T Nation

Training Legs W/O Weights


Hi, I don't have access to a barbell and a rack just a pair of dumbells and I have a pair of skinny legs. I know there are a lot of exercises I could do with my dumbells but what do you think are my best options? Any good routines? Thanks.


Don't know how heavy your dumbells are...

Pistols (one-legged squats), step ups, and varies kinds of lunges would be your best bet.

Mike Robertson article on single leg exercises:



You can do lunges with your rear leg on a step or bench or chair, make sure to have your knee go down to the floor. Adding the db's can make this exercise pretty tough.

Glute-Ham Raises with your feet under a couch or someone holding your feet is a good idea. Most people bend at the knees, but I think bending at the hips and touching your head to the ground is actually doable.

Those are the two toughest I can think of, of course one-legged squats but for most people they are not easy.

Sample routine:

Workout 1, Mondays
3-4 sets of one-legged squats
3 sets of back extensions, lay over some stairs, off a table, your bed, a bench and wedge your feet against something, hold the db's for added resistance

Workout 2, Thursdays
3-4 sets of lunges with your rear leg elevated, each side
3 sets of GHR's

Back extensions also work your butt, which makes your legs stronger. As you get stronger with the lunges, you can load a backpack up with books or whatnot to increase the resistance. If you can't do one-legged squats yet, just do partials.

I really think undulating periodization is a great way to train. That means that you choose a different amount of reps each time you do a workout. Like monday of week one you do sets of 3 rep one-legged squats and the next week you do sets of 5 or 8, etc. This way the resistance and amount of reps is always a little different.


Air squats (no weight, just squatting down and standing up) are great and can really develop good technique and flexibility for when you go to the squat rack.

Try Tabata Squats. Dan John raves about them and they will kick your ass.

Do 20 seconds of ass to ankles squats as fast as you can, rest 10 seconds and repeat. Do eight rounds for 4 total minutes. Try to keep strict form as if you were doing squats with weight. Tabata is good variation to throw in if you are only doing body weight exercises.

Semper Fi


Don't forget to sprint. Hill sprints (~60-150 meters, walk down between reps, 4-10 reps) are spectacular for glutes and hamstrings (and they even seem to affect the quads to a noticeable extent if you pre-fatigue them).


pistols are one of my favorite exercises.
a few sets of pistols w/ a hop is a great workout w/o weights.