The importance of strong legs is often overlooked, especially by women over 30. You go about your routine; until one day, you suddenly start feeling weak in your knees (we mean literally, not the idiomatic way) or unexplainable aches in your legs.
Why wait for those terrible days to set in? Strengthen your leg muscles AND get perfectly toned, enviable legs with a good workout. If you thought you’d need expensive gym equipment to get a good leg workout, you’ll be glad to know – you don’t.
Here’s the best exercise to tone your legs right at home.
Best Leg Exercises for Toned Legs
Make leg exercises a part of your workout routine; it’s essential to have strong, toned legs as much as upper body strength.
Step-ups are a great workout choice for improving your balance and stability and strengthening your thighs and hips, especially the quadricep muscles that help protect your knee.
Like single-legged squats, this movement tests your balance and works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
You only need a slightly raised platform like a chair, bench, or plyometric box. Here’s how you can do step-ups properly:
- Stand straight, facing the raised platform/step.
- Place your left foot on the center of the step and keep your right foot on the floor.
- Press your left foot and lift your body, bringing the right foot up till your right knee forms a 90-degree angle.
- Pause for a moment and then return to the starting position. This is one rep.
- Aim for three sets of 12-15 reps on each side.
Want to take it up a notch? Try holding dumbells in your hands along your sides for step-ups.
The king of all exercises – the squat is a great way to tone your legs and strengthen your lower back. Squats work on your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and lower back and help build lean muscle.
While there are several squat position variations, here’s the simple way of doing it:
- Stand straight, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Push your hips back, with knees bent and thighs parallel to the floor. Your knees must be behind your toes.
- Hold for 4-5 seconds and push yourself back to the starting position.
- Aim for 15-20 reps. You can start with 10 reps, eventually getting to two sets of 10 reps and then three sets of 10 reps or a single set of 20 reps.
For balance or extra support, try squats standing alongside a wall. Keep your back straight and slide down the wall for the squat position (thighs parallel to the floor), pushing through your heels to return to the starting position.
Helping you strengthen your legs and boost stability and balance, side lunges or lateral lunges target your legs, hips, and quadriceps. This workout is different from most other workouts that focus on forward-and-backward movements.
Here’s how you can execute a side lunge:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands clasped close to your chest.
- Move your left leg to the side and lower your left knee, pushing your hips back and bending the left knee to 90 degrees.
- Keep your right leg straight and fully stretched.
- Push back to an upright position.
- Move your right leg to the side, lower your right knee, push your hips back, and bend the right knee to 90 degrees.
- Push back to an upright position. This makes one rep.
- Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps on each leg.
Take it up a notch by holding dumbells in your hands at your sides.
Lunges are a popular choice for strength training. The walking lunges help increase your balance, range of motion, and posture by loosening your hamstrings and hips.
They strengthen the leg muscles, glutes, hips, and core.
Here’s the right way to do walking lunges:
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Rest your hands on your hips or by the side of your body.
- Lift your right leg and take a big step forward. Lower your body (with your torso upright) to the lunge position, and bend both knees to 90 degrees.
- Try to touch the floor with your left knee lightly.
- Without moving the right leg, move your left foot forward (like you’re walking) and repeat the same movement. This makes one rep.
- Continue alternating sides and aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.
Make your walking lunges more challenging by doing a torso twist (while holding a medicine ball) with each lunge or adding weights.
The glute bridge is a safe option if you’re a beginner trying leg workouts. Those with chronic back pain can also practice this safely.
It enhances core stability, improves hip mobility, and strengthens glute muscles and hamstrings. Here’s how you must do a glute bridge the right way:
- Lie on your back with your arms by your side, palms flat on the ground. Bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs, press your feet on the floor, and lift your hips toward the ceiling until your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line.
- Pause for about five seconds, then slowly lower yourself to the starting position. This makes one rep.
- Aim for two sets of 10-12 reps at least 2-3 times a week.
If you’re up for a challenge, try the glute bridge by wrapping a resistance band around your thighs to test your endurance.
You can also try the single-leg glute bridge, where you must extend one leg in front of you and raise it while pushing your hips toward the ceiling. The challenging part is you must refrain from touching the ground while lowering your body in between reps.
Single Leg Deadlift
The single-leg deadlift has multiple advantages. It improves strength in your lower back, glutes, core, and hamstrings, besides improving mobility through the legs and hips. It also enhances stability and balance.
Here’s how to do good single-leg deadlifts:
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your hands in front of your thighs, palms facing inwards.
- Lean forward, shifting your entire body weight to your right leg and extending your left leg straight behind you.
- Keep your back straight, your torso parallel to the ground, your arms hanging down, and weights close to your body.
- Pause for a while, squeezing your glutes until you can no longer hold this position.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-15 times before you switch legs.
- Aim for three sets of 10-15 reps with a 60-second break in between.
If you’re trying single-leg deadlifts for the first time and not comfortable doing it with weights, skip the weights till you’re more comfortable.
Plank Leg Lifts
Why go for a regular plank when you can practice the plank leg lifts? It makes for an excellent workout for your glutes, upper legs, shoulders, and core. An added advantage – it improves posture and trims body fat.
Here’s how you can do plank leg lifts:
- Start with a low plank, keeping your body in a straight line and all your body weight on your forearms.
- Tighten your core and raise your right leg. Pause for a moment.
- Lower your right leg and repeat the same with your left leg. This makes one rep.
- Aim for 2-3 sets of 15 reps.
Weight lifters use the actual sumo deadlift at the gym to lift more weight and build bigger legs. However, this deadlift variation targets your back, hamstrings, and glutes to tone your legs.
Here’s how you can do a sumo deadlift:
- Hold two dumbbells or kettlebells and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Keep your toes pointed out.
- Hold the weights in front of your thighs with your palms facing in.
- Keep your knees slightly bent, and press your hips back as you bend at the waist, lowering the weights to the floor.
- Squeeze your glutes to return to the standing position. This makes one rep.
- Aim for 2-3 sets of five reps with light weights.
Stability Ball Hip Thrust
A stability or gym ball is good-to-have equipment at home for several kinds of exercise. You can use one to work your glutes and fire up your core.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Keep your upper back pressed into the stability ball, arms behind your head, elbows spread wide, with bent legs, feet flat on the floor, and hips hovering over the yoga mat.
- Push your back into the stability ball, leaning back, and then lift your hips towards the ceiling until your thighs are parallel to the mat.
- Return to starting position. This makes one rep.
- Aim for three sets of 12 reps.
Get Started for Those Perfectly-Toned Legs
These leg workouts are the best exercises for improving muscle tone and having the most toned and strongest legs you could want.
Your legs must bear your entire upper body weight when you walk, run, jump, hop, climb stairs, or skip rope; it’s only fitting to take good care of them. Well-toned legs with superior muscle strength will look great now and be a blessing when you age.