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12 Best Leg Exercises For Women To Try At Home

Both upper and lower body workouts are equally important for maintaining fit and toned body. Most often, people are unaware that leg exercises are as important as exercising the arm or waist, especially women who find it challenging to shape their legs. In this article, we will focus on leg exercises for women.

Building strong legs are important as they keep you moving all day - from walking up a flight of stairs to lifting a heavy bag, your leg muscles are involved. The leg muscles are broken down into 3 main groups - the quadriceps, the hamstrings and the calf muscles.

All these muscles contract and relax and move skeletal bones to create movement in the body. So, to keep these muscles strong, here are some leg exercises to try at home.

1. Squats

Squat is a common, simple and effective exercise for strengthening and toning the large muscles of the legs. The primary muscles that work during the squat are the quadriceps femoris, adductor magnus, and the gluteus maximus [1] .

How to do:

  • Stand with your feet wide apart and keep your back straight.
  • Bend your knees and lower your butt toward the floor.
  • Go down as much as you are comfortable.
  • Hold this position briefly and then raise yourself to the standing position.
  • Do this for 10 reps.

2. Side Lunges

Side lunges, also known as lateral lunges, help strengthen the thigh muscles and increase flexibility. This exercise involves all the major muscles including quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes [2] .

How to do:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight and take a big step to the side.
  • Ensure that you keep your torso upright and lower the knee of the leg till it is bent at around 90 degrees.
  • Keep your chest straight and core tight and repeat on the other side.
  • Do this for 3 reps.

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3. Side Leg Raises

The side leg raise is an effective exercise that builds strength in the outer thighs and the hip abductors. This exercise targets the gluteus maximus which helps in better hip movement, stabilizes the body, and improves muscle endurance [3] .

How to do:

  • Lie on one side and straighten out your legs.
  • Lift your top leg towards the ceiling and bring it down slowly.
  • Ensure that you lift your hip and butt and not your lower back.
  • Repeat this position for 12 reps on each side.

4. Split Squat

This exercise targets the gluteus, quadriceps and hamstrings. Performing the split squat exercise with dumbbells will improve better muscular balance on both sides of the body [4] .

How to do:

  • Stand with a chair or a small table placed at about two feet behind you.
  • Place your right foot on the chair or table.
  • Bend your left knee lower towards the floor and keep your spine straight.
  • Hold this position and then raise yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Switch your legs and repeat.
  • Do 10 reps on each side.

5. Calf Raise

Calf raise is one of the easiest exercises, it improves your muscular strength and tones the legs. It works the tibialis posterior, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the lower legs [5] .

How to do:

  • Stand on one foot with your other leg bent to a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your spine straight and rise up on your one toe.
  • Hold this position for a while and lower your toe down.
  • Do 15 reps on each side.

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6. Banded Lateral Walk

The banded lateral walking exercise increases joint stability, improves hip stability and strengthens the hip abductors. It also engages many of the deep muscles that stabilize the pelvis.

How to do:

  • Underneath your feet, place a mini resistance band and stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly and step your left foot out to the side followed by your right foot.
  • Repeat this for 10 reps.

7. Single-leg Deadlift

This exercise develops single-leg balance, improves muscle movement through the hips, legs and back for better movement skills and posture [6] .

How to do:

  • In your right hand, hold a kettlebell and stand on your left leg.
  • Lean forward and extend your right leg behind you.
  • Lift your extended leg and bring it back to normal position.
  • Do this for 12 reps.

8. Box Jump

Box jump exercise works all of your leg muscles and strengthens your core. It also speeds up your endurance and improves cardiovascular health [7] .

How to do:

  • Stand facing the box with your feet apart.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
  • Spring up onto the box and jump back down to start.
  • Do this for 10 reps.

9. Sumo Squat

Sumo squat exercise focuses on the inner thigh adductors, which move your legs in towards the body and works on the gluteus, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

How to do:

  • Stand with your legs apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your hips.
  • Lower your hips slightly in such a way that it is below the knees.
  • Go back up and again lower your hips.
  • Do this for 12 reps.

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10. Step Up

This exercise works primarily on the quadriceps, the front thigh muscles and stabilizes your knee and hip joints. The exercise helps train your each leg independently [8] .

How to do:

  • Place your left foot on a small table and the right foot on the floor.
  • Lift your body and place your pressure on the left foot while you are standing up.
  • Pause for a while and return to the position.
  • Do this for 12 reps.

11. Ice Skater

Ice skater exercise engages all your core muscles and it works your lower back, butt, outer thighs and hips. It improves coordination, balance and helps in managing weight.

How to do:

  • Stand with your hips shoulder-width apart and cross your left leg behind your right leg.
  • Bring your left arm across your right leg and repeat this position by switching your legs.
  • Do it for 15 reps.

12. Rainbow Kick

Rainbow kick is an effective exercise that targets the gluteus, hamstrings, abs and lower back.

How to do:

  • Bend on your knees with your hands on the floor.
  • Keep your spine straight and straighten one leg out to a 45-degree angle.
  • Lift your leg up and move it around in a rainbow arc around the other leg.
  • Do this for 15 reps.
View Article References
  1. [1] Gourgoulis, V., Aggeloussis, N., Kasimatis, P., Mavromatis, G., & Garas, A. (2003). Effect of a submaximal half-squats warm-up program on vertical jumping ability.The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research,17(2), 342-344.
  2. [2] Escamilla, R. F., Zheng, N., MacLeod, T. D., Imamura, R., Edwards, W. B., Hreljac, A., ... & Andrews, J. R. (2010). Cruciate ligament tensile forces during the forward and side lunge.Clinical Biomechanics,25(3), 213-221.
  3. [3] Mens, J. M. A., Vleeming, A., Snijders, C. J., Stam, H. J., & Ginai, A. Z. (1999). The active straight leg raising test and mobility of the pelvic joints.European Spine Journal,8(6), 468-473.
  4. [4] Stastny, P., Tufano, J. J., Lehnert, M., Golas, A., Zaatar, A., Xaverova, Z., & Maszczyk, A. (2015). Hip abductors and thigh muscles strength ratios and their relation to electromyography amplitude during split squat and walking lunge exercises.
  5. [5] Hébert-Losier, K., Newsham-West, R. J., Schneiders, A. G., & Sullivan, S. J. (2009). Raising the standards of the calf-raise test: a systematic review.Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport,12(6), 594-602.
  6. [6] Olson, T. J., Chebny, C., Willson, J. D., Kernozek, T. W., & Straker, J. S. (2011). Comparison of 2D and 3D kinematic changes during a single leg step down following neuromuscular training.Physical Therapy in Sport,12(2), 93-99.
  7. [7] AF, K. J. F., Stieg, J. L., Tran, T. T., AF, L. E. B., AF, J. W. C., & AF, D. A. J. (2011). Effects of depth jump vs. box jump warm-ups on vertical jump in collegiate vs. club female volleyball players.Med Sport,15(3), 103-106.
  8. [8] Gurin, B., & Digennaro, J. (1968). Effect of one-minute and five-minute step-ups on performance of simple addition.Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation,39(1), 81-85.

Read more about: leg exercise women health fitness
Story first published: Monday, November 11, 2019, 17:30 [IST]
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