Legs for Days: The Best Lower Body Workout for Women

best lower body workout for womenGet Yourself Those Lean and Toned Legs and an Amazing Butt

Do your legs need some love? Are you confused about the best way to go about shedding excess fat and building sexy lean muscle in the lower body, specifically the booty and thighs? Maybe you’re just getting started with weight training for the lower body, or maybe you’re simply tired of going through the motions on the same old leg machines with nothing much to show for your work. Well, sister, you have landed on the right article. I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to know sculpt and tone your legs and butt muscles while losing any chub layer that might be obscuring all that lean muscle you’ll be building underneath.

The best lower body workout for women needs to work the hamstrings, quads, calves, and especially the butt muscles from multiple angles to ensure even muscle development and balance both aesthetically and functionally. We will also be working the core muscles along the way so you get as strong as possible in terms of function. If you’re looking to lose weight, the best lower body workout is going to be an essential part of the picture. These exercises recruit large muscle groups to torch tons of calories, which equates to accelerated systemic fat loss.

women's lower body workout disclaimerAn important disclaimer: YOU NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT NO LOWER BODY WORKOUT EVER IS GOING TO “BURN” FAT DIRECTLY OFF TARGETED AREAS ON THE LOWER BODY. Sorry about that! Sadly, spot reduction is a myth so all those people slaving away on the inner thigh machine and ab cruncher in hopes they will slim down are wasting their time and possibly making the issue worse by building up the muscle under the fat layer, which can actually make the fat more prominent. Whew! Bad news, I know. The truth about fat loss is that it’s a systemic process. When you consume less calories than you burn through ALL your exercises, daily activities, and basal metabolic rate, your body will shed fat semi-evenly throughout. That being said, the best lower body workout for women is an excellent choice for fat burn because we are using so many large hungry muscles in rapid succession that your calorie burn will be mighty! And the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you will burn even at rest! So never neglect strength training when you are looking to lose weight; just recognize that it will be a slow and steady process that occurs throughout your whole body and there is no magic exercise that melts fat directly off your thighs or butt.

Does that make sense? Awesome, now stay with me to learn the best lower body exercises for getting super strong, sexy, and sculpted legs through the perfect combo of large muscle group exercises, cardio for the lower body, and nutritional guidelines for lean muscle building and fat loss. Before we get started, let’s dial in an important move you need to have under your belt to complete these exercises correctly: the SQUEEZE.


An essential maneuver that allows you to get the most out of the best lower body workout for women and every other lower body workout, is the SQUEEZE! What am I talking about? Contracting your glute muscles completely; in other words, squeezing your cheeks together as hard as you can. When you engage these muscles fully, you will feel them contract inward and upward. If you are in doubt, stand up right this very minute and give it a shot. Are you back? Did you feel that? Good! I can’t stress enough that you need to do this as you complete each rep of every lower body exercise. If you don’t make it happen, you’re cheating yourself out of a major point of the exercise and you won’t build muscle and strength nearly as fast!

The Legs for Days Best Lower Body Workout for Women

lower body workout for women butt exercisesAlright, it’s time to unveil the top moves you MUST DO, the proper order to complete them in, and tips and guidelines for making the most of every single repetition. Do the Main Events, the Finishers, and then finish with lower body cardio. Let’s get to work on that lean, toned lower body!

Tips and Guidelines for the Best Lower Body Workout for Women:

  • Do the Main Events all the way through as a circuit at least two times and as many as four times through the whole circuit
  • Complete the Finishers ONLY after completing however many of the Main Event circuits you’re doing
  • Only rest 30 seconds to one minute between exercises while you’re doing the circuit to keep your calorie burn as high as possible
  • No wussy weights allowed; pick a weight that will really fatigue your musculature by end of your set
  • Also pick a weight that is manageable enough to allow you to finish your set with proper form and control
  • Strike a balance between too much and too little weight; it will take a little trial and error
  • For safety, start on the lighter side and add more weight next time if the set was too easy
  • Complete the entire workout three times weekly to get the best results possible

First Things First! The Main Events Circuit

#1. Kettlebell Swings x 30 seconds

The kettlebell swing is an amazing exercise for toning and tightening your butt, hamstrings, and back. There’s even a term in the fitness industry called the “bell butt” because kettlebells are notorious for improving the shape and tone of women’s backsides! It’s also great for fat loss because it’s so intense it torches a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

To do a 30 second set of kettlebell swings:

There is a lot going on in a kettlebell swing so take it slow and make sure you get it right. The idea is to use your lower body to make the kettlebell swing, NOT your arms. Really, your arms are just there to grasp and guide the kettlebell as your lower body does most of the work.

Take a hip-width stance and grab the kettlebell, being mindful of your form as you do so. Keep your shoulders plugged into their sockets and super strong throughout the whole exercise. Initiate the swing by sitting back into your hips and allowing the kettlebell to swing between your legs. Make the kettlebell swing forward by straightening your hips and knees at the same time and pushing your hips forward, SQUEEZING your glutes and tightening your core. You will build up momentum with the first couple of swings. Using your hips each time, generate enough force so that the kettlebell comes up to about eye level. Use control. Let the momentum of the kettlebell swing your body downward and control it with your hips without trying to slow it down with your arms. It will take some practice to master the kettlebell swing, but it will be SO worth your time!

#2. Deadlifts x 15 reps

If you ask me and many other trainers, the deadlift is the greatest total body and lower body exercise in existence! The best lower body workout for women wouldn’t be complete without it. Nothing builds lower body strength better than the deadlift (no, not even squats). The deadlift also targets the glutes and hamstrings very intensely, so it should be a top priority for women looking to build lean legs and a sculpted booty. Let’s learn how to do it right!

To do a deadlift:

If you have never deadlifted before and you’re not sure what weight to start with, try a light weight at first, say 30 pounds. When you are comfortable with the movement and your form is great, start pushing yourself on the weight.

To begin, set up a barbell or a kettlebell of your desired weight. Take a hip width stance with your feet close in to the weight so it starts close to your center of gravity. Keeping your gaze straight ahead the whole time, sit back into your hips, keeping your shoulders back, your chest open, and your back flat. Bend your knees enough to get you down there to grab the weight. Your shins need to stay totally vertical all the way down; knees directly above ankles. Grab the weight and stand up, straightening your hips and knees at the same time. Make sure your hips are driving this movement, squeezing your glutes as tight as possible and pulling your bellybutton toward your spine to further engage the core as you stand all the way up. Don’t pull up with your arms; instead, just let the weight finish held in front of your thighs. As you go into your next rep, finish with your hands holding the weight at about mid-shin level. You don’t need to go down to the floor every single time. A deadlift is a pulling movement, using all your posterior muscles to PULL yourself up to standing. So feel how those muscles contract to pull you up from the bottom position to a strong standing position. The deadlift is more complex than it looks so don’t slack on it! Take the time to practice and to watch your form in the mirror. You will totally get it and it will go a huge way toward earning you the butt and legs you want!

#3. Squats x 15 reps

Including squats in the best lower body workout for women is a no-brainer. In fact, squats are an essential part of any good lower body workout program. True, they’re great for the butt like you’ve probably heard, but they’re also killer for the quads, hamstrings, core, and back. Since they recruit such a large group of muscles, they are also one of your best friends if you are looking to burn excess body fat.

To do a squat:

During a squat, envision PUSHING the floor away and PUSHING your body up to a standing position. This will help your body differentiate from the deadlift in which you are PULLING and make sure you’re using the right muscles to drive each exercise. Practice with bodyweight exercise to make sure you have the form before adding additional weight. When you are ready to add additional weight, there are many options: a barbell held on your back or in front, a kettlebell held to your chest goblet-style, dumbbells held at your shoulders or hips, etc. Whereas in a deadlift you bring your chest parallel to the floor when grabbing the weight and pulling it up, in a squat, you will get the weight in position and keep your chest up and proud as you hinge from your hips and sink your butt down. As you squat down, keep your knees right over the ankle/midfoot, never beyond the toes and never bowing outward. Envision “screwing” your legs into the floor pressing outward so your hips stay externally rotated and your knees will not be prone to cave in. Squat down until your hip crease is the same height as the crease behind your knees, keeping your core strong. As you push the floor away and stand back up, SQUEEZE your glutes together, using the hips to drive the movement all the way to the top. Pull your core in TIGHT as you stand to protect your back. And that’s how you squat!

#4. Walking Lunges x 15 each leg

Lunges aren’t exactly my favorite exercise but nevertheless they are an essential one to include in the best lower body workout for women. Being good about doing them will go a long way toward earning you toned thighs, a tight tush, and a rock solid core. Start lunges with just your bodyweight until that gets too easy and then add weight by holding a barbell across your shoulders, dumbbells in your hands, or a kettlebell to your chest. A barbell across your shoulders is a great choice because it will encourage you to keep your chest up and correct any fading posture throughout the exercise.

To do a set of walking lunges:

Make sure the way ahead is clear; you’ll be covering a good bit of ground. Start with tall posture and feet hip width apart. Take a giant step forward, leading with the heel. Sink your hips and torso straight down toward the ground, allowing your knees to bend. Keep your torso completely straight up and down as you do so. Tense up your abdominals so you don’t lean forward or side to side. Keep an eye on your front knee, making sure it does not go forward beyond the toe. Use control to drop the back knee until it is just about an inch off the floor. Don’t let it touch down. If you view yourself from the side at the bottom of the lunge, you should see a straight line from the top of your head all the way down to that back knee hovering above the floor. As you start to stand back up, press your weight into the front heel and swing the back foot up to meet the front foot. SQUEEZE those glutes as you stand all the way straight. You’re now back in the starting position ready for the next rep. To initiate the next lunge, use the opposite foot. Continue just like that until you have done 15 reps for each side, or 30 lunges total.

#5. Kettlebell Swings x 30 seconds – ROUND 2

Swings so nice we’ll do ‘em twice! Make sure to go for intensity as well as perfect form. Don’t forget to SQUEEZE your glutes as tight as possible at the top of each swing. If you feel super ambitious about kettlebell swings, you can even add an extra set after each exercise!

#6. Step Ups x 15 each leg

Step ups really work the booty and thighs like a gnarly uphill hike or stair climbing. You will definitely feel these tomorrow! The best lower body workout for women wouldn’t be complete without including them. Basically you will set up a comically large step and use your lower body to blast yourself up onto it over and over one leg at a time. Sounds like SO MUCH fun? I know, right?! Let’s do it (I promise you’ll thank me later).

To do a set of step ups:

Practice with bodyweight to get the hang of step ups, then add additional resistance in the form of dumbbells held at your hips or a kettlebell held to your chest. First, set up a step of at least 12 inches. Once you get comfortable, go for as high of a step as you can do while keeping control of your form. Start on the right foot; put your right foot on the step and push into your heel, driving through the hips as you boost up onto the step. Try to achieve balance and upright posture on top of the step WITHOUT letting your left foot touch down. When you get good at this move, you can even bring your left knee up high as you stand onto the right to really challenge your core and balance. Whatever step up variation you choose, your pattern for working the right leg will be right up, left up, left down, right down, repeat, repeat, repeat for 15 reps. Then when you switch to the left, your pattern will reverse, becoming left up, right up, right down, left down, repeat. Feel those glutes BURN as you SQUEEZE!

Next: 2 Lower Body Finishers

After you have completed your goal number of Main Event circuits (remember to shoot for 2-4 circuits depending on your experience and energy level), go through this Lower Body Finisher circuit twice to ensure that your thighs and booty muscles are thoroughly burnt out for the day. Completing these finishers will maximize the best lower body workout for women and you will feel the burn!

#1. Cable Hip Extension x 15 each leg

The first finisher is a cable hip extension, which should really be called the KILLER BOOTY BURNER! After the Main Event Circuit, you are truly going to feel this one. Head to the cable machine and get set up by putting ankle strap attachment on each leg. Set the cable machine origin all the way down to the bottom. Hook in one ankle and stand facing the machine. Keeping your core tight and placing one hand on the machine for balance, keep the leg straight and kick it back behind you, using your glutes to create the lift. It may be helpful to stand on something such as a weight plate or yoga block to give the working leg a little more clearance. Just make sure it’s nothing slippery.

#2. Glute Bridge x 15 lifts + 30 second static hold

This second Finisher, the glute bridge, is gonna burn SO GOOD! But it’s going to be totally worth the pain because it’s great for lifting and tightening the booty and thighs while also improving muscle tone in the low back and core. This is the ultimate finisher and will help you get the most out of the best lower body workout for women. Get on your back and put your feet flat on the floor with knees bent. Scoot your feet toward your butt. Tighten your core and push into your heels to lift your hips off the floor. Keep your knees, hips and ankles all aligned, making sure your knees don’t cave in or bow outward. Press up and SQUEEZE your glutes together until you achieve a straight line from your shoulder heading up diagonally to your knee. Set your hips down and then repeat that lift for a total of 15 reps. Finish by holding the top position for 30 seconds or more. If this exercise gets too easy with bodyweight and you’re not really feeling the burn anymore, grab a weight plate or barbell and hold it on top of your thighs for the duration of the set. SQUEEZE it good and feel that muscle fatigue! That means you’re getting stronger!

Drive it Home: CARDIO for the Best Lower Body Workout for Women

best butt workout cardio tipsTo get that gorgeous lower body, you need the perfect balance of strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Performing the best lower body workout for women  alone isn’t going to be enough for everybody’s fitness goals. Neglecting either strength training or cardio training will sabotage your long term fat loss goals. You will get frustrated and demotivated. So instead of going that route, let me tell you the basics of cardio training that will support your lower body goals. A great cardiovascular exercise approach is the perfect companion to the best lower body workout for women.

To lose fat, you need to do a minimum of 120 to 150 minutes of cardio per week. Break this seemingly large amount up into smaller sessions and it’s not as big of a deal as it sounds. For example, if you’re going for 120 minutes per week, you could do three 40 minute sessions or four 30 minute sessions. Make sure you go for intensity and don’t just walk. Strive to hit a moderate-high feeling of exertion. Intervals are also a great idea. An easy way to get into intervals is to use one of the interval workouts on your gym’s elliptical, treadmill, or ARC trainer.

A great cardio choice for building some lean lower body muscle while also accomplishing your cardio minutes is hill climbing. Set the treadmill incline as high as you can control and start climbing. Make sure to SQUEEZE your glutes with each step for the best results. Don’t worry about jogging or running uphill, just focus on hitting a nice brisk walking stride.

Use your core at all times when you’re doing cardio, but especially during hill climbing. The tendency will be to slouch and/or lean side to side. This will not be you. Stand up tall and proud and climb that hill!

Nutrition Notes for Women’s Butt Building Workouts

Nutrition tips Women's Butt Building WorkoutsI want to take a little sidebar to go over the importance of nutrition when you’re doing the best lower body workout for women. Straight talk: most women doing lower body workouts are looking to lose body fat while toning up their existing muscle. Most women are not looking to bulk their legs like a bodybuilder, nor are they looking to get their body fat as low as a bodybuilder or physique competitor. So let’s talk about some nutritional guidelines to help support the goals of reasonable fat loss and muscle strengthening and toning.

To keep it simple, fat loss boils down to a numbers game: calories in versus calories out. If you want to lose fat, there’s no way around it: you need to consume less calories than you will be burning. The best lower body workout for women or any workout for that matter isn’t going to be effective for fat loss if you don’t pay attention to calories. This can be accomplished through portion control and/or specific diets. Without going in depth, here is what can work well in a nutshell: make sure to fill up on lots of veggies, a handful of carb source at each meal, and a palm-size protein portion at each meal. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, both to stay hydrated and because thirst is sometimes mistaken for hunger, causing you to overeat.

When you are wanting to build and tone lean muscle, it’s essential that you consume adequate protein. An easy guideline is to eat 1g protein for every pound of lean body mass. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and you have 110 pounds of lean mass (40 lbs of body fat), simply aim to eat 110g of protein daily. Good protein sources include lean meats, fish, greek yogurt, quinoa, and beans and rice eaten together if you are a vegetarian. If you struggle to meet your daily protein gram goal, consider supplementing with whey protein isolate or a vegan alternative if you can’t or don’t eat dairy. Adequate protein consumption is not something to neglect if you want to get the most out of the best lower body workout for women, so make it a habit to consume enough to support your body.

If you have a lot of weight to lose or you just feel like you need some help getting your eating in line to support your fitness, the best thing to do is consult with a nutritionist, dietician, or a personal trainer who has an added credential as a fitness nutrition specialist. Any of these professionals will be able to tell you everything you need to know about the exact right diet for your unique body and fitness goals. They can even build you a customized meal plan to get rid of any guess work and get you to your goals as efficiently as possible.

Legs for Days Best Lower Body Workout for Women: The Bottom Line

Try this workout and feel the truly righteous soreness of an awesome leg and butt workout! Did this workout fulfill its goal of providing you with the best exercises and tips for building a gorgeous, strong lower body? Are there any excellent exercises or hot tips we missed? We love to hear back from our readers, so let us know in the comments below!

About Mae Barraclough

Mae Barraclough, B.S., NASM-CPT, NASM-CES is a certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, and licensed Zumba Instructor. With her passion for health, fitness, and dance, Mae loves learning all she can and sharing her knowledge with others.

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