Leg and Thigh Workouts for Women
The legs are one of the biggest problem areas for women. Everyone wants to tone their thighs, have shapely calves, and get rid of cellulite. Growing up in the '90s, I loved watching infomercials. One of my favorites was Daisy Fuentes selling a leg machine that promised to deliver the coveted 'thigh gap.' Nowadays, most women realize that a thigh gap just isn't feasible. It really depends on your bone structure and body composition. The standard of beauty has also changed, with women looking to maintain their curves while toning up problem areas.
The 9 Best Leg Workouts for Women
- Dead Lifts
- Mat Work
- The Tracy Anderson Method
- "Tone It Up" Workouts
- Tracy Campoli's Workouts
Lunges are one of my favorite exercises for slim, toned, strong legs. There are so many amazing variations to try and you can amp up the intensity by holding dumbells. I love side lunges because they target the inner thigh, which is a common problem area. As with any exercise, form is key. To try my favorite variation, start with feet together, toes pointed forward. Step out to the side with your right foot, wider than hip-width, and bend your knee. Sit back, putting your weight into your right heel. Keep your right toes pointing forward and don't let your knee fall in or bend beyond your toes. Keep your left leg straight, foot flat on the floor, and you should feel a nice stretch along the left inner thigh. Your right glute is engaged and keep your belly button tucked in, abs engaged to protect your lower back. Tighten your right glute and push through your heel to come back to standing, feeling your right inner thigh engaged and tightening. Keep your right foot flexed as you bring your right leg back to meet the left. For an extra ab bonus, keep your right foot off the floor for the entire set. Do 15-20 reps and repeat on your left side.
Other lunge variations I love include:
- Curtsy lunges
- Stationary lunges
- Body-weight lunges
- Reverse lunges
- Dumbell rotational lunges
To ensure proper form while doing a lunge, I recommend watching the following video from Bowflex.
I love a good squat. Squats are a compound exercise, working your legs, booty, and core. Squats will help improve muscle strength and also work your joints. Many variations can be included in a HIIT or cardio workout to boost the metabolism and slash calories. There is a squat for everyone!
A standard squat is fairly easy, but remember to pay attention to form. Stand with your feet flat on the floor, hip or shoulder-width apart, whatever is most comfortable for you. Sit back, as if you were going to sit down in a chair, keeping your weight in your heels. Make sure that your knees do not cross your toes and keep your abs tight and engaged. Squeeze your glutes and slowly stand up. It's important to squeeze the glutes while you are sitting back, before standing up, for optimal booty work. Repeat as many times as you'd like!
These are my favorite squat variations.
- Plié squat
- Sumo squat
- Squat with leg abduction
- Jump squats
For a fun bonus, try the 100 rep squat challenge from Fitness Blender below.
3. Dead Lifts
Dead lifts are one of the best total body exercises and one of my favorite moves for a lifted booty and toned hamstrings. There are many variations to help activate and target the quads, core, back, and shoulder muscles, too.
A simple dead lift is the perfect move to tone the back of your legs and bonus, it also helps give you a tight, toned booty! Proper form is important.
To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your knees soft, and abs tight. Continue forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Come back up slowly, tightening the glutes, and keeping your navel anchored to your spine. Repeat for a total of 15 reps.
In the video below, Katrina from Tone It Up demonstrates a dead lift.
4. Mat Work
My favorite leg exercises involve getting down on the floor. All you need is a yoga mat, towel, or blanket. I incorporate the following exercises in my daily fitness routine for tight, toned legs:
- Bent Over Lateral Single Leg Raises
- Fire Hydrants
- Clam Shells
- Lying Lateral Single Leg Raises
- Lying Lateral Inner Thigh Leg Raises
- Bridges, with ankles crossed
- Inverted Inner Thigh Openers
You don't want to forget your calves! Shapely calves are important for strong, toned legs. Working your calves is easy. A simple calf lift is perfect and after only a few reps, you will be feeling it!
Stand next to a wall or counter, just so you have something to hold onto for balance if needed. Roll through your feet and slowly lift your heels, so that you are on the balls of your feet. Hold for a few seconds. Then slowly roll through your feet to come back to a neutral standing position. Repeat a few times. Be sure to stretch out after.
Yoga has many benefits: It improves flexibility, balance, and athletic performance; It can help increase muscle strength and tone; Improve cardiovascular and circulatory health, and help aid in weight loss.
Yoga can also be an important tool for flexibility, stretching out, toning, and strengthening your legs. I love practicing yoga at home, following along with Adriene Mishler. Her YouTube Channel, Yoga With Adriene, offers many different yoga practices for yogis at every level. Adriene breaks down the poses, so you can be sure that you have proper form, and then encourages you to find what feels good in your body. She makes the practice enjoyable and fun. It's like hanging out with one of your best friends.
7. The Tracy Anderson Method
Tracy Anderson is one of my favorite trainers and I love her fitness method! It's dancer inspired and helps you create your best body. I have followed Tracy's method for years and, in my opinion, it is one of the best, and most effective, workouts for women. Tracy's unique method helps you achieve gorgeous legs, tight, toned, feminine abs, and slim, toned arms.
Tracy offers a variety of programs that fit every lifestyle. The Mat Workout DVD is a great starting point and a good introduction to Tracy's method. It will tone your entire body. Pair with her Dance Cardio DVD for best results. The Metamorphosis Program is perfect for anyone who wants to completely transform her body. I like to mix and match Tracy's programs. For amazing legs, I recommend The Perfect Design Series. This was filmed a few years ago, but remains my favorite program to get my legs ready for the warmer months. The third DVD in the series has the best leg movements. After a month of doing the program, your legs will be tightened and toned! Below is a clip from Perfect Design III.
8. "Tone It Up" Workouts
Tone It Up is one of the best brands for women. Trainers Katrina and Karena are down to earth, beautiful, inspiring women. In recent years, they've expanded their company to include other amazing trainers, giving their subscribers access to a variety of fitness classes. Tone It Up is all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and they've built a community of women supporting other women. It is incredible. Their workouts are effective and fun, and it really feels like you are with your best girlfriends, because you are!
Tone It Up offers a paid subscription via their app, Studio Tone It Up, but you can easily hop on their YouTube channel to work out with them. They have a variety of total body workouts, and other videos targeting specific body parts. I love their leg workouts! They are challenging and fun! My favorite workout to target the legs is their Inner and Outer Thigh workout from the 2014 Bikini Series. It's killer!
9. Tracy Campoli's Workouts
A few years ago in the midst of moving, I was in a hotel room, searching for workouts on YouTube and found Tracy Campoli's backless dress workout. I've been hooked ever since. She has an amazing energy that makes you feel like you are with one of your best girlfriends.
Tracy has a variety of fitness and lifestyle videos available, but her leg workouts are some of the best! Her workouts are dancer-inspired with a Pilates flavor, giving you lean, tight, toned legs. The video below is one of my favorites!
A Note on Cellulite
Everyone has cellulite and most women are looking for ways to get rid of it. There are many creams and lotions on the market that promise to reduce the appearance of cellulite, and some of them work for a short time. You can create your own body scrub from extra virgin olive oil, sugar, and coffee grounds to help exfoliate and tighten the skin, but that makes a major mess. There are plenty of claims that dry brushing helps eliminate cellulite. In my experience, dry brushing feels good and helps exfoliate the skin, but it hasn't done anything for the cellulite on my legs. Foam rolling can help, as it reduces lactic acid build up, keeps your connective tissue healthy, promotes lymphatic drainage, and gives you the appearance of smoother skin. When it comes to cellulite, the best thing to do is lead an active lifestyle, drink plenty of water, and make sure you are eating healthy.
You Can Do It!
While it is harder to spot reduction, you can definitely spot tone. Taking time to work on weaknesses in the body or toning up those areas that need a little attention will help give you greater confidence and have you feeling amazing in your flowy dresses and pretty skirts.
The good news is you do not need an expensive gym membership to get fit or to maintain your progress. There are plenty of exercises you can do right at home that will have you looking and feeling your best. The following are my favorite leg exercises that are simple, but effective, as well as my favorite fitness methods that help you achieve gorgeous gams.
It's important to note that you should include some form of cardio in your fitness routine, at least a few times a week. This helps boost fat loss and increases your endurance and stamina. My favorite is HIIT because it burns a lot of calories, boosts metabolism, and you can tone while you sweat! Nutrition is also key. Be sure to eat healthily and drink plenty of water.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Alyssa
Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 17, 2019:
Oh that is wonderful, Dora! Have an amazing week!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 17, 2019:
These workouts seem to be the ones I need the most. Thank you and I'm bookmarking for use sooner than later.
Alyssa (author) from Ohio on February 14, 2019:
Hahahaha! You always make me laugh, Bill! Have a great day works perfectly. I hope you have an amazing weekend!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 14, 2019:
I've got nothing, Alyssa. I find myself without words to comment on this one . . . a writer without words. Not that it's bad in any way. I'm just not sure what to say about leg workouts for women. lol How about have a great day? Is that good enough?