Our recommendations for top lower-body exercises
Friends don’t let friends skip leg day! Not only are many muscles in your lower body, such as your glutes, part of your core, but these are also the muscles that literally get us around every day. By maintaining a strong lower body, you’ll help stabilize your core, increase balance and look great.
While we tend to think of strength as coming from the upper body, we’ve all heard the saying “put your hip into it” when it comes to landing a strong punch! That’s because most of our physical power comes not from the chest or arms, but the lower body. Keep your leg, thigh and butt muscles toned and in shape with these effective five lower body exercises.
But before you begin, remember that proper form is key to making these moves tone the right muscles. Don’t sacrifice proper form to move faster or to use a heavier weight. We’ve included links to videos so you can learn how to do these exercises correctly and avoid injury. A good rule of thumb is to start at a lower intensity and build up to more. If you’re totally new to this type of workout, start at two sets of eight with no weight. Eventually, you can move up to three sets of twelve with a challenging weight. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too, since this will help cool and heal your body.
If you want a toned rear end and thighs then you’ll need to do a lot of squats. Squats use several large muscle groups that keep us stable such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes. You’ll see a marked increase in the strength and size of your muscles just from consistently doing standard squats.
Variations on squats, such as our second tip, can further target a specific muscle group.
Other benefits of squats include improved balance and injury prevention. By making your thighs and butt stronger, you’ll reduce the load on your back and knees.
Side squats strengthen and tone your inner and outer thigh muscles for killer legs. This exercise is similar to a plié, which is how ballerinas get their famously shapely legs. Remember with side squats that each repetition includes two moves, one on each side so that your left and right legs remain equal. Side squats are especially beneficial because the targeted muscle groups are often seen as problem areas which are difficult to tone, particularly for women.
For truly shapely legs, you need muscular calves. While many of us are lucky to develop these muscles through routine cardio like walking or running, calf lifts specifically target just this one muscle. As a result, you can build up some really attractive muscle tone quickly and with minimal effort.
Lunges are key to a shapely behind. Lunges work out not only the glutes but also the hamstrings so you can tighten up your entire backside with one exercise. Done correctly, lunges should not hurt your knees; in fact, properly executed lunges will strengthen muscles which support the knee thereby reducing injury and strain. If lunges are hurting your knees, that’s a big clue your form is off.
If you’re easily bored, thankfully there are multiple ways to do lunges that all work out the same muscles. This way, you can mix it up but still get the same results.
Bridge lifts are excellent at toning and perking up the behind. Rather than simply increase mass in your glutes, bridge lifts help tighten these muscles for a more youthful, firmer butt. While bridge lifts look deceptively easy, you will almost certainly have sore hamstrings after so don’t forget to stretch.