9 exercises to tone your legs and strengthen the lower body

Performing exercises to tone leg muscles every day helps build strength, speed, and stability in the lower body. Here are 9 effective exercises you can try.
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These exercises can help tone your lower body! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 26 Jun 2024, 08:59 am IST
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If excess fat tends to get accumulated around your thighs or legs, it may be time to focus on leg exercises that can help tone your leg muscles. Leg workouts, which include exercises such as high knees, squats and lunges, not only focus on toning leg muscles but also help burn fat and build strength in your lower body. When practiced regularly, these exercises can give you sleeker thighs, stronger calves, or better fitness performance. What’s more? Your risk of injury is also reduced! So, let us reveal some best exercises for toned legs.

Best exercises to tone leg muscles

Incorporating a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups in your lower body is essential to tone your legs. Here are 9 effective exercises that will help you achieve toned legs:

1. Rainbows

Rainbows are a great exercise for targeting the glutes and outer thighs, helping to shape and tone these areas. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  • Lift one leg off the ground and keep another leg bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Swing the leg out to the side and then back in a sweeping arc motion, as if drawing a rainbow with your foot.
  • Do 10 repetitions on the left side and then switch to the other leg. Do 3 sets.

2. High knees

High knees are excellent for cardiovascular fitness as well as strengthening and toning the lower body, including the quadriceps and hip flexors. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Looking straight ahead, lift your left knee towards your chest as high as possible.
  • Quickly lower your left leg and lift your right leg, as if you are jogging in place.
  • Aim for a minimum of 4 sets of 50 high knees for each leg to burn more calories.
high knees
High knee exercise is great for burning leg fat! Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Knee to elbow extensions

This exercise targets the core muscles along with the legs. When practiced regularly, it helps strengthen leg muscles and lose fat. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line.
  • Bring your right knee towards your right elbow, crunching your abs.
  • Extend your right leg towards the back. Now bring your left knee towards your left elbow.
  • Do 10 repetitions and perform the same movement on the other side. Perform 3 sets of this exercise.

Also read: Do this 10-minute lower body Pilates workout to tone your legs!

4. Jumping squats

Jumping squats are a plyometric exercise that strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. By stimulating these areas, this exercise helps burn calories and tone leg muscles. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Begin in a squat position with feet shoulder-width apart and weight in the heels.
  • Lower into a squat, keeping your chest up as if you are going to sit back on a chair.
  • Pushing through heels, jump up as high as you can, extending your legs completely.
  • Land softly back into the squat position and immediately jump again.
  • Do 2-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions.

5. Walking lunges

Walking lunges effectively target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, helping to improve lower body strength and stability. Not only this, but it also boosts cardiovascular health. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Take a large step forward with your right leg, lowering your body until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push off your right foot and bring it forward to meet your left foot.
  • Repeat on the opposite side, alternating legs with each step forward.
  • Focus on keeping your back straight and keeping the front knee aligned with the ankle.
  • Do at least 12 repetitions on each leg and perform 2-3 sets.
Walking lunges is a great HIIT exercise for fitness! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Wall sit

Wall sits strengthen and tone leg muscles, including quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They require no equipment, making them one of the easiest exercises to enhance lower body strength efficiently. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Stand with your back against the wall.
  • Slowly slide down until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can.
  • Slowly slide back up the wall to return to the standing position.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps

7. Superwoman

Superwoman targets the entire posterior chain, including the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. It improves core stability, enhances spinal alignment, and strengthens muscles crucial to improve your posture. Here’s how to perform it:


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  • Lie with your face down on a mat and arms extended overhead.
  • Now, lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground together, squeezing your glutes.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower back down with control.
  • Do 3 sets of 10–12 reps.

Also read: Do these 5 simple yet effective calf exercises to tone your legs

8. Leg raise hold

Leg raise holds strengthen the lower abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and quadriceps while improving core strength. This exercise helps develop endurance in the lower body, enhances posture, and supports overall strength and flexibility in the legs. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides.
  • Lift both legs off the ground to form a 45-degree angle with your body.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can, keeping your lower back pressed into the mat.
  • Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
knee strengthening exercises
The legs raise hol is wonderful for your core strength. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

9. Speed skater jumps

Speed skater jumps are a dynamic exercise that improves agility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness while toning your legs. Here’s how to perform it:

  • Start in a slight squat position with your knees bent and chest up.
  • Leap to the right, landing on your right foot, while crossing your left leg behind your right.
  • Immediately leap to the left, landing on your left foot with your right leg crossed behind.
  • Continue alternating sides in a constant motion.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

5 other physical activities to tone legs

Toning your legs involves a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Here are 5 other effective physical activities that can help you achieve toned legs:

1. Walking

A simple yet effective way to tone your legs is brisk walking. It engages your calf muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings, especially when you do it regularly.

2. Cycling

Whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, cycling targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. It is a low-impact exercise that can be great for your lower-body strength.

A woman cycling for weight loss
Try cycling to tone your legs! Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Dancing

Dance styles like salsa, hip-hop, or ballet engage leg muscles through movements like stretches, squats, lunges, and jumps, which help strengthen and tone the lower body.

4. Jumping rope

This high-intensity exercise not only improves cardiovascular fitness but also tones your calves, thighs, and glutes. It’s particularly effective for building muscular endurance in the legs.

5. Swimming

It is an excellent full-body workout that engages all major muscle groups, including the legs. When you swim, you constantly move your legs underwater, which helps tone your legs.

So, perform these exercises regularly to see the positive results!

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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