Unlike a lot of people, leg day is one of my favorite days. I really enjoy lower body exercises and wanted to share my top 10 list of lower body exercises you need to add into your leg routine.
Start working in three or four of these moves into your workout routine, and be sure to switch things up every few weeks. You may not see a difference right away, but you’ll definitely feel it.
We use our legs everyday and it is important to not only have strong legs, but a strong core and lower back to help maintain good posture and avoid injury…and lets be real, we all want sexy toned legs that we can feel proud of!
*All of my photos are from workoutlab.com
My Top 10 Lower Body Exercises
1. Goblet Squats:
This exercise is just like an air squat but with the addition of a kettlebell (or weight of your choice —my favorite is my 10 month old Jax). I love it because it is actually a full-body exercises, but really gives the glutes a good burn.
Main Areas Targeted: quads, glutes, calves, core
Variations: try landmine goblet squat and even add a band!
How-To: Stand with your feet hips-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your chest, elbows pointing toward the floor. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Push yourself back to start. That's one rep.
This is a very functional exercise — you most likely walk up the stairs on a regular basis. I love it because it is a unilateral exercise (training one arm or leg at a time) and can be made easier or harder by adding or not adding weights.
Main Areas Targeted: Quads, glutes
Variations: The step-up can be made easier for beginners or harder for more advanced people. If you want to add weights to this exercise, you can hold dumbbells, kettlebells or even a barbell. You can even wear a weight vest, like my husband likes to do. To keep it easier, just simply use your own body weight.
How-To: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and then step forward with your leg onto the platform and drive through your thigh to propel your body upward. Then bring your other leg up and stand on top of the platform, then step back with either leg to return to the floor. You can choose to either repeat with the same leading leg for all reps and then switch half-way or alternate your lead leg each rep.
3. Split Squats
This is a staple in my training routine and I always feel this they day after. It really fires up my glutes and also helps me with stabilization! Be sure to not put your back leg too high or your range of motion won’t be as good thus hindering the benefits.
Main Areas Targeted: Quadriceps, glutes
Variations: add weights to both hands for a crazy burn. You also mix it up by only adding one weight causing you to have to focus more on your care and stabilization! Also try adding a jump as you stand up to make it extra difficult.
How-To: Place your rear foot on an elevated platform or bench (shoe laces facing down). Bend your front knee to lower yourself, making sure that knee doesn’t go over your toes. (If it is, then move your front foot further from the platform) When your knee joint forms at least a 90-degree angle, reverse the motion, driving through the heel and squeezing your glute to standing position.
The truster is a great compound exercise —front squat and a press. They are also a full-body exercise and if you know me, as a busy mom, I am always looking to create workouts that I can get the most out of in a short amount of time.
Main Areas Targeted: Quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, core, shoulders
Variations: you can do this the traditional way with the barbell, or simply use dumbbells instead. For a modification, you can use your bodyweight.
How-To: start feet shoulder-width apart either with your barbell or dumbbells. Keep your chest up throughout the entire movement and start by going into a squat until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. squeeze your glutes and stand up as you use the momentum to press the weights directly over your shoulders. Finish by lowering the weights back to your starting position. That's one rep.
5. Good Mornings
The Good Morning is a hip-hinge exercise aka bending at your waist and that is why it is in the same category as the squat and deadlift. This exercise primarily strengthens your posterior chain aka the muscles on your backside. You do need to be careful just like with anything, about hurting your back if it is not done right. This takes a lot of core strength and practice. If you have not mastered your squat, I do not recommend adding this to your routine yet.
Main Areas Targeted: glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, core.
Variations: The most basic version of this move is the bodyweight variation. You should start by mastering the movement pattern and perfecting your form before adding any weight. Increase the difficulty of the good morning by using a resistance band, dumbbells, or a barbell.
How-To: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and weight loaded like squat or if dumbbell behind your neck. Keep your back flat and core tight, then push your hips back, and you lower your torso until it is nearly parallel to the floor. Pause there, and then return to the starting position.
6. Curtsy Lunges
This exercise takes the lunge to a whole new level! I love that it adds the inner thighs and tests your balance.
Main Areas Targeted: glutes, quads, inner thighs
Variations: add weights to your hands!
How-To: Start from standing position and step your left leg behind you and to the right so your thighs cross, bending both knees. Make sure your front knee is aligned with your front ankle. Return to standing and alternate sides to for one rep.
7. Glute Bridges
These are a must-do exercise. Glute bridges really target glute activation—guaranteeing results.
Main Areas Targeted: Glutes, hips, core
Variations: add weights (barbell or dumbbell or bands)
How-To: Start lying supine (on your back), knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Feet should be hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Core is tight and lower back is on the floor. Then press your hips up off the floor into extension by squeezing your glutes. At the same time press your heels into the floor for more stability. Then lower yourself back towards your starting position. that is one rep.
8. Single-leg Deadlift
Training in a single leg fashion allows us to work on any strength or mobility imbalances that our body may have. Many people tend to be one-side dominant and can cause a whole host of issues. It also helps improve balance, which is huge!
Main Areas Targeted: glutes, hamstrings, core
Variations: The most basic version of this move is the bodyweight variation. You should start by mastering the movement pattern and perfecting your form before adding any weight. Increase the difficulty by adding a kettlebell or dumbbell to both hands or even more challenging, to your opposite hand (of leg on ground)
How-To: Holding a kettlebell in your right hand (or not), stand on your left leg that you will keep slightly bent. hinge forward, as you extend the right leg straight behind you, until torso is parallel to the floor. (Weight is just going straight down hovering right over the ground. Drive into your left heel to return to standing position. That’s one rep.
9. Reverse Lunge with Glute Kickback
I love Reverse lunges are safer for the knees because they reduce the pressure compared to regular lunges, but still give you all the benefit and well the glute kick back is just an added bonus!
Main Areas Targeted: glutes, hamstrings, and quads
Variations: add weights by holding dumbbells or a kettlebell. You can also add a band around your quads for an extra glute burn.
How-To: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, step back with your right leg and bend both knees as you lower until your left knee is bent 90 degrees. Push through your left foot to stand as you squeeze your left glute as you kickback. and switch. That's one rep.
10. Sumo Squat
Main Areas Targeted: glutes, quads, adductors (inner thighs), hamstrings
Variations: Try the sumo squat negatives where you put your feet up on 2 separate benches or platforms to allow the weight to drop below your feet! This is where the burn gets real.
How-to: Stand with your heels shoulder-distance apart and toes turned outward (make sure you’re wide enough). Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your hips. Bend your knees, reach your hips back, and lower down into a squat. Allow your arms to hang they are just there to hold the weight. Lower until your hips are slightly below the level of your knees. Pause at the bottom for two seconds then squeeze your glutes weight in heels and stand up. That’s one rep.
I hope you find these as exciting as I do and decide to add them into our fitness routine!!
Cheers to getting #sweatyasamother!