Legs are one of the top body parts women are most self conscious about. I get asked TONS of questions about them.
“How do I make my butt bigger?”
“How can I get rid of cellulite on my thighs?”
“Should I be lifting heavy?”
“How do I just slim my thighs without losing my butt?”.
The list goes on, and I answer to the best of my ability, but when it comes down to it, everyone is different.
We all store fat in different areas, and for women, those tend to be in our butt, thighs, love handle area, and stomach.
Without going into too much detail, you cannot spot reduce fat loss. Working out a certain area doesn’t make you lose fat there, instead it helps you build muscle in that area.
By building more muscle in general, you can raise your metabolism and drop your overall body fat percentage, but unfortunately you don’t get to decide where it comes off first.
So, if you are just starting off, DON’T FREAK OUT! I know you have a million questions and concerns, but the best thing to do is to learn some basic leg exercises, start off at a lower weight, and practice proper form!
Perform this let workout once a week. When you start feeling more comfortable with the exercises increase the amount of weight. Take 30-90 seconds rest between each set.
Exercise 1: Squats
4 Sets x 15 Reps
Squats are one of the most publicized leg exercises, and with good reason. They work your quadriceps, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, hamstings, and calves. So, this exercise is very overarching, and hits multiple muscles.
To perform a squat, you need to have the barbell across your shoulder blades, with your feet slightly farther than shoulder width apart. Next, as your knees bend, your hips will pull back, and your torso will be at a 45-degree angle.
When you come back up, you want to pull up from your lower back/butt area. Think about squeezing your glutes to lift the weight.
Here I am using a preset barbell weight, which is great for beginners to start off with. You can also perform squats at the rack and just begin with a standard bar (45 pounds) to get the feel of it.
Some people learn on the smith machine, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Squatting on the smith machine is useful for targeting specific muscles, or switching up your stance, but using the smith machine causes you to engage your core less as the track balances the weight for you.
I personally started off on the smith machine because that’s what I was shown, and eventually I was able to learn to squat on the regular rack, but the biggest downside for me was that I was afraid to after getting so comfortable with the smith machine.
Exercise 2: Standing Lunges
3 Sets x 15 Reps (each leg)
Lunges are another great, basic exercise that is crucial to have in any routine. They work your quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstings.
When lunging, have the weight in the same position as a squat. If you’re starting with no weight, keep your hands on hips.
Next, step forward and bend your knee until you hit a 90 degree angle. Push off your front foot, and return to the beginning position.
Make sure your front knee doesn’t go over your toes. Doing this would put a lot of pressure on the knee and could lead to injury.
Exercise 3: Stiff Leg Deadlifts
4 Sets x 15 Reps
Stiff leg deadlifts are one of my favorite leg exercises because they target your hamstrings and they really burn!
Begin with your feet shoulder width apart, holding the weight in front of your body.
Next, pull back from your hips and the weight will slide down, close to your body as if you are reaching down to touch your toes. You want to keep your head neutral with your spine so you will end up looking at the ground. Your knees will bend slightly as well.
Exercise 4: Step Ups
3 Sets x 15 Reps (each leg)
Step-ups may seem easy at first, but when done properly they are an awesome exercise that will work your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and calves.
For this exercise, you don’t need any weight, but I am holding a small dumbbell in front of me for balance.
Place one foot onto the bench, with your knee at a 90 degree angle. Stand straight up, with your eyes forward.
Next, push through the top leg until it has completely straightened. For this exercise you need to make sure not to push off of the foot on the ground, even though it’s tempting. Doing this would take away from the exercise, and wouldn’t be working the front leg as it’s supposed to.
Exercise 5: Cable Kickbacks
4 Sets x 15 Reps (each leg)
Cable kickbacks are another one of my top leg day exercises. These mainly target your glutes (which is another win!).
To do a cable kickback you start with the ankle strap around one foot, holding onto the machine in front of you. Bend forward and kick your leg back directly behind you.
Squeezing your butt at the top of these, or holding your leg at the top of the exercise for a few seconds can help you get a better burn!
Exercise 6: Calf Raises
4 Sets x 15 Reps
Calf raises are great for specifically targeting your calves. Here, I am performing them seated, which directly works your inner calves.
Doing standing calf raises works your inner and outer calves, so I switch off between them on leg days.
To do a calf raise, you will slowly lower your heels towards the ground. Push up through the arch of your foot and toes until you calves are fully extended again.
When doing these you don’t need to use a lot of weight, but rather use slow and controlled movements to feel a burn.
With legs being made up of so many muscles, it’s important to try and hit all of them when working out.
Starting off with lower weight and learning some basic exercises is the perfect way to begin shaping your legs and adding on some muscle.
Once you have mastered these basic exercises, you will be ready to lift more weight and try out new variations.
Keep in mind that this is just a starting point. Doing the same routine continuously can lead to a plateau, so utilizing a personal trainer can really help you to reach your fitness goals.