If you don’t use it, you lose it! The same goes for your legs and glutes (especially if you sit most of the day). If you want a strong, shapely lower body, you need to do exercises that target those areas. And while you could squat your way to a better booty, why not change it up with these 10 leg and glute toning exercises?
Strengthening your hips, glutes, and thighs will not only help you perform better at other exercises, and daily life activities. It’ll literally help ward off injuries, and even reduce back pain. How, you might ask? When you strengthen your hips, glutes and thighs, you’re also strengthening the muscles that connect to the lower abdominals as well as the gluteal muscles. What many don’t know is that when the abdominals and glutes are weak, they often contribute to lower back pain.
The muscles underneath the abdominals (like the psoas muscle, hip flexors, spinal erectors, etc.) help stabilize the spine and skeletal structure while standing or doing any kind of activity. When these internal muscles become weak (from too much sitting and lack of exercise), they have a hard time stabilizing the spine (hence, leading to lower back pain).
The gluteal muscles, when weakened, fail to support the lumbar spine, leading to back pain. Instead of being supported by strong gluteal muscles, the body instead compromises and utilizes power from the muscles stemming from the lower back and knees.
So as you can see, taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to do some leg and glute toning exercises doesn’t only improve your aesthetic, but it reduces body pain, too.
10 Leg and Glute Toning Exercises
Supplement your workouts with these ten exercises that will help you achieve a tighter, more defined physique. This sequence only has ONE squat-related exercise, so don’t fret!
Complete the entire circuit (or do the five exercises from the leg section one day, and five exercises from the glute section the other day) to really target your lower body. Perform each exercise for 15-20 repetitions, 2-3 times.
If you’re a beginner, do 5-10 repetitions of each exercise, completing only 1-2 sets. You can increase the amount of repetitions and sets after one week.
1. Side Squats
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your abs and glutes tight, with your head up and chest open. Press your hips back, breathe in, and squat. Stand up, and then take a small step to the side and squat again. Return to the initial position and repeat this side to side movement until the set is complete.
2. Curtsy Lunges
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and engage your core. Keep your back straight, and your upper body nice and tall. Breathe in, and step out to the side with your right leg and lunge. Keeping your weight in the left foot, take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind the left. Bend your knees until your left thigh is parallel to the floor, and then step out to the side with your right leg. Complete 15-20 reps on one leg, and then repeat on the other side until the set is complete.
3. Forward Tilt
Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, chest open and shoulders pulled back. Push your hips back until your torso is parallel to the floor. Push through the heels to get back up, squeezing the glutes and breathing out as you come to standing position. Repeat until the set is complete.
4. Grasshopper Lifts
Lie on your stomach, with your hands under your chin, and knees wide apart. Keep your spine neutral, and bend your legs, bringing your feet together. Point the feet toward the ceiling and raise your thighs off the floor as high as you can. Keep the movement slow, and as you breathe in, lower your thighs back to the floor and repeat the exercise until the set is complete.
5. Lying Leg Abduction
Lie on your back with your legs straight in the air above the hips. If you have a resistance band, place the center of the band around the bottom of your feet and hold the handles together at your chest (keep the legs strong and long, but don’t lock your knees). Press your feet wide open until the legs are in a straddle position, and the band is tight. Release slowly, and repeat again until the set is complete.
Standing straight, cross your legs, feet flat on the floor. Make sure your back is straight for the duration of the exercise, arms hanging perpendicular to the floor. You may hold onto a weight for this exercise to increase the effects. Slowly push your bottom back as far as you can. The knees should only partially bend, and your weight should remain on the heels. Slowly return to the starting position by extending the hips. Switch legs for each set.
Place 5-10 pound dumbbells on either side of your body, and lie down on a mat. Keep your knees flexed, feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart (ankles right below the knees). Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and place them right on your pelvic region. Push up with your heels. Exhale and raise your hips towards the ceiling, feeling resistance in the glutes. Hold this position for a second, and then inhale and lower your hips. For those more advanced: do not let your hips touch the mat before completing the set.
8. Hip Extensions
Get onto your hands and knees on the floor, core tight and back neutral. Take your right leg and drive it upwards, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle throughout the movement so that the foot faces the ceiling. You want to make sure your hip, thigh and knee are all parallel to the floor and in alignment. Lower back down and repeat for all reps, before switching sides. Remember to keep your neck in line with your spine (looking down, not up) – and avoid arching the back. To increase the challenge of this exercise, add ankle weights, or hold a light dumbbell behind the knee.
9. Bridge Pulses
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms will be flat on the floor, palms facing down. Lift your left leg up to make a right angle (90 degrees) with the floor, and raise your hips and bottom off of the floor. Your right knee will remain bent. Press your right heel into the floor, and pulse up and down with your left leg, without dropping your hips and bottom. Keep your eyes on the ceiling and continue pulsing for 30 seconds, before switching sides.
10. Concentrated Hip Extension
Lower to your hands and knees, and bring your forearms to the floor. With one knee on the floor, extend the opposite leg and make a horizontal line with your leg, relative to the floor. Lift the leg to about 40 degrees from this position, and then bring it back down to that horizontal starting point, before lifting again (almost like a pulsing motion). If this is too difficult, you can bring the extended leg all the way down to the floor for a brief pause, before lifting again. Repeat for the desired amount of reps until the set it complete, and switch to the other leg.