Strong and defined legs are a common goal for many people who exercise. However, my private weight loss clients are actually all women. In fact, many of them ask me to help them find the best leg workouts for women that will give their legs that shapely look. Just as is the case for achieving toned arms, toning the legs is a direct result of both muscular strength and definition. As a certified personal trainer, I focus on fast and effective leg workouts that can help women achieve visible results, including looking great in heels.

Some of the major leg muscles include the quadriceps or “quads” (commonly known as the tops of the legs or thighs), the hamstrings (the backs of the upper legs), and the calves (made up of a few muscles in the back of the lower leg). Many times, leg exercises also work the glutes, which help with balance. I recommend combining leg exercises with cardio a few times a week for a well-rounded workout that will build muscle and burn fat simultaneously.

Conveniently, leg workouts for women can be done both standing and with many modifications regardless of your fitness level. Below, I’ve included eight leg workouts for women that are sure to tone and tighten the fronts, backs, sides, and insides of your legs. You can repeat each exercise 10 times. Additionally, I recommend doing these exercises every other day for two weeks to get the best results!

Beginner / Modified Exercises

These leg exercises can be done one of two ways: standing and holding onto a bar for balance OR with the hands on the hips or out to the sides for less support, which makes the moves more challenging.

Forward Leg Raises

  1. Point the right leg out in front of you and squeeze the quads. You can feel your thigh tighten, meaning you’re doing this correctly!
  2. Then lift the leg up as high as your hip and lower it back down.
  3. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Forward Leg Raises 1
Forward Leg Raises: Step 1
Forward Leg Raises 2
Forward Leg Raises: Step 2

This exercise works the quads and muscles of the upper thigh while also helping to stabilize the patella. This stabilization exercise benefits both the kneecap and knee, which together aid in enhanced balance!

Side Leg Raises

  1. Point the right leg out to the right of you from your hip and squeeze your quads.
  2. Lift the leg up as high as the hip to engage the outer thigh and glute. Then lower it back down.
  3. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Side Leg Raises 1
Side Leg Raises: Step 1
Side Leg Raises 2
Side Leg Raises: Step 2

This exercise works the outer thigh a well as the gluteus medius, which is a muscle that’s part of the core of the body. Generally, this exercise helps build a well-rounded physique for both the leg and the glute. It also helps with balance and the overall muscle composition of the lower body, especially the leg.

Back Leg Raises

  1. Point the right leg behind you and squeeze the quads.
  2. Pull the naval in towards the spine to ensure that your back does not arch during this movement.
  3. Lift the right leg up halfway from the ground to your hip height and then lower it back down.
  4. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Back Leg Raises 1
Back Leg Raises: Step 1
Back Leg Raises 2
Back Leg Raises: Step 2

This exercise targets the back of the legs and the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle of the glute. It also strengthens and tones the upper hamstring and back of the leg to improve hip mobility and function as well.

Calf Raises

  1. Stand with your feet as wide as your hips.
  2. Come up onto your tip toes to feel the backs of your lower legs engaged and then lower back down.
  3. Repeat 10 times.
Calf Raises 1
Calf Raises: Step 1
Calf Raises 2
Calf Raises: Step 2

This exercise is hugely beneficial for balance and also toe mobility, which might seem a bit odd. In fact, the toes tend to become stiff and immobile as time goes on without regular stretching or movement. By coming up onto the tip toes for this exercise, you’re strengthening the toes, various foot muscles and tendons, and also the lower legs and calves.

Beginner’s Leg Routine

Repeat all four of the above exercises 10 times each. Then do a total of three rounds of all four exercises for a complete lower body workout!

Intermediate / Advanced Exercises

These exercises put more pressure on the knee and ankle joints. However, they can also be modified to lower down only halfway instead of all the way into the full exercise.

Squat

  1. Start with your feet as wide as your hips.
  2. Pull the naval in towards the spine and then sit your glutes back as if you’re sitting in a chair.
  3. Press down through the heels to come back up to standing position.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.
Squat 1
Squat: Step 1
Squat 2
Squat: Step 2

You should feel this in your quads (both on the way down and up) but also in your glutes (on the way up) when you squeeze to stand up. This total leg exercise works the fronts, backs, and sides of the legs all simultaneously. You can strengthen the lower body with this exercise but also burn more calories, speed up your metabolism, and increase balance.

Wide Leg Squat

  1. Open the feet a little bit wider than the hips. Then bend the knees to lower the glutes back as if you’re sitting back in a chair.
  2. Press down through the heels to come back up to standing position.
  3. Repeat this 10 times.
Wide Leg Squat 1
Wide Leg Squat: Step 1
Wide Leg Squat 2
Wide Leg Squat: Step 2

This exercise, although similar to the regular squat above, works the body in a different way. It helps increase mobility in the hips and hip flexors to improve forward, sideways, and backwards motion of the hips.

Wide Leg Open Toe Squat

  1. Open the feet a little bit wider than the hips and turn the toes out on an angle. This is second position in ballet if you’re familiar with ballet.
  2. Keeping the back straight, bend the knees out to your sides to lower down into a squat.
  3. Keep the glutes reaching down towards the ground instead of backwards as in the squat.
  4. Press down through the heels to come back up to standing position and squeeze the glutes at the top.
  5. Repeat this 10 times.
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat 1
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat: Step 1
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat 2
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat: Step 2

This exercise really works the core. If done properly, you would engage the inner thighs, outer thighs and hips, and abs. As the spine and glutes run straight up and down rather than reaching back, the core needs to tighten and flex in order to maintain the integrity of this exercise.

Wide Leg Open Toe Squat on Tip Toes

  1. This is the same as the previous exercise, except now you will perform it up on your tip toes. As a result, your lower legs and calves will really have to work hard!
  2. Bend the knees while keeping your heels off the ground and staying on your tip toes.
  3. Then come up to standing position (still on tip toes) by straightening the legs and squeezing the glutes at the top.
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat on Tip Toes 1
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat on Tip Toes: Step 1
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat on Tip Toes 2
Wide Leg Open Toe Squat on Tip Toes: Step 2

This exercise is especially good for balance by working the stabilizers of the lower body as well as the tendons and muscles of the feet, including those around the toes. It’s quite a challenge when performed correctly!

Need to workout other muscle groups? Download our free bodyweight exercise cheat sheet on 30 simple muscle-defining exercises.

Intermediate or Advance Leg Routine

Repeat all four of the above exercises 10 times each. Then do a total of three rounds of all four exercises for a complete lower body workout!

Success Kid Leg Workout Meme

Conclusion

Whether you start at a beginner or intermediate/advanced level, these total lower body routines will have your legs and glutes burning in no time. And especially if you have certain aesthetic goals in mind, these leg workouts for women are a great way to help you reach them. With that said, remember to listen to your body and always work at your own pace. What feels good for you today may change in a few days, so feel free to modify these exercises or routines as needed.

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Stephanie Mansour
Stephanie Mansour is a nationally recognized Health & Fitness Expert as seen on Today Show, Dr. Oz, CNN, FOX New York, ABC Chicago, Fox LA, WGN, Fox Chicago, CBS Chicago, NBC Chicago, PBS, Yahoo, Sirius XM, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Business. She reaches more than 52 million viewers per month. For the past decade, Stephanie has been helping millions of people “Step It Up,” every day in their lives with weight loss tips, lifestyle hacks, and fitness secrets to up their game. Steph coaches you on how to be the rockstar of your own health that you always knew you could be. She gets real and fast results, and provides easy tips and tricks that work no matter how busy you are. She’ll help you finally rid yourself of the weight – both emotionally and physically – to get the life you want. In fact, she coached one reality TV star to lose almost 90 lbs in 3 months!