As you get started with your workout program, one thing that you’re definitely going to want to consider are what are the best leg exercises for women to really add more tone and definition to those glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
If you’re like most women, you definitely do not want to develop large, bulky legs. Instead, you’re going for the ‘ballet dancer’ look, where your legs are defined, toned, yet streamlined and feminine. You want them to appear slimmer, but not look skinny and too ‘chicken leg like’. Basically, you want some muscle, but not so much you take on a manly appearance.
So what’s the best way to obtain this look? What are the best leg exercises for women that will keep you feminine, yet strong?
Let’s take a look at which are the top moves that you should be adding to your program.
If there’s one leg exercise that you absolutely must do, lunges would be it. Lunges are perfect for adding more glute firmness and for enhancing the look of the quads as well. As an added benefit, as your abs will have to contract in order for you to maintain balance, you’re going to get a nice ab workout as well.
Lunges should be performed with medium heavy weight so that you are challenging the muscles enough to gain that definition, but not so heavy that you build size.
Instead, aim to perform 15-20 walking lunges per set, which will accommodate to the lighter weight, but still really challenge those muscles thoroughly.
The second of the top leg exercises for women are step-ups. Step-ups are perfect for those of you who want to firm the glutes as well and can be altered to work different areas of the thigh depending on what your preferred goal is.
If you’d like to hit the glutes more than the hamstrings, perform step-ups on a higher bench or chair, which places more emphasis on these muscles.
On the flip side, if you’d prefer to work the quads more, then perform them on a slightly lower bench or chair, using a slightly heavier weight.
If you’re really serious about your leg workouts, you may even add both variations into the program to target each different area.
The great thing about step-ups is that they can virtually be performed anywhere so there’s no need for any expensive equipment.
Single Leg Deadlifts
To zero in and target the glutes (bum area), you’ll definitely want to be doing single leg deadlifts. Most women have likely already heard of regular deadlifts before as being a great addition to challenge the lower body in your workout, but by taking it to just one leg, you up the ante.
Single leg deadlifts will target the glutes to a higher extent as they’ll really struggle to help you maintain balance, while bringing the body into the upright position.
In addition to that, this movement targets the abs to a higher degree as well, so you’ll get those benefits also. Make sure to perform both legs evenly to prevent muscular imbalances and start off with no weight at all until you get the feel for the movement.
This exercise does definitely take some coordination and skill to execute, so make sure that you have a good feel for it first before progressing on to higher weight loads.
Finally, no lower body workout would be complete without the full squat. The full squat is simply one of the top leg exercises for women since it’s going to work every single muscle group in the lower body, so you get a very time effective workout for those busy days.
When doing the full squat, you’ll want to make sure that you are lowering yourself the full way down through the movement pattern, coming as low down as you can possibly go.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that many women make on this exercise – they stop at just 90 degrees, thus totally short-circuit the benefits that they should be seeing.
Instead, go down as low as possible (provided you have no knee pain) and you’ll really feel the difference in your glutes the next day.
To alter the stress placed on the muscles during this exercise, consider widening the stance slightly or turning out the feet and you’ll hit the inner thighs as well as the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
So there you have the main leg exercises for women that you should be adding to your workout program. For all of these, try and keep the rep range up around 15 reps per set, which will prevent the addition of too much extra bulk and instead, give you that lean, long look that you’re after.
For more information on thigh exercises, check out this article.