While it’s nice to show off perfectly toned arms and a chiseled core, you don’t want to skimp on working out your lower half. The lower body is home to some of your largest and most powerful muscles, including the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Not to mention, strengthening your body from the waist down can help improve your mobility and balance, and get you running faster — longer. True story: From deep squats to glute bridges, here are eight lower-body exercises from our Daily Burn 365 trainers that will give your bum a run for its money. Leg workout, won and done.
15-Minute Leg Workout to Try Now
Perform each move for one minute with no rest in between. At the end of the circuit, rest one minute, then repeat.
If you’re a fan of HIIT group classes, squats are probably part of your exercise routine. These bodyweight burners may seem simple, but in just a few seconds, your lower body will start to feel the push and pull in your muscles, as your heart rate ramps up, too. Throughout the move, be sure to sit back into your heels and keep a tall spine with your chest up.
Amp it up: If the basic bodyweight move feels easy-breezy, add more reps, depth or weight (dumbbells will do the trick) to make it more challenging.
RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Squat
2. Lateral Lunge
In addition to working every lower-body muscle in the book, lunges test your balance and range of motion. Make ‘em lateral, and you’ll improve your hip mobility and flexibility, while firing up your inner and outer thighs, hamstrings and core muscles, too. Pro tip: Make sure your knee doesn’t move past your toes, and think about sitting your hips back into the stretch.
Amp it up: Add depth to your lateral lunge by squatting lower to bring your hand to touch your opposite foot. Make them rotational: Carry a sandbag or medicine ball with your hands and twist your torso to the side as you sink into the lateral lunge.
Talk about a quad and core burner! This moving plank exercise works your butt, legs, hips, core, as well as your shoulders and triceps. These ab-chiseling crawls will also get your heart rate up and help you burn some serious calories. As you place your right hand forward, simultaneously step your left foot forward, then place your left hand forward with your right foot. The key: keeping a flat back, square hips and knees hovering only a few inches off the ground.
Amp it up: Alternate moving forwards a few steps, then backwards. Coordination, for the win!
4. Deep Squat With Heel Raise
You don’t need to be a yogi to benefit from this quad-burning pose. A combination of chair pose and Garland pose (Malasana), this one’s also known as a yogi’s squat. It gets you low, working your quads, hamstrings, glutes, as well as your back and shoulders. The added heel raise will fire your calf muscles, not to mention test your balance. While you’re in that deep squat, make sure your butt doesn’t sink lower than your knees. Also keep your shoulders relaxed and neck long as you reach your fingertips forward. (Don’t forget to breathe!)
Amp it up: Alternate feet with heel raises to challenge your stabilization skills. Or, get the upper body involved, hold a light dumbbell in each hand and pulse up and down as you’re doing the heel raises.
Time for a mid-circuit cardio blast! Skaters are a great plyometric exercise that both tones and stretches. You’ll bound side to side like (you guessed it) a speed skater to get your heart rate up, while torching your quads, glutes and calves. Ankle stabilization is another benefit (runners, we’re looking at you!). Be sure to keep your butt back and your chest tall, and land with control. Here, Women’s Health fitness director Jen Ator is pumping her arms for power and a full-body burn.
Amp it up: To get your heart rate up even more, add more height and distance between each jump. You can also carry light dumbbells in each hand or hold onto a medicine ball. For a low-impact option, take out the jumps and step out wide instead, touching your toe with your opposite hand at a fast pace.
6. Leg Raise
Despite lying on your side, it’s not time to chill out and rest. This leg lift works out smaller muscles in your lower body that you might not otherwise target, including the inner and outer thighs, abdominals and hip flexors. To get the most out of the move, slowly raise your leg about six inches from the ground, keeping both legs straight, heels flexed and core engaged. (If you’re clenching the floor for balance that means those abs aren’t working hard enough!)
Amp it up: Add small pulses at the top for 8-10 reps before bringing your leg back down. For a greater range of motion, lift your top leg so your heels are parallel to the ceiling and bring it back down, hovering over your bottom leg.
7. Reverse Table Top Crunch
This variation of the glute bridge puts a premium on range of motion, mobility, flexibility and balance. For the complete booty benefits, make sure to keep your hips lifted throughout the entire exercise. Lifting your hips will engage all three muscles in your glutes: the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. The gluteus maximus controls hip extension, while the medius and minimus help stabilize the body.
Amp it up: Add a tricep dip in between switching legs to give these hard-to-target muscles some TLC. Or make your glutes work extra hard by placing your feet on an exercise step or plyo box. The incline between your lower and upper body will make the crunch deeper and more challenging.
For more creative leg workouts to change up your workout routine, try Daily Burn 365. You’ll get a new workout every day. Get a 30-day free trial today!