Your Legs Will Look 10 Years Younger Thanks to These Lower Body Exercises
Getting gorgeous gams is the key to feeling confident about rocking short-shorts and thigh-skimming skirts. Whether you are prepping for warm weather or just like to show off your legs — hello patterned tights in winter! — having a go-to lower body workout makes getting your buns and legs in gear that much easier.
Not sure where to start when it comes to a lower body workout? Don’t sweat it (no pun intended). There is a whole collection of exercises out there to give your legs and butt the blast it needs. Here are 15 lower body workouts you need to try.
1. Jumping lunges
Lunges are a great exercise to have in your lower body workout arsenal. Adding the jump to them is even better. Instead of simply stepping into a deep lunge, you keep your upper body centered as you jump and switch your legs. As Howcast explains in their video, this is also a good cardio routine, as the jumping will help you work up a sweat and boost your heart rate. Of course, the big takeaway from this workout staple is that it works your quads all the way down to your calves.
Side note: Be aware of your form — and confident in it — before attempting this exercise so you avoid injury. FitStream explains, “Technique is important when you introduce plyometrics into your exercise routine. Make sure you are competent with the standard bodyweight lunge exercise before attempting the more advanced jumping lunge.”
2. Glute presses
No short-shorts workout plan should be without glute presses. Plus, keeping your backside on point is not just important when it comes to sky-high hemlines — your gluteus muscles are the strongest in the body, connecting your upper and lower body. The resistance factor that goes into this exercise is what ups the muscle-working properties of every rep, making it a must for prepping your backside for rocking shorts and hip-hugging skirts.
This is a gym favorite and is commonly done using a machine. But you can achieve glute presses at home using ankle weights or a resistance band. You can even do this exercise on all fours, pushing the bottom of your foot up into the air.
3. Jumping jacks
Really, all your lower body workouts should be preceded by a little cardio. (The cardio helps burn fat, while these exercises will help you tone and build muscle.) If running or biking isn’t your thing, jumping jacks are a good way to pump up your heart rate and tone your tush and legs. “This type of exercise will help your body burn fat,” Elizabeth Peterson of The Nest explains. “All that jumping will also improve the strength of several muscles, including your quadriceps and hip adductors.”
4. Speed skater lunges
The speed skater exercise targets every part of your lower half. (Plus it has a great cardio kick to it, making it perfect for shaping your backside all the way down to your calves.) This version of the lunge is performed about the same as it sounds. Bend at the waist and bring your chest almost parallel to the floor. (Yes, you should look like a speed skater as you do this.) The objective is to jump and switch the positioning of your legs, engaging your core as you work out your lower body.
5. Hip lifts
There is good reason why this floor exercise is constantly referenced when it comes to must-try lower body workouts — it’s masterful at targeting your glutes. (It’s also a good exercise for keeping stress off of your back and knees.) Start lying on your back with your legs bent, feet placed hip-width apart. Then, squeeze your buns and push your hips up towards the ceiling. Up the ante by keeping your hips lifted and pulsing, raising your hips a little higher with every movement. A couple reps of this exercise, and you will be ready for short-shorts in no time.
A common mistake many people make when formulating a lower body workout is focusing so much on doing lunges and squats, you forget to work on the inner and outer thighs. This floor exercise hits both of these spots, making it the perfect addition to your workout repertoire. Naturally, the starter version of this exercise requires you to lie on your side with knees bent, opening and closing knees as if they are a clam shell. But the intensity level can also be increased, as demonstrated by PopSugar.
7. Jumping squats
Tired of basic squats? Up the intensity with this more mobile exercise. The jumping squat — which can be performed on its own or with weights — is an explosive lower body move that works your glute muscles to the max. Like with jumping lunges, form is key to doing this exercise properly, whether you are using weight or not. But as Brad Longazel of T Nation explains, learning proper form isn’t difficult. “The jump squat is actually a very simple movement to learn … Just grab a weight and jump — it can’t get much simpler than that,” he writes.
8. Reverse lunges
This rendition of the lunge actually works out a completely different set of muscles. (Bonus: This exercise works your core, since you will be tightening your abs in order to keep your body upright.) In fact, STACK rates this over the forward lunge “because backward momentum keeps the body in the ideal lunge position — weight on the heel with the knee above the ankle.” The reverse lunge also requires the same upper body positioning as the jumping lunge, so the two can be combined in your lower body workout for the ultimate bare-those-legs regimen.
9. Leg swings
Here is an exercise for toning your gams without the high impact or pressure on your knees that comes from lunges or squats. And while these movements are typically used as more of a warm-up tactic than an actual exercise, these active motions can also help streamline your legs. Basic leg swings from front to back tone your quads and stretch out your hamstrings, while lateral swings — from side to side — strengthen your inner and outer thigh areas.
10. Curtsy lunges
Of all the different versions of lunges, the curtsy lunge is the best for targeting the muscles all around the thigh area — perfect for readying your legs for mini skirts. Real Simple summarizes, “The curtsy lunge works the major muscles in your hips, buttocks, and thighs, including the tough-to-target sartorii (the long muscles that run the length of your upper legs).” As a bonus, this exercises also improves your posture as you dip and work your lower body, making it a full-body wonder.
11. Mountain climbers
Here is a great way to tone your lower body and get your cardio in. This exercise is a great addition to any regimen, whether it is to build muscle or to help get your blood pumping, but it is most notorious for working your legs into tip-top shape.
To start this exercise, begin in a push-up position. Then, run in place as if you are climbing up a mountain. Looking to intensify the workout for your hips and butt? Women’s Health Magazine has a couple variations of this lower body buster for you to try.
12. Kettlebell swings
When done properly, kettlebell swings are a great workout for the entire body. For the lower body in particular, they target your glutes and quads, as well as stretch your hamstrings. Plus, thanks to the weight of the kettlebell, you get a better workout faster because of the resistance training factor. (And who doesn’t want a speedy short-shorts workout that is also super effective?) For a kick-butt workout that incorporates swings and other great lower body blasters, check out this variation from Autumn Fitness.
13. Floor barre routines
Professional dancers rely on this form of ballet barre to keep them toned and in shape. Lucky for everyone else, this is a workout plan that can be done at home. Sure, a good floor barre workout will help open up your hips and work your coordination. But those pliés in the air also work your calves and stretch out the backs of your legs. It’s no wonder sites like Shape are singing the method’s praises: “Ballet-inspired workouts are a great way to develop lean muscle mass while improving your balance, flexibility, and range of motion.” This step-by-step floor barre routine from Australian Fitness Network is a good starting point for anyone not familiar with a ballet barre workout.
This floor exercise is a lower body blast that should be in everyone’s workout arsenal, because it’s both user-friendly and effective. The movement itself is quite simple: While down on all fours, keep weight on both hands and one of your knees while lifting the other leg up laterally at a 90-degree angle.
Not surprisingly, this glute-clencher works other parts of your body. “Most people have a limited range of motion in their hip joints,” The Better Butt Challenge says, “[T]his is not only a great hip-opener and mobility exercise, it also works the butt and core stabilizing muscles.”
15. Side leg lifts
It doesn’t take too many reps of these lower body wonders to start to feel the burn on the outside part of your thighs. All it takes to achieve this exercise is to lie on your side to prep yourself, and pulse your top leg up into the air. (For extra oomph, attach ankle weights.) The reps target your gluteus muscles, that area right under your bum that is so darn hard to work out. Integrate these into your usual workout routine, and you will be ready for short-shorts in no time.