10 Best Leg Exercises for Weight Loss (From a Trainer)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: January 19, 2024
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Did you know that specific leg exercises can be your secret weapon for weight loss?

Dive in as we unveil the most effective ones to help you burn fat and sculpt your lower body!

Quick Summary

  • The best leg day workout for weight loss includes exercises like goblet squats, deadlifts, and curtsy lunges, proven to burn fat and tone the lower body effectively.
  • These exercises not only focus on weight loss but also enhance strength, balance, and flexibility.
  • According to Healthline, leg strength training exercises can prevent injuries and manage medical conditions like heart problems, joint pains, and diabetes.
  • In my opinion, leg exercises are an essential part of a balanced fitness routine, offering benefits beyond weight loss, including enhanced lower body strength and endurance.

Our Top 10 Leg Exercises for Fat Burning

Whether you have gym equipment or not, there are leg exercises tailored for you. For quicker results, intensifying your workouts with advanced equipment can be a game-changer.

Here are top picks for effective weight loss:

1. Goblet Squats

Goblet-Squats-min

The Goblet squat is a basic squat position holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your body. It targets your glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quads and engages your core. This exercise is also beneficial for improving your balance and coordination.

Doing Goblet squats is a good option for those with back injuries as it offers less strain on the lower lumbar and spine.

I remember the first time I tried goblet squats; the burn in my glutes and thighs was real. Holding that kettlebell in front of me not only worked my lower body but also engaged my core, enhancing my balance and coordination. It's a must-try for anyone looking to spice up their leg day.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: Kettlebell or Dumbbell

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell or dumbbell before your chest using both hands. Maintain the elbows close to your body.

Next, squat down by pressing your heels on the floor. Push your hips back up while keeping your thighs parallel to the ground. Repeat as many repetitions as possible.

2. Deadlifts

Deadlifts

A deadlift is a lower-body exercise where a bar is lifted off the ground while keeping a good posture. It works on your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It also engages your core, lower and upper body. Deadlifts also contribute to better bone health and improved grip strength.

Deadlifting helps promote quicker fat loss, increase cardio endurance and muscle strength. It stabilizes your core and improves posture.

Deadlifts have been a game-changer for me. Lifting that bar off the ground, feeling every muscle from my glutes down to my hamstrings engage, is invigorating. My grip strength and bone health have improved significantly. It’s a holistic exercise that I can’t recommend enough.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: Barbell

Start by placing the barbell in front and stand shoulder-width apart. Keep your upper body straight as you slightly sit back. Bend forward to hold the barbell, one palm facing down and the other facing up.

Next, roll the barbell under your shin, keeping it tight to your body.

Then, stand up by pulling your knees first, then setting off your glutes while keeping your legs and shoulders upright. Slowly bring down the barbell and get back to the starting position.

3. Curtsy Lunges

Curtsy-Lunges-min

The Curtsy Lunge is an excellent fat-burning exercise to brace yourself for balance. It primarily engages your quads and gluteal muscles. This exercise also aids in enhancing your lateral mobility and flexibility.

Curtsy lunges can improve posture by strengthening and sculpting the inner thigh and stabilizing your hips and ankles. It is less risky for knee injuries while losing weight.

I used to struggle with lateral mobility until I incorporated curtsy lunges into my routine. Feeling my quads and glutes engage with each movement was proof of its effectiveness. It’s not just about burning fat; it’s about enhancing mobility and flexibility, something I noticed after just a few sessions.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: None

Start in a standing position, with feet aligned with the hips, hands on your sides. Step back with your right foot, and fix it crossing behind your left. Flex your knees and drop your hips as deep as you can, keeping your upper body straight.

Then, come back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

4. Glute-Ham Raises (GHR)

Glute-Ham-Raises-min

Glute-Ham Raise means challenging the leg muscle group to a fat-burning exercise that works to strengthen your glutes and hamstring. These backside muscles of your body are often missed in workout routines.

GHR can strengthen your legs to help you better perform in other workouts. It lessens low back strain while trimming those unwanted fats.

I can't stress enough the difference Glute-Ham Raises made in my workouts. Strengthening those often neglected backside muscles not only intensified my fat burn but also enhanced my performance in other exercises. Every raise was a step closer to my weight loss and strength goals.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: GHR machine.

Position by setting up the footplate where you can be most relaxed. Get on your knees slightly behind or directly on the pad, with your feet against the footplate. Next, allow your calves to rest against the top ankle hook.

Start with your upper body at a 90-degree angle to the ground, and fold your arms across your chest. Tighten your glutes, core, and hamstrings, then slowly drop your body until your torso is parallel to the ground.

Finally, move up to starting position by pushing your feet into the footplate and squeezing your hams and glutes. Raise your body perpendicular to the ground.

Maintain control of your movement with every repetition to prevent an injury.

Read more: Glute Ham Raise: Proper Technique, Benefits and Tips

5. Leg Raises

Leg-Raises

The leg raises exercise is a fat-burning exercise that engages muscle groups throughout your body. But, it works mainly on your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, and lower back muscles.

Leg raises strengthen your lower body muscles for a better workout. It also helps in fat burning while toning your abs muscles.

I was skeptical about the impact of leg raises until I added them to my routine. The engagement I felt in my hamstrings and lower back was undeniable. Each lift not only contributed to my fat loss journey but also toned my abs, a pleasant surprise.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: None

Start by lying flat on your back. Next, pull legs together and lift them straight up in the air.

Your butt should come off the floor. Next, slowly lower your legs just above the floor. Hold for a moment, and repeat by raising your legs back up.

6. Step-Ups

Step-Ups-min

Step-ups are cardiovascular training that engages the buttocks and works the leg muscles independently. It mainly targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Step-ups also promote better joint health, particularly in the knees and hips.

Step-ups can improve balance and increase endurance by promoting overall leg and lower body strength. It lessens stress on your lower body while losing weight.

There’s something gratifying about conquering step-ups. Each step, a mix of cardio and strength training, not only tones my quads and glutes but also reassures me of my joint health. It’s a blend of endurance and power, making every session a rewarding challenge.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: Box/Platform

Start by placing a stable platform or box in front, enough to carry your maximum weight. Stand up hip-width apart, with feet pointed forward. Take a step on the box with your right foot, then followed by your left.

As you lift your body, keep your heel fixed firmly, your legs straight, and your glutes and abs tightened. Then, move down with your right foot and follow with the left. Get back to the starting position and repeat.

7. Skaters

Skaters-workout-min

Skaters exercise is the simple act of skating without the skates that can get your heart rate up while slimming you down. It works on your quads, glutes, outer thigh, hamstring, calves, and core muscles.

Skaters can improve stability, endurance, coordination, and balance by strengthening legs,and building lower body muscle and abs.

I’ll never forget my first skaters session; it was intense and exhilarating! Feeling my heart rate soar as my legs worked in unison with my core, I knew I had found a cardio gem. It’s a full-body workout disguised as a fun, dynamic leg exercise.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: None

Start in a standing position, legs a little wider than the shoulders. Lean forward, keeping your back flat and core tight.

Next, leap to the right side using your right foot and bring your left foot behind. Swing your right arm before your chest.

Then, take the back leg forward, arms switching to go back and forth in a skating motion.

8. Inner Thigh Lift

Inner-Thigh-Lift

The inner thigh lift is a Pilates exercise that strengthens your knees and lower-back muscles. It works primarily on your inner thighs and gluteal muscles.

Inner thigh lift provides stability to hip joints, improves your balance during heavy weight lifting.

I used to overlook my inner thighs until the inner thigh lift became a staple in my workouts. The strength and tone it brought to my legs were visible, and the enhanced knee and lower back strength was a welcomed bonus. It’s a subtle yet powerful move.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: None

Position by lying on your right side. Fix your right elbow underneath your shoulder and in line with your right hip. Extend your bottom leg straight and cross your top leg over it.

Begin the workout by moving your extended leg up and down, keeping a space above the ground. Maintain your bottom foot flexed. Switch sides and repeat.

9. Single-Leg Circles (One-Leg Circles)

Single-Leg-Circles-min

Single-leg circles are a classic Pilates exercise that looks simple to do but offers a challenging deal. The circular movement of the leg works on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs. It also engages your core and pelvis.

Single-Leg Circles improve pelvic stability and healthy hip joints. It promotes balance and posture by combining stretching and strengthening, which provide better leg mobility and hip flexibility.

I was deceived by the simplicity of single-leg circles at first, but oh, the burn. Each circle carved definition into my thighs and glutes while my core and pelvis engaged silently but effectively. It’s a testament that simplicity and intensity can coexist in a workout.

Steps To Get It Done

Equipment: Mat

Start by lying back, keep your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Relax your arms on your sides with palms resting on the floor.

Extend your right leg upright towards the ceiling, keeping your right foot directly above your right hip.

Point the toes of your elevated foot and gradually start to circle your leg in a clockwise direction while keeping your hips pressed against the floor.

Maintain your breathing pattern, tighten your abs, and keep your pelvis stable. Reach your target reps before reversing in a counter-clockwise direction.

Switch to another leg, then finish by simply lowering your elevated leg and return to the starting position.

10. Running and Fast Walking

Running-and-Fast-Walking-min

Walking and running are two of the first exercises ever done to burn fat. In addition, they are very convenient and easy to do.

Daily walking and running not only strengthen your legs but also enhance your workout endurance and performance. If you're looking to amp up your weight loss, running can be a high-energy alternative, burning double the calories of walking.

I’ve always found solace in the rhythmic pace of running and the gentle strides of a fast walk. Every step is not just a move towards weight loss but a journey of endurance and strength building.

Are Leg Exercises Good For Losing Body Fat?

A man running with big calves

Leg exercises are a powerhouse for burning body fat. They build lower body muscle, boost your speed, strength, and endurance, and rev up your metabolism for ongoing calorie burn.

To optimize your weight loss journey, it's essential to understand the intricate anatomy of leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. This knowledge will empower you to target specific muscles effectively, ensuring a balanced and comprehensive leg workout.

What Are The Advantages Of Leg Exercises?

  • Strengthen your legs which results in longer and better workouts
  • Faster fat loss due to prolonged and consistent workouts
  • Improve your cardiovascular health and prevent strain to the lower back. Additionally, they enhance your overall physical performance and agility

You can get more benefits by adding supplements. Pre-workouts have natural ingredients that give you more energy, help your muscles heal, and make you feel less tired after a workout.

Does Adding Intensity To Leg Workouts Help Burn Fat?

Yes, adding intensity to leg workouts can help burn more fat.

You can make your leg day more effective and exciting by making variations and progressing your repetitions as your legs get tougher.

It might also be a great option to combine leg exercises to make it more of an intense leg workout [1].

You can fuse several leg routines per workout and round off by splitting the remaining session to target two smaller muscle groups like your hamstrings and glutes.

Who Can Benefit From Leg Workouts?

leg view of a man warming running

Athletes, weight lifters, models, stage performers, and people with jobs that require prolonged standing or sitting can benefit from leg workouts.

Keeping a focus and consistent leg workout promotes overall balanced fitness and stability that can also benefit people with back problems who want to burn more calories, develop strong legs, and improve flexibility.

These strength training exercises result in a strong lower body that may save people from injuries and manage medical conditions such as heart problems, joint pains, and diabetes, according to the Healthline [2].

Complement your leg exercises with tailored nutritional guidelines, designed to fuel muscle development and strength. Discover the essential nutrients, sample meal plans, and specific foods that will accelerate your muscle growth and enhance recovery, ensuring you get the most out of each workout.

FAQs

How Often Should I Do Leg Workouts?

Research suggests you can do leg workouts at least three to four days per week to see results. Or you may start with your legs at least twice a week and gradually progress over time in your personal training. Remember to give your legs time to recover between workouts to maximize results.

Can I Lose Weight in Seven Days by Doing Leg Workouts?

Yes, you can lose weight in seven days by doing intense leg workouts with proper foods and dietary supplements. You can also include other routines and progress the intensity to achieve sooner results.

Can I Burn Fat by Walking 30 Minutes a Day?

Spending 30 minutes walking can help you burn around 150 calories a day. You can split your walking time to every 10 minutes, but walking at a faster pace for longer will increase heart rate and can burn you even more calories. If you burn more calories, chances are the fat in your fat cells will be converted to energy.


References:

  1. https://www.stack.com/a/best-leg-exercises/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/never-skip-leg-day
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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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