Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body

lower body

To get your bottom and legs in great shape, it helps to know a few great toning exercises for the lower body. Women are predisposed to carry more fat in the hips and thigh area than men are, so paying extra attention to your lower half could pay off come swimsuit time. However, be aware that spot-toning is a myth, and overall toning will get you the best results for your effort.

List of the Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body

Squats

squat

You can perform this move which targets your bottom with or without weights.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. If you're not using weights, cross your arms or keep them at your sides, raising them at the elbow as you squat.
  3. Inhale and squat, making sure that your knees don't extend past your toes. Stop the movement when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Exhale and rise until your legs are straight, but don't lock your knees.

Perform three sets of 15 repetitions.

Plie Squats

Plie Squats

These will work your quads and inner thighs, plus they feel great. You may wish to hold weights vertically in each hand in front of your body for added resistance.

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed out.
  2. Sink down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, keeping abs tight.
  3. Return to the starting position, squeezing the glutes and remembering to avoid locking the knees.

Do 10 to 20 repetitions. For additional burn, pulse up and down a few inches for 10 repetitions at the bottom of your last squat per set.

Jump Squats

Jump Squats

This will add a little bit of fat-burning cardio into your usual toning move.

  1. Assume your normal squat position.
  2. Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making sure your knees don't pass your toes.
  3. Exerting as much force as you can, spring upward.
  4. Land softly on the balls of your feet and immediately sink into another squat.

Repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions.

Squats With a Lift

Squats With a Lift

These work the glutes, quads, and outer thighs.

  1. Perform a regular squat.
  2. When you return to the starting position, raise one leg out to the side, toes pointed.
  3. Return the foot to the floor.
  4. Sink into another squat and repeat the leg raise.

Perform 10-15 repetitions and then switch sides. For an even more difficult move, complete this with a resistance band around your ankles.

Pulsing Squats

Pulsing Squats

This is another great variation on the traditional squat.

  1. Do these exactly the way you perform a normal squat.
  2. Instead of coming all the way up, pulse at the bottom of the squat.
  3. Come up only a few inches before sinking back down again.

Doing 10 of these at the end of a set of normal squats will enhance your results and burn out the fat.

Lunges

lunge

This is a classic that will work your quads, butt, and calves.

  1. Stand with your legs about hip-width apart, knees soft.
  2. Step forward with one foot and lower down until your front leg is at a 90-degree angle, making sure that your knee doesn't extend past your toes and that your back knee doesn't touch the floor.
  3. All the weight should be in your front foot; the back foot is used mostly for balance.
  4. Push back to the starting position.

Complete 10 to 15 repetitions before repeating on the other side.

Reverse Lunge

lunge

The reverse lunge works the same muscles as the forward lunge, but instead of stepping forward, you're stepping back.

  1. Stand with your legs about hip-distance apart with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Step back with one leg until the front leg is at a 90-degree angle, knees not passing the toes.
  3. Hold your abs tight.
  4. Push with your back foot back into the starting position.
  5. Feel free to add a front kick as you step back up instead of returning to the starting position right away.

Repeat for 10 to 15 times; then repeat on the other side.

Side Lunge

lunge

The side lunge works your hips, quads, and glutes. You'll feel it in your inner and outer thighs as well.

  1. Start with feet hip-distance apart.
  2. Step one foot out to the side, bending it at a 90-degree angle and keeping the other leg straight. Both feet should be facing forward.
  3. Weight should be in the bent leg, both heels on the floor.
  4. Push back with the bent leg to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 15 repetitions; then switch to the other side.

Curtsy Lunge

curtsy lunge

The curtsy lunge works your quads and glutes, and you just feel pretty doing them (yes, even with all the sweat).

  1. Start in the normal pre-lunge position, feet hip distance apart, knees soft.
  2. Move one foot behind the other at a diagonal so that both knees are bent at roughly a 90-degree angle. Go as far down as you can. Don't let your knees extend beyond your toes.
  3. Use your front foot to press back up. Bring your back foot back to the starting position.

Do 10-15 repetitions; then switch to the other side.

Kickbacks

kickbacks

This is another move to target your rear.

  1. Get on a carpeted floor or mat on your hands and knees.
  2. Pull one knee underneath your body as far as you can, and then extend this leg behind you, keeping it straight. Don't actually "kick back," but maintain control of your movement.
  3. Keep your back as still as possible, avoiding arching or rounding it.

Perform 15-25 repetitions on one side before switching to the other.

Deadlifts

deadlift

This will work your butt and the backs of your thighs.

  1. Stand with your knees hip-width apart, knees soft (slightly bent, not locked).
  2. Rest your hands, with or without dumbbells, on the tops of your upper thighs if you'd like, but don't apply pressure.
  3. Keep your back flat, hips square, abs engaged, and shoulders back as you lower your upper body toward the floor, tilting at the hips rather than rounding the back. Go as far as you can, aiming to get the torso parallel to the floor.
  4. Continue to hold the back flat, abs in, and shoulders back as you lift your lower body back to the standing position.

One-Legged Deadlifts

Flickr user bepositivelyfit/Positively Fit

This move is generally the same as a deadlift, but it will take more balance and more leg strength.

  1. Stand as you did before, knees soft but not bent. You can hold weights in your hands if you'd like to up the intensity even further. Rest hands at the tops of the upper thighs.
  2. Holding the back straight, bend at the hips, sliding the hands down the thighs toward the floor.
  3. As you lower your upper body, raise one leg behind you, foot flexed, until it's parallel with the floor.
  4. Remember to keep knees soft, not locked or bent.
  5. Once your torso is parallel to the floor, keep the back straight and slide the hands back up the thighs, returning to the starting position.

Repeat 10 to 15 times before switching sides.

Inner Thigh Lift

inner thigh lift

This move concentrates on the adductor muscles.

  1. Lie on the floor (or mat) on your left side, left leg straight, with your left arm against the side of your head, resting your head on it.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring that leg over your left leg, resting your foot flat on the floor in front of your left knee.
  3. Keeping your left leg straight, exhale and lift that leg six inches, keeping your toes flexed, not pointed.
  4. Inhale as you lower your leg, using your muscles to perform the move.

Perform a set of eight to ten reps before switching to your right side.

Outer Thigh Lift

Leg Lifts

This move targets your abductor muscles.

  1. Lie on your left side with your head resting on your left arm.
  2. Keep your right arm on your right hip.
  3. With your legs straight, exhale and lift your right leg six inches, toes flexed.
  4. Inhale and lower your leg.

Perform a set of eight to ten reps before switching sides.

Bridge Lift

bridge

This move works your rear, as well.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet resting on the floor.
  2. Push up with your heels so that your back is straight and your shoulders and feet are still touching the floor.
  3. Hold your abs tight.
  4. Lower the butt back to the floor, returning to starting position.

Perform 10-20 repetitions.

One-Legged Bridge Lifts

One-Legged Bridge Lifts

This move is a more intense variation of the previous one, using just one leg to push the body up.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, one foot resting on the floor, one leg straight up.
  2. Push with the heel to lift the body up.
  3. Keep abs tight.
  4. Lower the rear back to the floor, but do not lower the leg; instead, keep it extended the whole time.

Perform 10-15 repetitions and then switch sides.

Regular Toning Exercises, Cardio, and Healthy Eating for Results

Completing a lower body routine two to three times per week, combined with a healthy diet and regular cardio can give you results in a matter of weeks. Keep in mind that you can spot "tone" without spot reducing, so incorporating that healthy diet with running or another form of cardio is imperative for melting fat and showing off those hard-earned muscles.

Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body