Are your legs lacking?
If all your Instagram fitspo accounts have you longing for slim, toned legs, I have an easy solution.
This 30 day lower-body exercise challenge is just what you need!
I’m giving you a complete 4-week roadmap to stronger, more shapely legs and hips. You’ll get detailed exercise descriptions, helpful toning tips, and a full month of workouts that will shock your lower body.
These are the best lower body workouts for women and are short and sweet, but you’re going to actually strengthen your legs to build sculpted sexy thighs and full hips. And with some fat-blasting extras, your new muscles are going to look nice and lean!
Everyone and their sister is doing squats now, but that doesn’t always work your entire lower body for perfectly toned legs. This 4-week challenge will target your hips and thighs in new and challenging ways, even if you’re already a squat goddess.
Ready to discover muscles you didn’t know you had? If you think you can handle the ultimate burn and this women’s lower body workout, just click the button below to get started on the 30 day lower body exercise challenge.
Lower Body Workouts for Women that Work
Lower body workouts for women should include unilateral training, such as the split squat, to prevent muscle imbalances. This staggered-stance squat variation is a great way to get your inner thighs engaged. Think of them as a stationary lunge. You’ll feel both hip adductors working as well as the hip flexor of your back leg. Really squeeze the glute of the working (front) leg to make sure you’re fully activating that muscle. Done correctly, split squats will strengthen your quads and glutes.
Hold a pair of dumbbells down by your sides, palms facing each other. Begin by standing in a staggered stance, with your left foot in front of your right by about 2-3 feet (you can also place your back foot on a bench to increase the challenge to your back leg). With a braced and strong core, slowly lower your body as far as you can. Pause briefly and then push back to the starting position. Complete all of the reps on the left side before switching your stance and repeating it for the right side.
Step ups are one of the best lower body exercises — perfect for building firm glutes and developing the glute medius. These might look easy, but if you do them with good form, they’re quite a challenge. Although the workout calls for dumbbells, feel free to try them without weights to test your form. The temptation here is to cheat by pushing off with the back leg. Don’t do it! You simply won’t see results unless the leg on the step is doing all the work. To help keep good form, simply lift the toes of your back foot off the ground a little – this will make it much more difficult to cheat.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and find a box, step, riser, or low bench. Hold the dumbbells down by your sides and place your left foot on the step. Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle when resting on the step. Press your left heel firmly into the step and push until your left leg is straight. Really feel the squeeze in your left glute. Your right leg will trail behind and graze against the step. Lower back down until your left leg is bent again and your right foot is on the floor. Repeat all reps on the left side and then switch to the right.
Every women’s lower body workout should include the curtsy lunge. While it seems like a simple movement, I assure you you’ll feel it in your hips. This bodyweight lunge variation targets both your inner thighs and your glute medius. It’s everything you need to tone your hips in one easy package!
Stand with your feet together. You can rest your hands on your hips or clasp them together in front of your chest. Step your left leg behind and across your right leg. As you step, lower your body down so that both knees are bent, as in a curtsy. Your front knee should be in line with your front ankle. Return to standing and alternate legs. Keep alternating sides until you’ve done the required number of reps for each side.
The best lower body workouts for women should always include a power move such as split jumps. This plyometric move can be done with dumbbells or with just your bodyweight. The power of the jump is what really gets your muscles working and your heart racing.
Lower your body down into the bottom position of a Split Squat. Quickly and powerfully, jump up and switch the position of your legs mid-air. When you land, you’ll be in the opposite stance as when you started. Use your landing to propel another jump and another switch. Keep alternating your position on each rep.
Marching Hip Raise
A list of the best lower body exercises isn’t complete without the hip raise — add some movement and you’ve really got a winner. This dynamic twist on the traditional hip raise adds a great challenge for core stability. By staying in motion, your body is constantly making slight tweaks to remain in a straight line. By only working one side at a time, you’ll really feel the working glute start to burn.
Set up as you would for a traditional hip raise: lie on your back with bent knees and your feet flat on the floor. Your arms can rest out by your side with palms up. Using your glutes to initiate the movement, raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. That’s your starting position.
To “march,” lift one knee toward your chest, lower it back to the starting position, and then lift your other knee to your chest. Keep alternating which knee you lift. Your butt never touches the floor in this marching variation. Do these with control and don’t allow your knees to cave in or your hips to sag.
Although it’s a slightly awkward exercise (no eye contact, please), the best lower body workouts for women include this glute isolation movement. Clamshells directly target the glute medius. They’re great for not only building a round butt, but also are a go-to exercise for runners with knee pain. Like with leg raises below, you’ll feel these in your hips right away!
Lie on your side on the floor, with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees. Your legs should be stacked one on top of the other and your heels together. With your feet still touching, raise the top knee as high as you can (think of a clamshell opening!). Return to the starting position. Repeat all reps for one side before switching sides.
Leg raises are a simple but effective hip abduction exercise. Lie on the floor on your left side with straight legs stacked one on top of the other. You can use a bent arm as a “pillow” for your head. Using only your right hip and glute, raise your right leg as high as it can go. Lower the leg back down. Complete all reps lying on your left side before rolling over and doing the other leg.
Many trainers and physical therapists think this exercise with a funny name is one of the best lower body exercises. It not only strengthens the glutes but also tests core stability and hip mobility. Remember, you don’t want the entire body to rotate as you lift the leg. If the weight of your body doesn’t feel evenly distributed across both hands, you’re probably starting to twist!
Get in a table top position with your hands and knees on the ground. Keeping both knees bent, raise your left leg away from the body (you know – like a dog at a fire hydrant!). Try to lift your leg as high as you can. Pause and return to the starting position. Repeat all reps for the left leg before doing the right leg.
X Band Walks
Full disclosure: this exercise looks a little funny. You’ll need a long hallway or path and a long resistance band. However, you will feel this in your outer thighs and hips like nothing else before! You can always do this one at home if it’s a little too awkward for the gym. But hey, if any gym crush doubts you for training this hard, they don’t deserve you!
Stand on a long resistance band with your feet roughly six inches apart. Cross the band in front of your legs into an “X” shape and hold onto the handles with both hands. Take a small lateral step to one side. Keep stepping in one direction for the prescribed amount of time. It will feel sort of like a slow shimmy down the hall! Once time is up, head back in the opposite direction.
About Toning Your Legs and Sculpting the Perfect Hips
Balanced Leg Strengthening
To get the most out of our women’s lower body workout — toned thighs and sculpted hips — you have to train all of the muscles of the upper legs. For thighs, you need to hit your quads, hip adductors, and hip flexors. And to get hips that look balanced with a booty, you have to work the gluteus medius and hip abductors.
You may have noticed that every single exercise here is a single-leg exercise. Single-leg training is a great way to get more bang for your buck during a quick workout. For standing single-leg exercises, there’s the added benefit of core stability and improved balance. And if the reps in the 30 day challenge look low, remember that you’ll need to do the prescribed number of reps for each leg.
Single-leg training also makes it more practical to train at home or at a smaller gym. You’ll need to use much less weight than you would with a 2-legged equivalent, so many of these lifts can be done with dumbbells or even as bodyweight exercises. They’re just as challenging as more traditional lifts, but you don’t need a barbell and weight plates!
Most importantly, these single-leg moves are perfect for recruiting the small muscles that you need to really sculpt your hips and thighs. So, sure, leg raises are a simple exercise on paper, but you’re really going to feel the burn as you do them (and the next day!)
Fat Burning Extras
Some of these leg exercises just happen to have a fat-burning bonus. Split Jumps, in particular, are a truly explosive movement that will have your heart pounding and your quads burning.
Marching Hip Raises, on the other hand, are a small but dynamic movement that requires stability, coordination, and recruitment of several large muscle groups. Any exercise that recruits the large muscles of your butt and thighs are going to burn the most calories both during and after training. Ashley Graham’s weight loss came from doing lots of lower body exercises, and it shows!
There are even a few active rest days built in to encourage you to keep your lower body muscles engaged and your cardiovascular system working efficiently. Hiking, walking, or playing a game of tennis with friends are ideal options to tone your legs while burning fat.
Now you know what we consider to be the best lower body exercises (like the 30 day thigh challenge). Are you ready to take on the best lower body workouts for women? Ready. Set. GO!