44 Leg Exercises For Women – But Which Are Best For Toning Your Gams?

Due to the overwhelming response that I get from you gals who sign up to the newsletter, I’ve decided to list out what I feel are the best leg exercises for women who want to tone their legs … or are at least some really good exercises.

Honestly, I’ve been putting off writing this article for a while now. I’ve written a few “best exercises” articles in the past but in reality there really can’t (in most cases) be a “best” exercise for everyone. Nevertheless, here are what I feel are “the best.”

Leg Exercises For Women

Okay ladies, be honest … you really just want an excuse to go buy some “cute” shoes, huh? I have a wife and two daughters, I know how it is! ;)

I would like to clarify something. This article isn’t going to serve as an entire approach to working out your legs.

This is meant to be more of a plugin to the article that I already wrote on how women should lift weights to tone.

There are a LOT of different exercises for legs, thighs, hamstrings and butt. As an example, here are a couple 44 of them:

  • Barbell Squat
  • Barbell Front Squat
  • Hack Squat
  • Dumbbell Squat
  • Smith Machine Squat
  • High Bar Back Squats
  • Kettlebell Squats
  • Stability Ball Wall Squat
  • Stability Ball Split Squat
  • Hang Clean
  • Dumbbell Lunges
  • Barbell Lunges
  • Backward Dumbbell Lunges
  • Stability Ball Stationary Lunge
  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Romanian Dumbbell Deadlift
  • 45 Degree Leg Press
  • Band Terminal Knee Extensions
  • Body Weight Knee Jump
  • Body Weight Wall Sits
  • Dumbbell Step Ups
  • Leg Extensions
  • Lying Leg Curls
  • Seated Leg Curls
  • Standing Leg Curls
  • Barbell Good Mornings
  • Stability Ball Leg Curl
  • Stability Ball Hip Extensions
  • Kettlebell Hand-To-Hand Switch Swing
  • Band Leg Curls
  • Glute Ham Raises
  • Single Leg Lying Curl
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Seated Calf Raise
  • Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise
  • Donkey Calf Raise
  • Stability Ball Hip Extension For Calves
  • Calf Raises on Stairs
  • Standing Barbell Calf Raises
  • Seated Barbell Calf Raises
  • One-Legged Dumbbell Calf Raises
  • Toe Press On Leg Press

So how do you figure out what the best exercises are?

Exactly my point :) … but I do have a few that I recommend over the rest.

To me, the best leg exercises for women are the ones that will allow you to create a firm, toned and sleek looking leg. These will allow you to work the muscle while avoiding “the pump” in your legs.

The idea is to create more of a dense, smaller muscle.

NOTE: The amount of these exercises you do and how many times you do them depends on what your training looks like.

If you are doing intense intervals throughout the week then you will need to do MUCH less leg exercises than if you are not. If you are doing mainly low intensity cardio then you can get away with working your legs more.

As a general rule, if you are doing cardio with your workouts then I would pick one main exercise and follow that up with one calf exercise.

Best Leg Exercises For Women At The Gym

#1 – Barbell Squats

Barbell squats are probably the ultimate leg exercise. These mainly work your quads, hamstrings and butt. Make sure that you squat low enough so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.

How to do barbell squats

  1. Start with the weighted barbell on a squat rack just above shoulder height.
  2. Stand with feet slightly wider than your shoulders facing forward and outwards.
  3. Hold on to the bar firmly and keep your abs tight and chest up.
  4. Squat all the way down until your thighs are parallel with the floor and then stand up pushing through your heels (not your toes).

This is actually a very basic movement and easy to do. Just make sure to keep your core tight, chest up and butt down.

Here is a video demonstrating a squat done with proper form.

#2 – Barbell Romanian (straight legged) Deadlifts

This is another one of the great leg exercises for women … actually for men too. This targets your hamstrings and butt. Again, proper form is very important when doing these.

How to do Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Start with the weighted barbell on the floor.
  2. Stand with feet slightly wider than your shoulders and forward.
  3. Squat down and hold the bar at a little wider than your shoulders. You can use “alternating grips” if you would like.
  4. Stand straight up and then slowly bend over forwards until you get a strong stretch in your hamstrings and then bend back upwards … using your legs and butt; not your back.

This is a bit tough to explain, so I recommend you watch this quick video to see it done with proper form.

#3 – Dumbbell Lunges

Lunges are another solid leg exercise. They target your quads, hamstrings and butt. Proper form is still very important with these but also much easier to maintain.

How to do dumbbell Lunges

  1. Start with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Step with your right leg forward and keep your left leg back.
  3. Squat down until your front thigh is parrellel with the floor and then return.
  4. Alternate legs after every step.

The lunge is pretty basic exercise but here is a video to see it done. You can also do walking lunges, or step sideways or backward as variations.

#4 – One Legged Dumbbell Calf Raises

Calf raises are a good exercise to add to the mix. Whenever working calves, I prefer single legged movements. These force you to develop your legs equally. Proper form is fairly easy to maintain on these … just make sure to perform the full range of motion. All the way up, all the way down.

How to do one legged dumbbell calf raises

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart on a step or box.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your right foot at the edge of the step.
  3. Pull your left leg up off of the step and place your left hand on a wall or anything else to stabalize yourself.
  4. Press through the balls of your feet until your heel is as high as you can and then descend so that you get a good stretch in your calf.
  5. Preform all of your reps on one leg and then switch.

Again, a pretty straightforward exercise but here’s a video demonstration.

Best Leg Exercises For Women Without Weights

When you’re doing home based workouts, legs are actually one of the easier muscle groups to work. You can do the majority of the same exercises that you do at the gym at home … just without the weights.

Here are what I feel are the best exercises for women to do at home and without weights.

#1 – Walking Lunges

Much like the dumbbell lunges above, these work great. Also, you can add variation to these so that you are stationary, walking backwards and even side stepping. For now though, we’ll stick with the standard walking lunges.

How to do walking lunges

  1. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and next to each other.
  2. Step with your right leg forward and keep your left leg back.
  3. Squat down until your front thigh is parrellel with the floor and then stand up and take a step with your left leg.
  4. Alternate legs after every step.

Here is a video demonstrating great form while doing this leg exercise.

#2 – Step Ups

These exercises are great because they add a level of difficulty that is hard to achieve without working with weights. Remember to find or create a step that is stable and makes you step up so that your top leg is parallel to the floor … this works your leg much better.

How to do step ups

  1. Start with your right foot up on a step so that your right thigh is parrelel with the floor.
  2. Step up and breifly place your left foot on the step.
  3. Lower your left leg back down slowly.
  4. Repeat for reps on one leg before switching to other.

Here is a video to give you an idea of how high the step should be and how to do the exercise properly.

Also, you can always do the “gym” exercises but just without weights.

The Romanian (straight legged) deadlifts are great without weights. To make most of these exercises more difficult you can also do them with just one leg. So you can do single leg squats and single leg deadlifts. They work great!