It is very common for women to dislike the shape of their legs, and you will often hear women say, “These are not the legs I want!” But that doesn’t mean you cannot have the legs you want. There are some great exercises and activities that you can incorporate into your daily life that will completely transform your legs — making them beautifully toned, lean and strong — and are considered the best leg workouts for women.
However, it’s important to understand that while performing some key exercises on a consistent basis will help you get those legs fit and beach-ready, only when combined with a healthy diet will such a transformation happen, especially if you seek to keep those legs in great shape long-term.
For those that know me, I love great fitness. I have been fortunate to work with many Olympics athletes during my career. With each of them, they have specific athletic goals that they need to reach. For you, the goal may be to have the best legs possible so that you can walk with confidence, wear your favorite shorts or bikini, and enjoy good health benefits at the same time.
In this article, I have provided an exercise program to help you reshape your legs through proper exercise. I have also suggested that you incorporate a smart diet to get the best results. The great news is that with this program, you will gain other key benefits, such as toning other parts of your body, feeling healthier, starting to do more activities, having more confidence and simply looking great.
Best Activities for Great Legs
Let’s start with learning about some great things you can do on a regular basis, either on your own or with your family, that can tone your legs and even lift your butt while keeping you fit and active. If you can incorporate this into your weekly routine, you will really see the benefits.
Here are my top 10 favorite activities for great legs for women:
- Barre Workouts
- Burst Training
- Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Best Diets for Great Legs
There are a number of diets out there that can be of great benefit, but it’s important to find the one that is right for you. The thing to keep in mind is that you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. What that means is, you cannot follow a lifestyle of unhealthy eating, filling up on tons of useless calories, being addicted to sugar and think that you can just exercise more to burn it off.
In fact, there is a common term called ‘skinny fat’ where people appear thin on the outside, but are very unhealthy on the inside due to their poor diet. It will catch up with you eventually. Even if you are able to stay thin, eating poorly will result many health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease and more in addition to simply not feeling good. And isn’t feeling good and being healthy a big part of the goal?
In the 2005–2009 Nutrition and Exercise in Women (NEW) study, postmenopausal women were followed closely. The study incorporated exercise and diet lifestyle changes, concluding that most women lost weight when combining these behaviors — makes sense, right? It also showed a possible reduction in their risk of breast cancer. (1)
It’s important that you make sure you have the right amount of carbohydrates, quality protein and healthy fats. Often, the biggest mistake women make in their attempts to get leaner legs is inadequate protien intake. Research reveals that NCAA Division III female basketball players had far better performance and more lean body mass after consuming whey protein. (2) If you cannot have whey, a dairy product, there are plenty of vegan protein options out there that may work well for you, such as pea protein or brown rice protein, but ultimately the consistency of a healthy diet can help you have those sexy legs you’ve longed for!
So what is a good diet that will help you gain and maintain strong, fit and sexy legs? There are many diets out there, such as ketogenic, low-carb, Mediterranean, Paleo, the elimination diet, vegan and vegetarian diets, but in general, eating whole foods, organic and local when possible, is the way to go.
You really have to avoid processed foods since there is nothing to gain from them — meaning you don’t get a lot of nutritional value, nor does your body digest them well, which can cause big problems for your gut and overall health.
If you feel like you need a specific diet due to health reasons, remember to check with your doctor before jumping into any diet that may be a far stretch from the norm for you, especially if it involves a major reduction in calories, fat or protein.
Now, that you have taken some time to think about your diet, let’s get into the best leg workouts for women that will also work the butt and core.
Best Technique for Leg Exercises For Women
Choosing the right exercises is part of finding the best leg workouts for women, but this plan works really well when you engage the leg muscles to include the inner thighs, outer thighs and butt while focusing on your core muscles. When you engage all of these muscles, you will work them more efficiently — which will help develop leaner legs, and more overall fitness.
The best way to accomplish this? Contract the muscles while performing the exercises as well as incorporating some resistance.
Resistance training, even for older adults, can greatly benefit and add more muscle tone in addition to using your own bodyweight. Research indicates that using weight over a 16-week period significantly improved the muscle development in the legs, as well as the upper body of the subjects tested. (3)
While some of these exercises suggest weights, keep in mind that you can create your own resistance, where there is constant tension during the lift known as isotonic exercises, without using any weight at all. Regardless, it may take time to gain the proper strength to perform the exercises correctly with added weight. Be patient. With consistency and a good diet, you will experience positive results that you can maintain for the rest of your life!
Best Leg Exercises for Women Program
I have developed a great leg-exercise program that you can start today. Here is a workout that you can do at home, which imports bodyweight exercises, or at the gym.
Start by doing these exercises 3 times per week, every other day for 4 weeks. For advanced exercisers, you can do the routine 4 times per week. If you can, incorporate about 15–20 minutes of one of the cardio leg workouts that I have suggested, too. This combined with a healthy diet will have your legs ready for summer!
- If you are choosing to hold weights while performing some of these exercises, make sure to select weights that provide a little challenge, but that do not cause you to have poor form. If your form is suffering in any way, do not use weights until you are strong enough to perform the exercises with proper form because it may cause injury.
- Proper form greatly affects the efficiency and results that you want. Going too fast may result in poor form as well. Take it slow until you feel comfortable, then you can try other options.
- Engage as many muscles as possible while performing each exercise. To do this, focus on those muscles and contract them as you create the movement. This will make these exercises very effective!
- If you are new to these exercises or any exercise program, consult your doctor and definitely take it slow.
- As with any program, be patient! You will achieve results with consistency and a good diet. This is about long-term results, not quick fad diets and exercises.
- Though these are common and regarded as very effective exercises, if you notice that you are struggling to breathe or even a slight pain of any sort, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
What you will need:
You can use your own bodyweight for all of these exercises; however, if you have weights or are at the gym, you can grab a set of light weights, medium weights, and for advanced exercisers, heavy weights.
A timer or you can simply count 1001, 1002 and so on.
A mat or towel.
Sexy Leg Workout
Perform each exercise for 1 minute. Then, take a 15-second break between each exercise. Once you have completed one round, rest for 1 minute and repeat the round. For beginners, do a total of 2 rounds and for advanced exercisers, do 3–4 rounds.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and use controlled breathing.
1. Butt Lifter and Hamstring Toner
Get on all fours. Keep a flat back, meaning do not arch your back in either direction but rather keep it flat while engaging your abdominals. Hold one medium-to-heavy weight behind the your right knee by squeezing the lower leg towards your butt. Remember to choose the weight that is best for you, giving you a little bit of a challenge. Now, lift the leg to a 90-degree angle to the floor and bring it back down to the starting position, but without stopping. Continue with the lifting and lowering motion for 20 repetitions, then repeat on the other leg.
Stand with feet about hip-distance apart. If you are choosing to hold weight while performing this exercise, select a weight that provide a little challenge, but that does not cause you to have poor form.
Hold your weight, such as one heavy weight, or just your hands if you are choosing no weight, at your chest.
For good form, keep your upper body as upright as possible. Then, bend at the knees, pushing your butt back while squatting as if sitting in a chair. If you are able to go to where your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to the floor, that’s great. If not, just go about halfway. Over time, you will get stronger and be able to perform a deep squat.
3. Side Lunges
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, weights in hands down at sides. Step to the right and lunge down towards the floor, keeping your upper body as upright as possible during this movement. Then push off from the floor and back to the starting position. From there, repeat the exercise to the other side. Perform a total of 25 (1 on each side equals 1 rep).
4. Wall Sit
This is a quad burner and one of my favorites for strengthening and toning those thigh muscles. Find a sturdy wall. You can hold a weight in your hands if you want more of challenge. Position your body into a squat position against the wall. Try to lower down so that the quads are parallel to the floor. Hold the position. If you struggle to push through the burn, come out of the position, shake your legs out for 5 seconds and then return to the position to complete the minute. Hang in there!
This is a fantastic exercise for toning the hamstrings and butt while getting the core involved. Lie on the your back on the floor. Place your feet hip-distance apart with the knees up and the heels close to your butt on the floor. If you want a challenge, hold a heavy weight on your lower ab area to add more resistance. Begin raising the hips while pushing off with your heels. Push the hips up as high as you can. Hold it for 3–4 seconds, then release back to the starting position. If you can, never allow the butt to completely rest on the floor until the entire 60 seconds has been completed.
Want a double-challenge? Advanced exercisers can surely take this one! Simply do the same movement, but with one leg raised in the air for the entire 60 seconds. Then repeat with the other leg in the air for another minute. Feel that burn and see those legs get shapely and beach-ready!
6. Single-Leg Deadlift
This one works your butt and entire leg while working your core because it requires stability. Again, you can go without any weights, or you can grab medium-to-heavy weights. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Knees are slightly bent. Position your hands or weights down in front of your thighs. Slowly bend at the waist, keeping your chest proud while sticking your butt back. Keep the back flat and keep your head aligned with the back as your go down to a 90-degree angle (or close to it) while lifting one leg. Do one minute on one leg, then switch.
For beginners, try this keeping both legs planted on the ground first. Once you have mastered this move, you can try doing the single-leg deadlift.
7. Forward and Backward Lunge Combination
I am sure you have done forward lunges, and you have done backward lunges … but have you done them as one combined move? This is great because it engages many muscles at the same time, all while working the butt and thighs!
You can use weights or no weights, holding hands down at sides. Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Starting with one side, take a big step forward so that your front leg is far enough in front of you to allow you to lower into a full lunge at a 90-degree angle. As you do this, push the hips forward. Then, as you rise back up, push off with your heel and step back with the same leg into the same position. Repeat 15 times on each leg.
If you are having trouble with balance, try staring at a spot in the room that is not moving while performing the exercise. It really helps with balance and focus. Also, consider dropping the weights if it’s too difficult to maintain good posture.
Bonus Leg Toning Workout
Bonus Sexy Leg Cardio Workouts
As noted, incorporate 15–20 minutes of cardio 3–4 times per week for added results. You can also do it before or after your sexy leg workout. A couple of these may require equipment at the gym, but I have included two suggestions that do not.
Warm up for 5 minutes, then do 45 seconds of fast cycling with moderate resistance followed by 15 seconds of easy cycling. Repeat 10 times. Cool down for 5 minutes. If you are advanced, you may want to try a cycle class at your gym.
Simply put, you can walk to lose weight, but you need to get your heart rate up and strolling does not do that. Walk easy for about 2–3 minutes, then move into a brisk walk for the duration of the workout. Cool down with about 2 minutes of easy walking.
Walk easy for about 2–3 minutes. Now that you are warmed up, move into a brisk walk for 1 minute, then run for one minute. Alternate this activity for the completion of the workout. Cooldown down with about 2 minutes of easy walking.
Warm up for 2–3 minutes with easy resistance. Then set the resistance at a moderate-to-hard level. The resistance should be challenging, feeling like you are going up a hill. Move into intervals of work for 2 minutes, then go easy for 30 seconds, using an easy resistance. Recover then repeat for the rest of the workout. Warm down with 2–3 minutes of easy movement and resistance.
Again, please consult your doctor if you have any questions about starting a new problem. If you are on medication or have a heart condition, take time to make sure it’s okay for you to perform these exercises. If you are new, take it slow and work your way into the full program.