The Top 12 Leg Workouts For Women

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

leg workouts

Strong is the new sexy. And when it comes to achieving a shapely lower body, leg workouts for women are the answer!

Not only will these workouts make you look amazing, but they'll also improve your overall health and make everyday activities a breeze. A strong lower body is essential whether you're walking, climbing stairs, or tackling everyday tasks.

By building lean muscle in your legs, you'll turn into a fat-burning machine, torching calories with every step. You'll also reduce your risk of injury by strengthening the muscles around your joints.

But the benefits of leg workouts don't stop there. Research has shown that strength training has numerous advantages for women. In addition to boosting body image and quality of life, weight training improves cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity and lowers blood pressure. It also increases bone density, making you less susceptible to osteoporosis and chronic back pain.

In short, leg workouts for women are a game-changer for any fitness routine.  So, what are you waiting for? Start with the top 12 leg workouts for women today and unlock your full potential!

Find out why strength training for women over 40 is important to combat muscle loss and promote longevity!

The Top 12 Leg Workouts For Women

When working out the legs, you will focus on several muscle groups. This includes the hamstrings, quads, and calves. We also include the glutes in leg exercises as these are prime movers in many leg workouts for women. Plus, having toned glutes is essential in rounding out a toned lower body.

For all these exercises, start at a low weight and build up from there. Aim to complete 10-12 reps of each movement for three sets.

1. Squats

Squats are one of the ultimate leg workouts for women. You will be working your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, you'll also be engaging and strengthening your core!

  • Begin with bodyweight squats if you are new to this move.
  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and squat your hips down and back while you bend your knees.
  • Try to keep your weight in your heels.
  • Then explode back up through your heels to a standing position.
  • Once you have perfected the form, you can move to goblet squats.
  • This involves holding a kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest and performing the same movement.
  • You can stick with dumbbells, or if you feel confident, you can also move to squatting with a barbell across the shoulders.
  • You should always use a spotter, or at least a spotter rack, to ensure you are safe doing this movement.

2. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are an amazing leg exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Of course, you will also be working the back and core, making this a great total body move.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Hinge forward at the hips with a slight knee bend and grip the bar just outside the legs.
  • Keep the bar close to your body as you straighten your legs and explode up.
  • When the bar gets past your knees, and your arms are straight, bring it against your thighs while keeping a straight back.
  • Then slowly lean forward at the hips while also bending your knees a little at the same time to lower the bar back down.

3. Standard Lunges

This great movement will hit the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It will also help you improve your balance and core stability.

  • Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back.
  • Step forward with your right leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle and does not track over your toes.
  • Keep the weight in your heels and push back to the start position.
  • Then repeat on the left.
  • Keep alternating until you repeat 8-10 reps on each side.

4. Curtsey Lunges

The curtsey lunge will target the legs from different angles and hit the medial and lateral quads and the adductor and abductor muscles in the legs.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips for stability.
  • Use your left leg to take a large step back and across to the right.
  • You will cross your left leg behind your right leg.
  • Then squat down so that your right thigh is parallel with the ground.
  • Push off with your left leg to straighten your legs and return to the top.
  • Then repeat on the other side.
  • Alternate between each side until you complete 8-10 reps on each side.
  • Once you perfect the form and gain strength, try holding dumbbells in your hands while you do this leg exercise.

5. Side Lunges

Another lunge variation targets multiple muscles all at once. This includes the lateral quad muscles, adductors, abductors, hip flexors, and glutes.

  • Stand with your knees and hips slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a step to the right.
  • Keep your toes pointed forward and stay low.
  • Extend the left knee, driving your weight to the right, flexing the knee and hip into a side lunge.
  • Pause at the bottom, then extend and push up through the left leg to return to standing.
  • Then repeat to the right.
  • Do 8-10 reps on each side.

6. Walking Squats With Bands

This is a great move to strengthen the outer leg muscles — the abductors, glutes, and tensor fasciae latae.

  • Start in a shallow squat position with your legs hip-width apart and feet parallel to do this move.
  • Make sure you have a long length of space to walk down.
  • Place a looped resistance band around your thighs just above your knees.
  • Take one step to the right at a 45-degree angle while keeping yourself in the low crouched position.
  • Then step to the left at a 45-degree angle in the same crouch position.
  • Do 10 steps with each leg.


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7. Barbell Hip Thrusters

This lower body exercise will strengthen the gluteus maximus and medius and work the quads and hamstrings. Strengthening these muscles will not only give you a great-looking butt and legs but will help you improve other exercises like the squat and deadlift.

  • Sit in front of a bench and lean your upper back on the bench with a barbell across your hips.
  • Place padding around the barbell, such as a squat pad or a towel, so that the bar doesn’t dig into your hip.
  • Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, close to your butt.
  • Push your hips upward, driving the barbell up.
  • Hold for a second, then lower back to the ground.

8. Standing Calf Raises

This is an excellent exercise to isolate the gastrocnemius muscles. You can also do this exercise with a slight bend in the knees, and you will hit the soleus muscle in your calves as well.

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Push down into the soles of your feet and explode up to your toes.
  • Then slowly lower back down.

9. Side Leg Raises with Bands

This is a great addition to your leg workouts for women as it targets your glutes, lateral quads, adductors, and abductors. You will also be engaging your core and abdominal oblique muscles.

  • Lie on your right side with a looped resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees.
  • Raise the left leg up to about 30-45 degrees and hold for a pause at the top.
  • Then slowly lower the leg back down to meet your bottom right leg.
  • Do 8-10 reps with the left leg, flip over to lie on the left side, and repeat 8-10 reps with the right leg.

10. Wall Sits

This excellent exercise improves muscular endurance while working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

  • Hold yourself in a seated position with your back against a wall.
  • Try to keep your thighs parallel to the floor.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and gradually work up to longer times.
  • You can also hold a dumbbell or weight to increase the intensity.

11. Step-Ups

This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

Additionally, it has the added benefit of improving your balance, stability, and core strength.

  • Stand with a step between 6 to 18 inches in front of you.
  • Start at a height that you feel comfortable stepping onto.
  • Step up onto the step with your right foot.
  • Place your whole foot on the step with the toes pointing forward.
  • Bring your left foot up behind you and up towards your chest while balancing on your right foot.
  • Hold this single-leg stance for a moment.
  • Then move the raised left leg back to the ground.
  • Step back with the right foot so both feet are on the ground where you started.
  • Do 8-10 reps on the right, then switch and repeat on the left.

12. Split Leg Squats

This works the same muscles as the standard squat; however also engages the core and enhances your ability to balance yourself by concentrating on one leg at a time.

  • Take a step forward with your right leg as if you were doing a lunge.
  • The heel of your left foot should be raised.
  • Slowly bend your right knee until your left knee almost touches the floor, then push back up.
  • Complete 8-10 reps on the right leg, then switch to the left.
  • Keep your knees in line with your toes, and don’t let the front knee go past your toes as you lower your body.
  • Start out using your own body weight, and then add dumbbells as you gain strength.
  • You could also put your back leg on a bench to really up the intensity of this leg exercise!

Got bad knees? Check out these leg workouts!

Holly Smith, M.D.
B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on leg workouts for women.

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