16 Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body

Tamsen Butler
woman exercising with kettlebell at gym

To get your bottom and legs in great shape, it helps to know a few great toning exercises for the lower body. The muscles of the lower body are some of the biggest muscles within the body, so working the lower body can not only make you stronger, but can scorch calories as well.

List of the Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body

These exercises are effective and challenging, yet can be modified for exercises of all levels. Perform these moves slowly and with control, forcing your body to stabilize as you move.

Squats

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

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. If you're not using weights, cross your arms or clasp your hands in front of you with elbows pointing outward. To increase effort needed, clasp your hands behind your head in a "prisoner" pose.
  3. Inhale and squat, making sure that you push your weight into your heels. Beginners should 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.
  5. Perform three sets of 15 repetitions.
woman doing squat exercise

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. Ensure your hip, knee, and toe face the same direction on each leg.
  2. Sink down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, keeping abs tight.
  3. Return to the starting position, squeezing the glutes and avoiding locking the knees.
  4. 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.
Young mother exercising at home with her baby boy

Jump Squats

This will add some cardio into your usual toning move.

  1. Assume your normal squat position.
  2. Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  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.
  5. Repeat for 10 to 20 repetitions.
Woman in gym doing squats

Pistol Squats

These work the glutes, quads, and outer thighs. This is an advanced move; beginners can try these while holding a barre or using TRX straps for support.

  1. Perform a regular squat with one leg extended in front of you.
  2. Point the toes of the extended leg up - don't point them.
  3. Return to standing, with the leg still extended.
  4. Either repeat on the same side, or alternate the leg each time.
  5. Perform 10-15 repetitions and then switch sides.
People practicing pistol 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.
  4. Doing 10 of these at the end of a set of normal squats will enhance your results and burn out the fat.
woman working out with a kettle bell in a gym

Lunges

Lunges will work your quads, butt, and calves. These can be done while holding weights or with just bodyweight.

  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; 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.
  5. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions before repeating on the other side, or alternate sides each rep.
man doing lunges outdoors

Reverse 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.
  3. Hold your abs tight.
  4. Push with your back foot back into the starting position.
  5. To increase intensity, add a knee lift or front kick as you step back up instead of returning to the starting position right away.
  6. Repeat for 10 to 15 times; then repeat on the other side.
Two young women stretching in park

Lateral Lunge

The lateral 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.
  5. Do 10 to 15 repetitions, then switch to the other side - or alternate sides each time.
Runner doing side lunge stretch on indoor track

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.
  3. Use your front foot to press back up. Bring your back foot back to the starting position.
  4. Do 10-15 repetitions; then switch to the other side - or alternate sides with each rep.
Young woman training

Donkey Kicks

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

Deadlifts

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. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the standing position.
  5. Do 10-15 reps
Barbell dead lift exercise

One-Legged Deadlifts

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.
  6. Repeat 10 to 12 times before switching sides.
woman doing single-leg kettlebell deadlift

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.
  5. Perform a set of eight to ten reps before switching to your right side.
woman stretching in gymnasium

Outer Thigh Lift

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.
  5. Perform a set of eight to ten reps before switching sides.
Multi-ethnic women practicing yoga

Bridge Lift

This move works your rear and hamstrings.

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet resting on the floor.
  2. Push through 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.
  5. Perform 10-20 repetitions.
woman doing Bridge exercise

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.
  5. Perform 10-15 repetitions and then switch sides.
Single leg floor bridge hip lift fitness woman

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.

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16 Best Toning Exercises for the Lower Body