What are the best lower body exercises?
The best lower body exercises not only help you develop bigger and stronger muscles in your legs and glutes but also help strengthen your core and improve your balance.
This selection of lower body exercises will help you achieve these objectives, reducing pain in your lower body and improving your overall fitness.
The Best Lower Body Exercises
Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being.
Here’s our list of the 10 best lower body exercises:
10. Glute Bridges
Also known as a hip raise, glute bridges don’t require any equipment and are a safe and effective way to target the glutes.
They also improve other exercises such as squats and can help to reduce pain in the lower back and knees.
How to do it:
To perform glute bridges:
- Lie on the floor on your back
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground, placing your arms at your side with your palms flat
- Raise your hips off the floor until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulders
- Hold this bridged position for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down to the floor
Glute bridges can help develop tight and defined glutes and can be done regularly with no risk of injury.
They’re also effective ways to strengthen your core stabilization muscles, making them ideal if you’re suffering from lower back issues.
Include glute bridges as part of a warm-up routine or general workout, aiming for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps once or twice a week.
9. Goblet Squats
You can enhance your regular bodyweight squats and deliver improvements in your lower body by introducing a dumbbell or kettlebell.
Goblet squats help with balance and orientation through the use of a weight, which also requires a little extra effort on account of the weight.
How to do it:
- Hold the weight in both hands close to your chest
- Squat down, keeping your elbows inside the line of your knees as you descend
- Go as low as you can while keeping your back straight
- Push back up through your heels, keeping your elbows in and your abs engaged
Goblet squats help to tone muscles throughout the lower body, with your quadriceps, calves, back, and stomach all getting engaged in the movement.
The glutes and other core-related muscles help drive each repetition and enhance your overall core stability, too.
Warm-up with a few reps of goblet squats or include them in a general all-body workout routine to build lower body strength.
8. Forward Lunges
Forward lunges are perhaps the best lower body exercise you can perform if you want to engage a range of muscles in your legs and core.
They also give your glutes a great workout and can help improve flexibility as well.
How to do it:
To perform the forward lunges exercise:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, placing your hands on your hips or down to your sides
- Engage your core and take a big step forwards with your left leg
- Lower your body down until your left thigh is parallel to the floor and your left shin is straight up
- Return to the starting position, then repeat with the other leg
Each repetition of the forward lunges exercise engages your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
In addition to working a range of leg muscles, they can also help with improving back strength.
Once you’ve mastered the form, you can consider featuring forward lunges 2-3 times per week as part of your overall full-body workouts.
7. Calf Raises
Calf raises are an incredibly easy lower body workout you can perform anywhere there’s space to stand.
This exercise primarily works the lower leg muscles, bringing in the ankles and balls of your feet to develop better balance and flexibility.
How to do it:
To perform this simple but effective lower body exercise:
- Stand up straight with your hands down by your sides
- Push through the balls of your feet until you’re raised up on your tiptoes
- Hold this position for a second, then slowly lower your heels back to the floor before repeating for additional reps
Balance and enhanced muscle structure in the lower legs are among the key benefits of this exercise.
Since they’re great for developing muscles in the lower leg, calf raises are ideal for athletes and other sports enthusiasts where a lot of running is involved.
Since this exercise is easy to use and doesn’t place undue stress on any muscles, you can perform it 2-3 times per week or as part of a warm-up or warm-down around cardio sessions.
6. Leg Press
The leg press is a machine-based compound exercise that allows you to develop excellent strength in your legs.
It’s also a good way to improve your lower back and core strength, provided you ease your way up to heavier weights.
How to do it:
Set the leg press machine to the weights of your choosing, then:
- Sit back in the leg press machine, placing your feet flat on the platform at shoulder-width distance
- With a tight core and glutes pushed into the seat, press the platform away from you, driving with the full range of your feet
- Once your legs are fully extended (but not locked out), pause for a moment
- Return the platform to the starting position with a slow and controlled motion
By building up strength in your leg muscles over time through regular leg press workouts, the risk of injuries is greatly reduced.
While this lower body exercise primarily engages the quadriceps, your hamstrings and glutes also develop strength and definition.
Perform the leg press exercise 2-3 times per week, ensuring you do so on non-consecutive days, so your leg muscles have time to recover between sessions.
5. Barbell Front Squats
The barbell front squat is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscles, particularly those found throughout the lower body.
As well as building definition in these muscles, this exercise improves overall core strength and is beneficial for improving performance in a variety of other exercises.
How to do it:
- Place the bar on the upper portion of your chest just beneath your neck
- Grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing upwards and fingers pointing towards your body
- Puff out your chest to shift the weight from your fingers, then lift the barbell off the rack
- Step away from the rack with your feet slightly wider than your hips
- Lower into a squat, keeping your back straight until your hamstrings nearly touch your calves
- Push up through your heels back to the starting position
Quads, glutes, hamstrings, and glutes will all benefit from performing barbell front squats.
Spinal erectors also gain from this workout, improving back health and contributing towards better overall balance.
You’ll need plenty of rest time after doing this exercise, especially if you work up towards heavier weights.
Perform this 2-3 times per week and start light so you can master the form.
Along with the squat and bench press, the deadlift rounds up the three main powerlifting exercises.
In terms of lower body exercises, the deadlift engages muscles throughout this region for increased strength, endurance, and muscle definition.
How to do it:
- Angle your feet slightly outwards a little wider than your hips
- Take the barbell in both hands with an overhand grip a shoulder-width
- Bend your knees and flex your core with a neutral spine
- Press down into the floor with your feet as you lift the barbell up
- As the barbell passes your knees, thrust your hips forwards until you’re standing upright
- Slowly lower the bar back to the floor, then repeat for additional reps
In addition to working multiple muscles throughout the lower body, deadlifts help to strengthen your core and improve balance.
They are also an effective way to strengthen your lower back and reduce the risk of back injuries from other sports and exercises.
When starting out with this workout, use light weights to master the form, and try to include them 2-3 times per week to improve lower body strength and durability.
3. Bulgarian Split Squats
Leg strength and overall flexibility can be improved by performing Bulgarian split squats.
This compound exercise impacts your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors for an all-round excellent lower body workout.
How to do it:
Take a workout bench, then:
- Rest one foot on the bench with your other leg forward in readiness for a lunge
- Keep your torso upright with your core braced and hips square with your body
- Lower your body so your front thigh becomes horizontal, and your knee remains behind your toe
- Drive-up from your heel back to the starting position.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat
This single-leg exercise helps your core to engage much better than some alternative lower body exercises.
By forcing you to counter your weight to provide balance, it’s also an effective method for improving your overall stability and balance.
Include the Bulgarian split squats 2-3 times per week as part of your leg day routines, adding additional weight with dumbbells if you want to enhance results.
2. Romanian Deadlifts
Romanian deadlifts are geared towards driving muscle growth in the hamstrings, making them great to include in leg day sessions.
Of course, your other leg muscles get a workout as well, as do your glutes and other muscles in your core.
How to do it:
- Stand with the bar held in your hands with your arms extended
- Lower the weight with a slight bend in the knees, bending at the hips with a straight back
- Once the weight has passed your knees and you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings, drive your hips forward and bring the barbell back up to the starting position
If you’re experiencing stress in your lower back, including Romanian deadlifts in your workouts is a good step towards alleviating this pain.
Posterior chain muscles are also engaged along with hamstrings, strengthening the core and the lower body.
Using moderate weights and ensuring your form is correct, include Romanian deadlifts 2-3 times per week with 10-15 reps spread over 2-3 sets.
1. Barbell Back Squats
Barbell back squats are among the most popular lower body compound exercises for bodybuilders and powerlifters, building strength and definition throughout the muscles in the lower body.
They also help build definition in the glutes, which adds benefit to building up your overall core strength.
How to do it:
To perform this great lower back exercise:
- Place the barbell with weight on the squat rack and bring your body underneath the bar
- Rest the bar over your traps and shoulders, with hands evenly placed approximately shoulder-width apart
- With core braced and chest up, unrack the bar and step away
- Lower your body down, driving your bum out until it falls slightly lower than your knees
- Drive the barbell back up to the starting position, pushing up from your heels
Hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes are all engaged when performing barbell back squats.
As well as helping you to develop a stronger lower body, these squats will improve your balance and assist with coordination.
With rest days crucial for recovery from this big compound exercise, try including them 2-3 times per week and keep the weights low while you master the technique.
FAQs About Lower Body Exercises
Still not quite sure what lower body exercises can do for you? Read these answers to commonly asked questions to find out more.
Q: What do lower body exercises do?
Lower body exercises aid health and fitness across a range of parameters.
Muscle definition and strength, symmetry, and better core stability all gain from these exercises.
They also help improve jumping in other sporting activities.
Q: Which muscles do lower body exercises work?
Lower body exercises engage a range of leg muscles, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Check this guide to find out which lower body exercises impact specific leg muscles.
The best lower body workout for your needs can only be discovered by trying different exercises and seeing which ones work best.
Q: How does lower body exercise help?
Not only do lower body exercises build muscles in the legs and core area, but they also help develop flexibility and improve your balance.
They also help reduce fat and can boost testosterone levels.
Q: How many lower body exercises should I do?
As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life,” and this applies to working out your lower body as much as anything else.
Try working through the lower body exercises outlined in this guide and see which ones work best for you.
Q: How often should you do lower body workouts?
As a good rule of thumb, consider performing lower body exercises 2-3 times per week.
Include 1-3 sets per exercise, with 10-15 reps, making sure you go light on the weights while you’re perfecting the technique of a given exercise.
A lower body workout can bring a range of benefits, from stronger leg muscles and definition to a more toned physique and loss of weight.
This guide breaks down the best lower body exercises so you can choose the ones which best fit with your regular gym routines.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best lower body exercises:
- Barbell Back Squats
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Barbell Front Squats
- Leg Press
- Calf Raises
- Forward Lunges
- Goblet Squats
- Glute Bridges