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What is the Best Lower Body Workout for Women?

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project


We recently highlighted the best upper body workout for women. Now it's time to get into the best lower body workout for women!

Sculpted and toned legs are the envy of many women.

Not only are strong legs an outward sign of fitness, but having a strong lower body is so important for all of your day-to-day activities.

Walking, running, lifting, and squatting all require powerful leg strength.

However, some women skip the legs when weight training thinking that their cardio workouts are good enough to build lower body strength.

And while running or spin class definitely will help build leg fitness, when it comes to muscular strength and endurance, nothing beats a good lower body workout for women.

Weight Training for Overall Health

Resistance training is one of the best ways to improve your overall health.

Research suggests that combining resistance training with a healthy diet reduces cardiovascular risk factors more than diet alone.

And a 2017 analysis from the Women’s Health Study also found that women engaging in any strength training experienced a reduced rate of type 2 diabetes.

Resistance training can also help increase bone mineral density, which lowers your risk of osteoporosis and decreases common chronic health issues like low back pain.

Up Your Metabolism With Lower Body Workouts

Weight training will boost your metabolic rate and keep you burning calories all day long.

Since the leg and glutes are large muscle groups, you will really up your fat-burning potential by committing to lower body resistance training.

A study from the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic found that women gained more lean muscle mass and lost more body fat with just twice-weekly weight training.

So even with a busy schedule, you can still improve your health and body composition with a couple days a week of strength training.

Targeting the Lower Body

When it comes to lower body workouts, we’re talking about more than just “leg” muscles.

The lower body includes a number of different muscle groups that all need to be targeted to build a strong, sculpted physique.

The major muscle groups of the lower body include the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

You will also want to work the smaller abductor and adductor muscle groups to keep lower body strength complete and balanced.

This amazing lower body workout for women will build strength and get you muscular, toned legs.

Try to do this workout at least twice a week.

You can add a third day if you have time, but be sure to give yourself at least 48 hours between workouts to give your muscles time to recover.

The Best Lower Body Workout For Women

These are the best lower body exercises for women if you have access to weights and equipment.

Try to do three sets of each exercise.

Single-Leg Deadlift with Dumbbells

Deadlifts are the ultimate leg workout, and a great way to get started with this exercise is by doing single leg deadlifts with dumbbells.

You will really engage your glutes and hamstrings as you isolate one leg at a time during this movement.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing the front of your legs.
  • Hinge forward at your hips 90 degrees as you lift your left leg behind you.
  • Your body should be parallel to the floor from your head to your left foot with your arms hanging down.
  • Then engage your glutes and hamstring to return to the standing position.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps.
  • Then switch sides and repeat.

Barbell or Dumbbell Squats

Squats are one of the ultimate lower body workouts You will be targeting your glutes, hamstrings, and quads all at once.

This exercise can be done with a barbell or dumbbell depending on how comfortable you are with the movement. Begin with bodyweight squats if you are new to this move.

  • Stand with your 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 try holding dumbbells by your side to add weight to the movement.
  • You can stick with dumbbells or if you feel confident can also move to squatting with a barbell across the shoulders.
  • You should always use a spotter, or at least a spotter rack to make sure you are safe doing this movement.
  • If you have lower back issues, you can also try front-loaded squats by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest as you squat.
  • This can help decrease pressure on the lower back as you move down into the squat position.
  • Aim for 8-10 reps.

Walking Lunges with Dumbbells

This is another great movement that will hit the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

It will also help you improve your balance and core stability as you target one leg at a time.

  • Make sure you have a long clear space to walk across.
  • Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back.
  • Step forward with your right leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about 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 as you push back up to the starting position.
  • Then repeat on the left as you walk forward.
  • Keep alternating legs until you repeat 8-10 reps on each side.

Goblet Squat

While the goblet squat may seem very similar to a standard squat, by turning your toes out you will engage your muscles at different angles while also hitting your inner thighs.

  • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes turned out.
  • Hold the handle of a single dumbbell vertically with both hands in front of chest (like a goblet), elbows bent out to sides.
  • Or you can hold a kettlebell in front of you.
  • Squat down by bending your knees 90 degrees.
  • Press through your feet to stand.
  • Aim for 10 to 12 reps.

Barbell Hip Thrusters

This lower body exercise will strengthen the glutes, quads, and hamstrings to get you great looking butt and legs.

  • Sit in front of a bench and lean your upper back on the bench with a barbell across your hips.
  • Place padding, such as a squat pad or a towel, around the barbell 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.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps.

Walking Squats with Bands

This is a great move to strengthen the outer leg muscles that often are neglected in other leg exercises.

  • To do this move start in a shallow squat position with your legs hip-width apart and feet parallel.
  • 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 staying in a low squat position.
  • Then step to the left at a 45-degree angle in the same crouch position.
  • Repeat for 10 steps with each leg.

An Equipment-Free Lower Body Workout For Women

If you are working out from home, or just prefer bodyweight exercises, there are tons of ways to still get a great lower body workout.

These moves will get you the same sculpted legs as the above exercises without the need for equipment.

Aim for three sets of each exercise.

Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is a challenging move that forces you to isolate one leg at a time.

This is a great bodyweight exercise that is so tough you really don’t need to add any weight!

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, with your hands in front of your chest.
  • Lift your right foot forward a few inches off the floor with your foot flexed.
  • Squat by bending your left knee 90 degrees, holding your right leg to hip level in front of you.
  • If you need a little assistance you can hold onto a chair or wall for support.
  • Do 5 to 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

Split Squats

This awesome lower body exercise will really hit your glutes and your quads.

  • Place a chair or platform about two feet behind you.
  • Place the top of your right foot on the chair while standing on your left leg.
  • You can clasp your hands in front of you or place them on your hips.
  • Squat by bending your left leg 90 degrees with knee over ankle, being sure to not let your knee come over your toes.
  • Press through your foot to stand.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps per leg.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Three-Way Lunge

The three-way lunge is a multi-directional leg exercise that will hit the lower body from all angles.

With this one move alone you will strengthen your glutes, quads, inner thighs, and hamstrings.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lunge forward with your left leg then push back to the starting position.
  • Then, lunge your left leg out to left, toes facing forward, and bend left knee 90 degrees.
  • Return to start.
  • Finally, lunge backward with your left leg and return to the start to complete one rep.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Three-Way Calf Raise

Calf raises are the ultimate move to isolate your lower leg muscles.

And, by changing your foot direction, you can target all of the muscles in your calves.

  • Stand with the balls of your feet on the bottom step of a staircase, step, or bench.
  • Let your heels hang over the edge.
  • First, turn your toes inward.
  • Press your toes into the step to lift your heels up.
  • Lower them slightly below the level of the step.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps.
  • Next, turn your toes out 45 degrees and perform the calf raises.
  • Finally, keep your toes forward, and do another 15 to 20 reps in this position.

Glute Bridge

This lower body exercise will strengthen the glutes and will also work the quads and hamstrings.

Strengthening these muscles will not only give you a great looking butt and legs, but it will also help you improve your other exercises like squats and deadlifts.

  • Lay on your back and bend your knees while keeping your feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows to 90 degrees so that only your upper arm is on the ground.
  • Press your lower back down into the ground to help you protect your lower back and engage your abs as well as your glutes.
  • Drive-up through your heels and upper back to lift your glutes up off the ground.
  • Drive your hips up as high as possible without arching your back.
  • Squeeze your glutes for a second or two at the top and lower all the way back down to the ground before repeating.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps.

Side Leg Raises

This is a great leg exercise to hit your outer leg muscles, or abductors, which can sometimes be missed in other leg exercises.

Plus you will also target your glutes, lateral quads, and adductors.

  • Lie on your right side and raise your 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, then flip over to lie on the left side and repeat 8-10 reps with the right leg.

Get Sculpted Legs!

If you’re ready to improve your fitness and get a great looking butt and legs in the process, then these lower body workouts are just what you need.

Whether you are using gym equipment or doing bodyweight exercises in your living room, you can get toned, strong legs that will have you looking and feeling great.

Women may overlook weight training as an important part of their health and fitness.

But resistance training is so important in improving body composition, decreasing the risk of chronic diseases, and keeping you active in your day to day life.

Plus, you can get a great looking body in the process!

Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & 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 the best lower body workout for women.

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