Tone Low With These Top Leg Exercises

Squats

Squats are the ultimate lower body exercise and can be done with bodyweight only or weighted

In most surveys, women have identified the following body parts as problem areas:

  • Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Hips
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Abdominals

Hormones dictate where fatty deposits tend to accumulate and this appears to have a gender-specific function.

Women tend to have more fatty deposits in the hips, midsection and the lower body.  

But biological pre-disposition aside, it does not mean you can never have a toned lower body.

Aside from diet, resistance training is the best way to tone your lower body.

And while there are many leg exercises to choose from, they are all not created equal.

There are leg exercises that tone your lower body better and faster than others.

The criteria for selecting the 5 best leg exercises are as follows:

  • Activates the highest number of muscle fibres
  • Works other muscle groups and areas
  • Allows for full range of motion
  • Requires balance, stability and mobility
  • Flexible; allows variability in exercise execution

These exercises target a primary muscle group in your lower body.

But because these require full range of motion, control and enable slight adjustments in form and technique, you work the other muscles as well.

Here are the 5 best leg exercises for toning your lower body…

1. Squats

Acknowledged by many as the “King of Leg Exercises”, Squats primarily targets your thighs.

But if you do a full squat whereby the hips go lower than your knees, you work your glutes, hamstrings and calves as well.

Hold the bottom position of the Squat for 2-4 seconds to really tighten your hamstrings and bum!

Squats also activate your core section; the upper and lower abs and hips, to stabilise your upper body and support the lower back. Thus, you tone up the midsection as well.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat allows you to work each leg individually thereby giving more focus on precise form and technique.

This exercise works the thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves, hips and abdominals.

You can also do adjustments in form to place more emphasis on key areas. For example, by lunging forward slightly you target the hamstrings and glutes more than the thighs.

Using kettlebells and dumbbells creates forward drag which works the thighs more.

A barbell or the Smith Machine puts you in a more stable position so you distribute the workload throughout your lower body.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

3. 45 Degree Leg Press

The 45 Degree Leg Press hits the thighs, hamstrings, glutes, calves and hips. It is a classic machine stand-by in many lower body toning programs for 3 reasons.

First, you start out the exercise from the top position which places less pressure on the knees.

Second, you can adjust the angle of the seatback to open up the range of motion.

Finally, by adjusting your feet placement on the platform you shift the focus of the exercise.

High foot position hits the hamstrings, middle foot position hits hamstrings and thighs equally and the lower foot position emphasises the thighs.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

4. Romanian Deadlift

This exercise is great for toning your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

To develop a nice, deep curve on your lower back which accentuates the tightness of the waist and the shape of the buttocks, do Romanian Deadlift with Full Squats.

In addition to shaping the backside of your legs, this exercise strengthens your spine and the supporting muscles.

Women are more prone to osteoporosis than Men and the lower back is often the first to give out.

This is another reason why Romanian Deadlift is one of the 5 best leg exercises.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

5. Overhead Lunges

Overhead Lunges can be a great finisher to your leg workout. For one, it requires tremendous balance, stability and mobility.

Overhead Lunges

Overhead lunges can be done with either a plate, dumbbell, barbell or kettlebells

This means it will hit even the deepest fibres in your legs. If you want toned legs fast, include Overhead Lunges in your program.

Second, placing a weight overhead increases the involvement of the abdominal muscles and brings in the shoulders and upper back as well.

You can use a barbell plate, a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells.

Recommended sets and reps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps

You do not have to do all the exercises in one workout. Choose 1-2 exercises that target a primary muscle and 3rd one that ties in all the muscles in your lower body.

For example:

Leg Workout 1:

Squats – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Romanian Deadlift – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Overhead Lunges – 2 sets x 12-15 reps

Leg Workout 2:

45 Degree Leg Press (feet high on platform) – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Bulgarian Split Squat – 3 sets x 12-15 reps
Squats – 3 sets x 12-15 reps (lighter weight, more reps)

With these 5 leg exercises, problem areas will be things of the past!