Toned, muscular legs are one of the first things you notice on some of the fittest women around. Strong is the new sexy, and utilizing leg workouts for women is how you too can achieve a shapely lower body.
Benefits of Strength Training in Women
Strength training has been found to have a number of benefits in women that go beyond just looking great too.
For one, weight training has been found to improve body image and health-related quality of life in women (1).
This is important for promoting psychological and mental well being, and keeping women motivated to continue to engage in physical activity.
Research has shown that resistance training has numerous health benefits, including improving cardiovascular risk factors.
This is achieved through better insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, and an improved cholesterol profile.
In addition, resistance training can increase bone mineral density which lowers your risk of osteoporosis, and chronic issues like low back pain (2).
Perform Better In Day to Day Living
As you can see, strength training is essential to any fitness routine. And leg workouts for women are a great place to start.
Having strong legs allows you to perform everyday activities, like walking and climbing stairs. Lifting, pushing, and pulling all require a strong lower body as well.
Burn Massive Calories
Doing leg workouts for women also means working out large muscle groups. This will increase your calorie burn and build lean body mass.
This means you'll be able to lose weight and burn fat more efficiently too.
Quality Over Quantity!
Always remember that form and quality is more important than how much weight you are using.
Studies have shown that as long as you are working the muscles to fatigue, you are going to achieve muscle growth and strength.
Top 12 Leg Workouts for Women
When working out the legs, you will be focusing on several different muscle groups. This includes the hamstrings, quads, and calves.
I also include the glutes in leg exercises as these are prime movers in many of the leg workouts for women. Plus, having toned glutes is essential in rounding out a toned lower body.
For all of these exercises, start out at a low weight and build up from there. Aim to complete 10-12 reps of each movement for three sets.
The Exercise: 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 held 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 make sure you are safe doing this movement.
Why It’s Great: 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!
The Exercise: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Hinge forward at the hips with a slight bend in the knees and grip the bar just outside of 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.
Why It’s Great: Deadlifts are an amazing leg exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
Of course, you will also be working the back and core as well, making this a great total body move as well.
The Exercise: 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.
Why It’s Great: This is another great movement that will hit the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It will also help you improve your balance and core stability.
The Exercise: 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 actually 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.
Why It’s Great: The curtsey lunge will target the legs from different angles and really hit the medial and lateral quads, along with the adductor and abductor muscles in the legs.
The Exercise: 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, and then extend and push up through the left leg to return to a standing position.
Then repeat to the right. Do 8-10 reps on each side.
Why It’s Great: Another lunge variation, this one targets multiple muscles all at once. This includes the lateral quad muscles, adductors, abductors, hip flexors and glutes.
Walking Squats with Bands:
The Exercise: 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 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.
Why It’s Great: This is a great move to strengthen the outer leg muscles – the abductors, glutes and tensor fasciae latae.
Barbell Hip Thrusters:
The Exercise: 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.
Why It’s Great: This lower body exercise will strengthen the gluteus maximus and medius and will also 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.
Standing Calf Raises:
The Exercise: 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.
Why It’s Great: 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.
Side Leg Raises with Bands:
The Exercise: 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, then flip over to lie on the left side and repeat 8-10 reps with the right leg.
Why It’s Great: 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.
The Exercise: Hold yourself in a seated position with your back against a wall. Try to keep your thighs parallel to the floor.
Try to hold this position for 30 seconds to start and gradually work your way up. You can also hold a dumbbell or weight to increase the intensity.
Why It’s Great: This is an excellent exercise to improve muscular endurance while working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
The Exercise: 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 that both feet are now on the ground where you started. Do 8-10 reps on the right, then switch and repeat on the left.
Why It’s Great: This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Additionally, it has the added benefit of improving your balance, stability, and core strength.
Split Leg Squats:
The Exercise: 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.
Why It’s Great: 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.
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!
Build Strength And Enhance Fitness With Lower Body Strength Training
The above leg workouts for women are a great way to build strong, sculpted legs. Not only will you look great, but you will able to perform everyday activities with ease.
Plus, you will be enhancing your overall health.
Building lean muscle mass in your legs will help your body burn calories and fat.
Plus, you will be decreasing your risk of injury by strengthening the muscles around your joints. And don’t forget, strength training also will decrease your risk for osteoporosis.
The benefits of building strong legs are numerous, so get started today with these leg workouts for women!
Then try out some of the other workouts and exercise plans offered by the Fit Mother Project, such as the Free Jumpstart Program.
After that, you can even move on to FM30X. This 30-day workout plan for women will get you well on the way to a stronger, healthier you!
So start today to health, fitness, and a great looking body.
Your new friend and workout coach,
Writer, The Fit Mother Project
Holly Smith is a board-certified physician specializing in internal medicine and nephrology with a bachelor's degree in dietetics.
A strong interest and passion for health and wellness, Holly is also a NASM certified personal trainer with a performance enhancement specialization.
Holly enjoys long-distance running, competing in Ironman triathlons.
- Seguin, R. A., Eldridge, G., Lynch, W., & Paul, L. C. (2013). Strength Training Improves Body Image and Physical Activity Behaviors Among Midlife and Older Rural Women. Journal of extension, 51(4), 4FEA2.
- Westcott WL. (2012). Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sports Med Rep, 11(4) doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8