30 Day Leg Challenge for Women that Work
When it comes to sculpting your quads, you can’t beat the squat. And even though your quads are the primary target, squats also work your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core. Mastering the bodyweight squat is essential before moving on to more advanced variations. It’s also a move you can do at home, at the gym, or in a hotel room.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder level. With a strong (braced) core, lower your body as low as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Your torso should remain upright and your arms should not change positions throughout the movement. At the bottom of the motion, the tops of your thighs should be parallel to the floor (or lower). Pause briefly at the bottom and then push back up to the starting position squeezing your glutes at the top.
Goblet squats are a great way to learn good squat form. Holding the weight against the chest keeps your torso in the correct position. At the bottom of the squat, you can use your elbows to push out your knees – a good way to remind yourself not to let your knees cave in. Goblet squats are also an effective way to improve range of motion and flexibility in the often-tight hip muscles. Sitting all day whether at your desk or in your car can cause some serious tightness around your hips and pelvis. The goblet squat will crank up your mobility and open up those sticking points.
Stand tall with your feet just wider than shoulder-width and hold a dumbbell vertically against your chest. Both hands will cup the top head of the dumbbell (as if it were a heavy goblet). With a kettlebell, simply hold a side of the handle in each hand. Lower your body as in a regular squat, remembering to keep your chest up – your elbows will brush the insides of your knees at the bottom of the squat. Pause briefly and press through your heels to push yourself back up to the starting position. After a few sets of these you’ll know why they’re one of the best leg exercises for women.
Bodyweight jump squats are an intense plyometric move that will help you burn fat while toning your thighs. Don’t cheat the full fat-burning potential of these by doing a partial-depth squat. Be sure to squat all the way down before jumping back up. And don’t worry if they leave you breathless, they are an intense full-body movement that require a substantial amount of oxygen to power all of those working muscles.
Stand tall with your fingers on the back of your head and elbows pulled back. Bend your knees slightly as you prepare to jump. Explosively leap as high as you can. When you land, use the momentum to immediately squat down and jump again.
What’s a 30 day leg challenge without lunges?! They are a great lower-body sculpting exercise. You can do them with a dumbbell in each hand or as a bodyweight exercise with your hands on your hips.
Stand tall while holding a pair of dumbbells down by your sides, your palms facing in towards your body. With your chest up and shoulders back, step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Pause briefly and then return to the starting position. Complete all of the reps on one side before doing the same amount of reps with the other leg.
To mix up the lunge portion of your leg workout, you can try different variations. From side lunges, back lunges, depth lunges or clock lunges, you can hit nearly every single muscle in your thighs and hips. A few sets of side lunges and you’ll definitely feel your adductors and abductors!!
Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats are the most challenging variation of single-leg split squats. You’ll feel your working quad burning as well as an intense stretch in the hip flexor of the back leg. Perform this as a bodyweight exercise with your hands down by your sides or crossed in front of your chest. If you want more of a challenge, hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides. This exercise will tone your quads, build your booty, and improve your core strength and balance.
Set up in a staggered stance as if you were doing a split squat. Place just the instep of your back foot on a bench. Keeping your chest upright, lower your body as deeply as you can. Push back up to the top position. Repeat all reps for one side before switching to the other.
Single-Leg Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise
Getting nicely shaped calves can be tricky, but you can’t complete a 30 day leg workout without hitting those lower legs. While the bigger leg muscles can be trained just by doing big, compound lifts, the calves need some extra loving with isolation work. By performing single-leg calf raises, you can use less weight and still target each calf effectively. These are traditionally done with a straight working leg, but you can also try them with bent knees to hit a different part of your calves.
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand on a step, block, or 25-pound weight plate. Hook your left foot behind your right ankle, and balance yourself on the ball of your right foot (your right heel will be hanging off the step or on the floor). You can rest your left hand on something for balance (wall, table, gym equipment, etc). To start the calf raise, lift your right heel as high as you can. Pause briefly and then lower and repeat. Complete all reps for the right calf before switching to the left.
To ensure you target all aspects of your calf muscles, rotate your foot to different angles when doing the calf raises. Making a rainbow-like arch will hit every angle of your lower leg.
Farmer’s Walk on Toes
This might get a few funny looks at the gym, but it’s an amazing way to tone your calves. You can do it at home if you’re self-conscious. Farmer’s walks help you strengthen your calves while improving your cardiovascular fitness, grip strength and core stability.
Stand tall and hold a pair of heavy dumbbells (or kettlebells) down by your sides. Lift your heels and walk forward on the balls of your feet. If you don’t have a lot of space, walk around in circles instead of walking forward. In the 30 day leg challenge, we’ll be doing these for time and not distance or reps, so make sure you can check a clock or use an interval app on your phone.
This gym class favorite is back to slim your calves, get your heart pumping and round out your 30 day leg workout! Because you’re jumping on the balls of your feet, your calves are being worked with each jump. Again, we’ll be jumping for time (it’s too hard to count reps while your heart is racing!), so keep an interval timer or clock nearby. You don’t have to do any fancy footwork or speed drills, just some traditional jumps — but if you want to add in some double dutch or other sweet tricks you picked up on the playground, have at it!
About Toning Your Quads and Sculpting the Perfect Calves
- To brace your core, pretend like you’re about to get punched in the stomach. Maintain this throughout the squat and it will help you keep the natural arch in your back.
- Feel your weight in your heels, not on your toes. Lift your toes slightly or wiggle them around to test yourself.
- Look straight ahead and keep your back flat or slightly arched. Never let your back round when squatting, especially if you’re working with weights.
- Your knees should feel like they’re pressing out. Don’t let the knees cave in.
- Keep all of these cues in mind as you hinge at the hips, pressing your glutes behind you and bend your knees.
- Continue down until your thighs reach parallel or deeper if possible. Do not go so deep you’re forced to break form or lose your balance.
If you can’t quite master the motion, practice squatting with a box or bench behind you. While squatting, aim for your butt to graze the top of the box before pushing yourself back up.
Ok, you’ve had a chance to learn the simple leg exercises that you’ll need to tone your quads and sculpt your calves. Now you need to know how to put it all together for the 30 day leg challenge!
Strength Training & Fat Burning
This challenge was designed to integrate the best leg exercises for women with explosive cardio moves. Building muscle is one of the best ways to burn fat, but the addition of cardiovascular exercises will help you slim down faster. We want you to see and feel results in just 30 days!
Squat jumps, farmer’s walks, and jump rope are the 3 moves that are designed to help you shed fat while building toned legs. You’ll do at least one of those exercises each day you workout during the 30-day leg challenge.
Once you dive into the workouts, you’ll see that on certain days, you do all 3 of the fat-burning moves on the same day. This day will always be followed by a rest day so that you can recover and prepare to go even harder as you progress through the workouts!
The other exercises are traditional strength- and muscle-building moves, so those should be plenty to give you toned quads and perfect calves by the end of the challenge. If you lack the stamina to complete the prescribed reps as the challenge progresses, simply break the exercise up into smaller sets (for example: if you can’t jump rope for 6 minutes straight, do three 2-minute sets instead with short breaks in between).
If you’re new to lifting or using the 4-week challenge to jumpstart some healthy habits, you can do all of the exercises without weights (for goblet squats, just cross your arms over your chest). But for gym junkies and to get the best results, use dumbbells or kettlebells as written.
On that note, ladies, please do NOT be afraid of heavy weights. If you’re ready to take on the challenge, see what you’re made of. Despite the fact that we have fierce women all over the country deadlifting and snatching more than many men, the fear of bulking up still exists. If you lift weights and you lift heavy, you will build muscle. But you will by no means gain more than you desire. Adding lean muscle to your legs will give them a strong athletic appearance, not to mention help you shed fat by giving your metabolism a healthy boost.
No matter what weight you use (or don’t use), you’re accomplishing something big by taking on a 30 day leg workout challenge!
(2 of 3)