Hold this low lunge position as you perform a back fly, squeezing your shoulder blades together as your arms open up to the sides. Lower with control, then repeat; performing two back flys.
Then, stay low in your front leg as you tap your left toes in to meet your right foot, before tapping it back. Repeat, performing two toe tap-ins.
Row (Right), Row (Left) and Clean Squat
Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, back and core.
How To Do A Row (Right), Row (Left) and Clean Squat
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in towards each other.
Hinge forward at the hips, then “row” the dumbbell in your right hand, pulling the dumbbell back towards your right hip. Stop once your elbow is in line with your rib cage, making a straight line from shoulder to elbow. Lower the dumbbell with control.
Repeat on the left side, pulling your left elbow towards your ribcage to perform a back row on the left. Then lower the dumbbell with control.
Return to standing, “cleaning” the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Think about “getting under” the dumbbells to catch it — this is a dumbbell clean. Catch the dumbbells at your chest.
Bend your knees to lower down into a squat, pushing your knees out towards your outer three toes as you drop your hips parallel to your knees.
Drive through your heels to return to standing.
Modification: Follow Rachel (on the left) and omit the clean portion of the movement. Rather perform two back rows and one squat; dumbbells remain at your sides the entire time.
Glute Bridge and Dumbbell Pullover
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, lats (latissimus dorsi) and pecs (pectoralis major and pectoralis minor) while also targeting the core and abs for stability.
Holding a glute bridge is a great way to increase the time under tension and isolate the gluteus maximus.
How To Do A Glute Bridge and Dumbbell Pullover
Lie flay on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees (heels on the ground). Hold one dumbbell horizontally between your hands, arms extended overhead.
Drive through your heels, squeezing your butt to lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Perform an isometric hold at the top of your glute bridge.
Maintaining straight arms, with a slight bend in the elbows, slowly lower the dumbbell overhead towards the ground. Fully extending while trying to keep your low back pressed into the mat/ground.
Then pull the dumbbell back overhead, engaging the lats, to return back to the starting position.
Modification: Place your shoulders on a bench or exercise ball if you aren’t comfortable lying on your back.
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This was an amazing workout. I was a bit late starting Strong 20 so I paired this with day 3 and it was a super sweaty session. Also, just a HUGE thank you for always creating challenging and effective workouts. I started using 5 kg weights a few months ago because of your encouragement and I just now got a new pair of 8 kgs (~17.6 lbs.) I feel stronger than I have ever been. Thank you!!
Yeah Fatma! So glad you’re loving the workouts and feeling STRONG! Those are some awesome weight increases! Keep up the great work and keep coming back for more! -Lindsey
I usually lift weights twice a week, do cardio twice a week, and yoga once a week. I want to try your Strong 20 plan and want at least one day of rest, what schedule do you recommend to incorporate cardio and yoga? Thanks Lindsey!
Thanks for joining our Strong in 20 Program Chris! And you can add cardio onto any day (typically I suggest arm or core days — or you can sub it for the standing core day). And you can add yoga on Saturday OR sub it for standing core day too. I hope that helps! It’s really about making the workout plan work for you! -Lindsey
Thank you so much! I’m not a mum, but I am a busy Yoga teacher & never have the time or chance to do something for me & this was something I needed & it was quick & I still got a major sweat in!
Can’t wait for tomorrow! 🙏🏻
Samantha! Thank you for choosing to workout with us! Keep up the great work and keep coming back for more! -Lindsey
Homeschooling mom of 5 kids, 8 years and younger, recovering from holiday festivities. LOVE this new format! Thank you guys for something quick and SO EFFECTIVE! I think this is my new favorite work out series, been working out now with NML several years and this is perfect for the season of life I am in. So, so much appreciate this! God bless y’all!
Jazmine! So glad you enjoyed this workout! You’re one amazing mom with a lot on your plate and I hope you are so proud of yourself for finding time to fit this in too! Thanks so much for choosing to workout with us! Blessings – Lindsey