The Best Exercises for Toning Your Legs

14 April, 2021
Exercises such as squats and lunges can be very good for strengthening lower body muscles. What other alternatives can you include in your routine?

The key to having a leaner body and firmer muscles is good nutrition. Building on that foundation, an effective way of eliminating flab and toning your legs and butt is by consistently doing exercises that are designed especially for said areas.

Therefore, you should have a weekly routine, preferably designed and controlled by professional trainers. In this way, you’ll do the exercises without hurting yourself and you’ll quickly see better results.

Excellent exercises for toning your legs and glutes

Before going into the most recommended exercises for toning your legs and glutes, it’s necessary to point out some important guidelines for physical exercise:

  • Follow this routine a maximum of three times per week, as the muscles need rest time to recover
  • Repetitions and sets will depend on your physical condition, goals, and progress, as well as the weight added to each exercise. A “standard” parameter could be three sets of between 8 and 12 repetitions, as advised by a study on muscle hypertrophy and strength published by the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
  • Before beginning, it’s highly advisable to walk or run for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up your muscles. As detailed in a Mayo Clinic article, dynamic stretching can also be helpful. These consist of doing movements similar to those of the sport to be practiced, but at a low intensity.
  • Finally, remember to stretch your muscles at the end of your workout. This will help you reduce the risk of post-exercise injuries and soreness, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

1. Squats

A woman doing some squats which are great for toning your legs.
Squats are the most recommended exercise for your legs.

These are some of the best all-around exercises around. By doing squats, you’ll tone your legs and butt, burn fat and even get stronger and improve your flexibility.

According to a publication by Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard University, this exercise even allows strengthening the middle area of the body, since it demands the stability provided by these muscles. This source details the technique is as follows:

  1. Go to the starting position: stand with your feet distanced at the width of your shoulders
  2. Start descending, keeping your back straight and raising your arms forward as you go down. Contract your abs for more stability.
  3. Lower to a 90-degree angle of the legs, so that the work is complete.

Learn How to Do Squats Correctly in Four Steps

2. Deadlift

This is also another great exercise to add to your leg routine. According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the deadlift helps increase lower body strength and endurance. It is performed as follows:

This exercise consists of squatting to pick up a weight and standing back up straight.

  1. You should push your hips backward, keeping your core in the squat position, but with lower knee flexion. Keep the weight as close as your can to your shins. 
  2. Tighten your muscles during the exercise, especially your butt muscles
  3. You should keep your weight on your ankles, keeping your back straight at all times. As mentioned, it’s important not to over-flex your knees.
  4. Don’t let your shoulders lean forward: if you curve your back, you could injure yourself

3. Lunges

A woman doing some exercise.

We highly recommend this exercise to strengthen and tone your quadriceps. According to the Harvard study cited above, your core is also worked by performing this exercise. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Stand up with your legs together, hands on your hips. You can hold a dumbbell against your chest or even use two – one on each arm, at the sides of your body – if you already have practice.
  2. Put one foot ahead of the other and bend both legs slowly until you reach a 90º angle
  3. Hold this position for 2 or 3 seconds and go back to the original position
  4. Repeat the same steps, putting the opposite food ahead of the other

4. Steps are great for toning your legs

Steps are perfect for toning legs. It’s a tool you can keep at home or in the gym, and if you don’t have one, you can do them with a step from a staircase.

  1. Firstly, stand up with your back and head straightened and put one foot on the step
  2. After, lift your body until you completely straighten out the leg that you had on the step. Then, the one that was on the floor should be mid-air. You can also put it on the step.
  3. Finally, return to the original position and repeat the same process with the other leg

5. The bridge

A woman in the bridge pose which is good for toning your legs.

This exercise is very good for toning your legs, glutes, and thighs. Also, a study published in the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy affirms that it works the trunk muscles.

  1. Firstly, lay down on a mat, facing the ceiling, and bend your knees keeping your feet flat on the floor
  2. Lift your pelvis slowly until it aligns with your knees – as if forming a straight bridge between them – and contract your buttocks when you reach the top
  3. Finally, go back to the original position and repeat

Try to Eat More Protein by Adding These Seven Foods to Your Diet

Exercise recommendations for toning your legs

The above exercises can help you in your goal of toning your legs. However, you must take into account other factors:

  • Continuity: to tone your legs and get them firm and defined, you have to work them continuously. You can do the exercises at home or at the gym: but there isn’t an excuse not to do them.
  • Consistency: if you’re consistent and disciplined, you’ll get great results starting from the first month of exercising.
  • Diet: don’t forget that nutrition is key to improving body composition. This is because in order to gain muscle and decrease fat levels, follow a diet with foods rich in protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables, as well as whole grains, as indicated by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, for a personalized diet, don’t hesitate to consult a nutritionist.

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of rest. Getting restful sleep and resting your body when it needs it is also an essential part of training. Furthermore, this even helps with boosting metabolism and weight loss, according to a WebMD publication.

Everything depends on your consistency and will. If you want to make it, you can do it!

  • Jamtvedt G, Herbert RD, Flottorp S, et al. 2010. A pragmatic randomised trial of stretching before and after physical activity to prevent injury and soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/44/14/1002
  • Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2019). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(1), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764
  • Camara, Kevin D.; Coburn, Jared W.; Dunnick, Dustin D.; Brown, Lee E.; Galpin, Andrew J.; Costa, Pablo B. An Examination of Muscle Activation and Power Characteristics While Performing the Deadlift Exercise With Straight and Hexagonal Barbells, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 2016 – Volume 30 – Issue 5 – p 1183-1188
    doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001352
  • Jeong-Oh Yoon, Min-Hyeok Kang, Jun-Seok Kim, Jae-Seop Oh. 2018. Effect of modified bridge exercise on trunk muscle activity in healthy adults: a cross sectional study. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.09.005.
    (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1413355517304161)
  • Strengthening your core: Right and wrong ways to do lunges, squats, and planks. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/strengthening-your-core-right-and-wrong-ways-to-do-lunges-squats-and-planks-201106292810
  • Alimentación sana. 2018. Organización Mundial de la Salud. https://www.who.int/es/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet
  • Estiramiento: céntrate en la flexibilidad. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/es-es/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931
  • Nayana Ambardekar. Sleep More, Weigh Less. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/sleep-and-weight-loss#2