10 Great Dumbbell Quad Exercises for Growth, Definition, and Strength

What’s your typical Monday morning workout? Are you hitting the chest and triceps muscles like most people? Why not make Monday your new Leg Day?

Think about it. You’ll begin the week with muscles that have the greatest potential for caloric expenditure, muscle growth, and strength. Best of all, you’ll get the toughest day (or the one you enjoy the least) out of the way.

Dumbbell Quad Exercises

You’ll need a leg workout that will help you achieve those goals. A solid leg workout breaks down the lower body into quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and calves. In this article, we’ll be covering the best quad exercises that you can perform with our favorite fitness equipmentdumbbells.

But don’t worry; we also cover dumbbell hamstring exercises and calf exercises in our other articles.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the quadriceps muscle, it’s function, and the best dumbbell quadriceps exercises. We’ll also make sure you have quad workouts so you can get started today.

Breakdown of the Quad Muscle

Look down at the front of your thigh. That’s your quadriceps femoris. This is a four-headed muscle that is made up of four unique parts:

  • Vastus Lateralis
  • Rectus Femoris
  • Vastus Medialis
  • Vastus Intermedius

Each of the four heads of the muscle starts at the femur and connects to your kneecap. Not surprisingly, the primary function of the quadriceps femoris is to extend the leg from the knee. It also stabilizes the patella or the small bone in front of the knee.

Moving from the outside of the leg to the inside, here are each of the four muscles:

Vastus Lateralis

The largest part of the quadriceps femoris, the vastus lateralis is located on the outer side of the upper thigh.

Aside from supporting leg extension and patella stabilization, the vastus lateralis also ensures you’re able to get up from the bottom of a squat.

Rectus Femoris

The rectus femoris muscle is found in the center of the front of the thigh. One unique fact about this muscle is that it is the only quadricep-based muscle that can flex the hip and thigh.

You can see this for yourself by extending your leg straight out and up. Contract the quadricep at the top and slowly lower. You have the rectus femoris to thank for that.

Vastus Medialis

Famously known as the teardrop muscle, the vastus medialis can be found on the inside of your thigh. This muscle gets a lot of attention in the world of bodybuilding because of its unique shape and ability to thicken the appearance of your thighs. (Take note if you have chicken legs.)

Vastus Intermedius

Finally, we have the vastus intermedius. This muscle lies beneath the rectus femoris and given this location, it can be tricky to target, which is why it’s essential to follow a well-rounded quadriceps workout. Squats are wonderful but there’s more to hitting your quads than one foundational movement.

Benefits of Quad Exercises

When I first started focusing on my quadriceps – I didn’t realize just how much they’d impact my daily life and athletic performance. The quadriceps play a significant role in overall leg strength, athletic performance, and daily functionality. Incorporating dumbbell exercises to target these muscles offers a myriad of benefits, suitable for all fitness levels.

Enhancing Overall Leg Strength

Let me tell you, once I began integrating squats, lunges, and step-ups with dumbbells into my routine, my leg strength skyrocketed. It’s not just about looking good; it’s about the power to lift, jump, and sprint. I remember the first time I realized how much easier it was to carry groceries up the stairs – that’s when it hit me: these quad workouts are practical.

Improving Athletic Performance 

For any sports enthusiast, from weekend warriors to competitive athletes, strong quads can be a game-changer. It’s not just about running faster; it’s about that explosive power. Think about jumping higher in your basketball game or having that extra endurance in your cycling session – it’s exhilarating.

Aiding in Daily Functional Movements 

This might sound simple, but standing up from a chair or keeping your balance while walking becomes noticeably easier with stronger quads. Especially as we age, these muscles are like our body’s support system, making every step feel more effortless.

Supporting Joint Health

I’ve had my share of knee troubles, and nothing has been more helpful than strengthening my quads. It’s like giving your knees a personal bodyguard, protecting them from pain and injury. Those dumbbell exercises have been my knee’s best friend.

Maintaining Balance and Posture 

Once I focused on my quad strength, I found myself more stable and upright, whether I’m standing in a queue or moving around. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes to your overall balance and posture.

Preventing Injuries 

Here’s the deal: strong quads are your first line of defense against injuries. I learned this the hard way, but now, controlled quad exercises with dumbbells are a non-negotiable part of my routine.

Catering to All Fitness Levels 

What I love about dumbbell exercises for the quads is their adaptability. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned athlete, there’s a way to tailor these exercises for your level. Trust me, there’s a sweet spot for everyone.

Efficiency Is Key – Maximizing Time

We’re all busy, right? That’s why I appreciate how quad exercises with dumbbells give me a full-body workout in less time. It’s about being smart with your training and getting the most bang for your buck.

Best Dumbbell Quad Exercises

As far as targeting your quadriceps, we think that one of the best pieces of weightlifting equipment you can use is a pair of dumbbells.

Barbells are great but they do allow for overcompensation issues to worsen. With dumbbells, each side must pull its own weight so you’ll be able to bring a weaker side up to speed much faster.

What’s more, if you’re looking for quad exercises at home, you’ve found them. These exercises can be done in any room or even outside if you have a few travel-friendly pairs of dumbbells.

Take note that some of these exercises are bodyweight-based. We wanted to include these because of how important they are for variety and full quad development.

Vastus Lateralis: Targeting the Outer Thighs

Close-Stance Dumbbell Front Squat:

Stand with feet close together, holding dumbbells at shoulder height. Squat down while maintaining a straight posture. This variation puts more emphasis on the outer thighs, engaging the vastus lateralis more intensely than a regular squat.

Dumbbell Hack Squats

With dumbbells at your sides, squat down as if sitting back into a chair. The position of the dumbbells in this exercise helps in better targeting the outer quadriceps, crucial for enhancing lateral leg strength.

Rectus Femoris: The Central Quad Muscle

Dumbbell Squats

A staple in quad workouts, dumbbell squats engage the entire quadriceps group, with a significant focus on the rectus femoris. The versatility of this exercise allows for different stances and weights, making it suitable for various fitness levels.

Dumbbell Lunges

Step forward into a lunge while holding dumbbells at your sides. This exercise not only works the entire leg but also emphasizes the rectus femoris due to its role in stabilizing and lifting the body during the lunge.

Vastus Medialis: Strengthening the Inner Thighs

Split Squat

Position one leg forward and the other extended back. Lower your body until the front thigh is almost parallel to the floor. This movement particularly targets the vastus medialis, crucial for knee stability.

Dumbbell Side Lunge / Lateral Lunge

Step out to the side and squat down on one leg. This lateral movement engages the inner part of the thigh, working the vastus medialis effectively.

Dumbbell Reverse Lunge:

Step backward into a lunge. The reverse motion ensures that the vastus medialis is engaged more, compared to standard lunges, aiding in balanced quad development.

Vastus Intermedius: Building the Base of the Quad

Dumbbell Step-Ups

Step up onto a bench or platform while holding dumbbells. This exercise deeply engages the vastus intermedius due to the elevation and stepping motion, enhancing the overall strength of the thigh.

Goblet Squat

Hold a single dumbbell close to your chest. Squat down, keeping your back straight. The goblet squat provides a balanced quad workout, with significant engagement of the vastus intermedius.

Dumbbell Lunge Pulses

In a lunge position, perform small up and down movements. This pulsing action keeps the vastus intermedius under constant tension, leading to improved muscle endurance and strength.

Quadriceps Workouts for Every Level

Each dumbbell quad workout has been designed to accommodate different experience levels. You’ll notice that the foundational exercises are found earlier in the beginner-level workouts while the more complicated exercises and methodologies are reserved for the advanced workouts.

Quad Workout for Beginners

This is your basic quadriceps workout. It’s ideal for beginners because it begins with bodyweight exercises to activate and wake up all four heads of the muscle. The dumbbell exercises that follow are considered barebones movements or things you should know before moving on to more complicated leg exercises.

Complete all of the repetitions for a given exercise before moving on the next one. Take no more than a 90-second break in between sets.

  • Single-Leg Raises: 3 sets of 20 repetitions
  • Dumbbell Step-Ups: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Dumbbell Squats: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Dumbbell Lunge Pulses: 3 x 10 – 12

Intermediate-Level Dumbbell Quadriceps Workout

Let’s take your dumbbell quad workout to the next level by using the supersetting method. This is when you perform one exercise and immediately move into the next one with no rest. Only after you’ve completed one set of the two exercises should you take a few minutes to rest.

The exercises below have been labeled “A” or “B”. Perform both “A” exercises back-to-back, take a break, then repeat the “A” exercises. Do this until you complete all of the sets and move on to the “B” exercises.

Super sets can get tough so you might need to put your ego in check beforehand and use a lighter weight than you normally would.

  • A: Bodyweight Single-Leg Squat: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
  • A: Close-Stance Dumbbell Front Squat: 3 x 10 – 12
  • B: Reverse Lunge: 3 x 10 – 12
  • B: Goblet Squat: 3 x 10 – 12

Advanced Dumbbell Quad Workout

Assuming you’re hitting legs twice per week, the following quadriceps workouts will be broken down into an inner and outer quad workout that can be complemented by hamstring and calf exercises for a complete leg workout. This will allow you to focus on even development.


  • Single Leg Raises: 3 sets of 15 to 25 repetitions
  • Dumbbell Squats: 3 x 8 – 15
  • Single-Leg Squat: 2 x 8 – 15
  • Dumbbell Hack Squats: 2 x 8 – 15


  • Dumbbell Step-Ups: 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions
  • Split Squat: 2 x 8 – 12
  • Side Lunge / Lateral Lunge: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Goblet Squat: 3 x 8 – 15

Leg Day: How to Target Quads with Hamstrings and Calves

We’ve provided you with several quadricep-focused workouts but if you were planning on training the rest of your leg muscles in one day, then you’ll need to know how to incorporate dumbbell hamstring and calf exercises.

The quads and the hams are the big guns in a typical leg workout. Calves are important but they are secondary because they are already being worked in many leg exercises.

When designing a leg workout, you’ll want to include the following number of exercises for each of the three muscle groups:

  • Quadriceps: 2 to 4 (Select at least one glute-dominant exercise such as the squat)
  • Hamstrings: 2 to 3
  • Calves: 1 to 2

Putting all of it together, here are two examples of a leg day training schedule, depending on how many times per week you work your legs.

Leg Day Workout Schedule One

Monday: Legs

  • Single-Leg Raises: 3 sets of 20 repetitions
  • Dumbbell Squats: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Lunge Pulses: 3 x 10 – 12
  • Hamstring exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts)
  • Hamstring exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts)
  • Calf exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Calf Raises)

Tuesday: Back / Biceps / Core

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps

Friday: Arms / Core

Saturday and Sunday: Rest

Leg Day Workout Schedule Two

Monday: Legs

  • Bodyweight Single-Leg Squat: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
  • Close-Stance Dumbbell Front Squat: 3 x 10 – 12
  • Hamstring exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts)
  • Calf exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Calf Raises)

Tuesday: Back / Biceps / Core

Wednesday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps

Thursday: Legs

  • Reverse Lunge: 3 x 10 – 12
  • Goblet Squat: 3 x 10 – 12
  • Hamstring exercise: (Example: Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts)
  • Calf exercise: (Example: Seated Dumbbell Calf Raises)

Friday: Back / Biceps / Core

Saturday: Chest / Shoulders / Triceps

Sunday: Rest

Put the “Quad” in Your Quadriceps Workout

Squats are the classic leg exercise – particularly for the quadriceps. But a true leg workout is going to target each head of the quadriceps muscle.

The extra time and effort that you’ll put into your workouts will be paid back and some when you see how much stronger and defined your thighs look with our suggested dumbbell quad exercises.

[Related: Best Exercise for Quad Separation]