Women who love fitness and are getting in shape need a solid leg workout in their toolkit. It isn’t just about having great looking legs. Strong legs can help you with overall fitness goals. Whether you are working out for weight loss or general good health, you can’t do it without some leg exercise.
You can do some of the best leg exercises right at home. However, if you don’t have access to weights, you may want to hit the gym for some of these moves.
18 Best Leg Exercises for Women
A great leg workout will increase the fitness in your entire legs, from calves to your glutes.
1. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift is one of my favorite leg workouts. They are fun and an excellent workout for legs. Plus, they also build strength in the muscle groups around your lower back and glutes.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand. Keep your back flat, lower the dumbbells down by hinging at the hip. However, only go until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Do not bow your back. Don’t expect the dumbbells to touch the floor. Once you feel the tension in your hamstrings, squeeze your glutes to stand back up. Complete five sets of 5 reps.
2. Banded Step Out
Banded step-outs have many variations. The lateral step out is one of the best leg exercises for women that work your outer thigh leg muscles.
For this legs workout, you need a 20-inch resistance band. Place your band around your ankles and stand with your feet apart, with slight tension on the band. Keeping your knees bent slightly, hinge at the hips as if to squat. Using your right leg, step your right foot out laterally, increasing the tension on the band. Keep your hips level, and move your left foot and left leg back your original position. There should always be some tension on the band. Each step is one rep.
Once you have done your reps with the right leg, switch legs and step laterally with the left leg. Note: if having the band around your ankles is too difficult at this time, you can put it around your knees instead. Complete two sets of 20 lateral steps.
3. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
Hamstring exercises not only make your legs look great, but these exercises help improve your overall fitness. Strong hamstrings prevent injury during the impact of sports and exercise. As a bonus, hamstring curls also work your abs!
For these leg exercises, you need a Swiss Ball, otherwise known as an Exercise or Yoga Ball. Lie on the floor on your back with your heels propped up on the top of the ball. Extend your arms to the sides, palms on the floor for balance and stability. Tighten your core and lift your hips. Make a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Now, tighten your hamstrings and roll the ball back towards your butt until your feet are flat on the ball, knees towards the ceiling. Under control, lower back to the original position. Complete three sets of ten.
4. Dumbbell Calf Raises
As you might expect, Calf Raises are one of the best exercises for your calf muscles.
For these exercises, you will need a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and an elevated platform. The bottom step of a staircase works great for this. If you have problems with balance, you can do these without weights and rest one hand lightly on a wall to stabilize you.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Step onto the platform, so just the balls of your feet are on the step. Each heel will hang off the back of the platform. Your toes should point forward.
Raise on your toes as high as possible. Pause for two seconds. Slowly and under control, lower your heels back down. Complete two sets of ten reps.
5. Sumo Squat
Sumo Squats exercises primarily work your hamstrings, but also hit your calves and hip flexors.
From a standing position, hinge over, keeping your legs straight. Grab your toes in either hand. While still holding onto your toes, sink into a squat position. Keep your chest and torso up. Then raise your hips and straighten your legs to return to the starting position. Complete two sets of 10 reps.
Stand with your feet together and take a long step forward with one foot. Bend your knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Push off with the forward foot and return to standing. This is one rep. Repeat with the other side. Complete two sets of 10 reps on each side.
7. Lateral Lunge
Lateral lunges work your quadriceps and hamstrings.
Keeping your left foot on the floor, take a wide step to the right with the other foot. Hinge at the hips and bend your right knee until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Your left leg should be straight. Complete all sets on one side, then repeat on the other side. Complete two sets of 10 reps on each side.
8. Bulgarian Split Squat
A Bulgarian Split Squat is similar to a reverse lunge; however, your back foot will be elevated on a box.
Stand with your right foot on the ground under you and your left foot behind you with your toes on a box or weight bench. Lower straight down until your left knee almost touches the ground. Pause, then squeeze your glutes and stand. Complete two sets of 8-10 reps on each side.
9. Goblet Squat
If you have ankle flexibility issues like I do, the Goblet Squat is ideal for helping you keep proper form when you squat. Women love squats for the head-turning results they provide, and they should be a part of your workout routine.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Turn a kettlebell upside down, so the bell is under your chin, and you are holding the handle with both hands. Hinge at the hips, bend your knees, and Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your spine long, your wrists tight to your chest, and your gaze neutral. Complete three sets of eight reps.
10. Pistol Squat
Pistol squats are an advanced movement. Not all women have the range of motion to perform them. They are a great goal to work toward, though!
Stand on your left leg. Hold your right foot six to twelve inches off the ground. Bend your left knee and keeping your right leg straight, lower your body towards the ground. Keep your core tight and your spine long. Continue to squat until your right leg is parallel to the floor. Then reverse the steps and return to standing. Complete two sets of ten reps on each side.
Deadlifts are one of the best leg exercises because they work glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Plus, they help develop strength in your back and forearms. They are a fantastic strength workout for overall fitness.
To start: Stand directly behind the weight. Bend your knees and waist, keeping your chest up and your core tight. Grasp the barbell in each hand, just outside of your shins. Brace your midsection, then raise hips and chest together as you straighten your knees and hips until you are standing straight, the barbell just below hip level. Complete three sets of nine reps.
12. Glute Bridge
Glute Bridges work your glutes, hamstrings, and abs.
Lay on your back. Put your arms by your sides, palms to the floor. Tighten your core, squeeze your glutes and lift your hips, keeping your back straight. Slowly lower to the starting position. Complete two sets of 10 reps.
13. Donkey Kick
Donkey kicks work your hip flexors and glutes.
Get on all fours on the floor. Your hands should be under your shoulders, knees hip-width apart. Brace your core, and lift one leg, keeping your leg straight. Pause for a second, then lower your leg and do the other side. Complete three sets of 6-8 reps on each side.
14. Kick Backs
Kickbacks are similar to donkey kicks. Your hands should be under your shoulders, knees hip-width apart. Brace your core, and lift one leg while keeping your knee bent at an angle. Your foot should stay flat. Press your foot towards the ceiling, keeping your hips and pelvis level with the floor, Pause for a second, then lower your leg and do the other side. Complete three sets of 6-8 reps on each side.
15. Clamshell With Mini-Band
Place a resistance band around your knees. Lay on your side, with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Lift your top knee, trying to point it to the ceiling. Keep your top foot against the bottom foot. Slowly lower your knee back down. This completes one repetition. Complete three sets of 6-8 reps on each side.
16. Bodyweight Squat
A squat is a strength training exercise that works the hips, glutes, and legs.
To do a squat, start with your feet hip-width apart. Your toes should point straight ahead and slightly outward.
Keep your arms on your waist or out in front of you. Shift your weight on the heels and bend at the hips and squat down till your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Don’t curve your back. Keep it straight throughout the move.
Pause at the bottom and slowly return to the starting position through your heels. Repeat. Complete three sets of 8-19 reps.
17. Jump Rope
Remember sipping rope as a kid? Well, this is a power house exercise for legs as well! Jumping rope not only builds fantastic muscles in your legs, but it also raises your heart rate and improves your overall fitness, which is excellent for weight loss. It might be one of the best leg exercises out there.
Although, when we are talking about exercise that can help with weight loss and boost your overall fitness, there is a lot to be said for running. Running has been one of those fitness favorites for years, for a good reason. It works your body, from head to toe, builds lean muscle, and needs no equipment.
Start incorporating these exercises in your daily workouts for strong, beautiful legs! These movements will help you get the look you want for your legs and lower body.