Whether you want to run faster, Whip/Nae Nae better or simply feel stronger walking up the stairs, it never hurts to give a little more love to your butt, hips and thighs during a workout.
Neglect your lower body too often and you risk losing mobility — that thing that allows you to plop down on the floor to play with your kids, or get up and out of even the cushiest chair with ease. “A lot of people sit all day, so they’re not necessarily using their glute muscles,” says Allie Whitesides, former Daily Burn Fitness/Nutrition Coach . “And a lot of people are in the car all the time, so they are not using their leg muscles much, either.”
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If all you’ve been doing for your lower body lately is the occasional lunge, it’s time to mix up your routine. “Our bodies move in different directions, not in one direction, so it’s important to mimic that during cross-training,” Whitesides says. That’s why instead of relying on a pattern of “lunge-squat-repeat” — you might want to throw some plié squats, or leg lifts into the mix.
These five moves will help ensure you never get bored working out your backside. Do each exercise two days per week, completing three sets of 12 to fifteen 15 for a lower body burn that feels so good.
5 Amazing Lower Body Exercises You Should Do
1. Plié Squat
Improve strength and mobility by getting seriously low in these plié squats. Squeezing those glutes at the top of the move will give you more bang for your buck, too.
How to: Stand tall, feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out at 45-degree angles (a). Keep your back straight, knees over toes and your weight in the heels of your feet (b). Engage your glutes and thighs as you lower into a deep squat until thighs parallel to the ground (or as close as you can get them) (c). Powering through your heels, push up to return to starting position (d). Repeat.
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2. Lateral Step-Out Squat
We promise you’ll feel this one fire up the hips, glutes, and thighs. If you’re impervious to the burn, place a resistance band around your ankles to increase the resistance with each step.
How to: Stand up straight, feet shoulder-width apart (a). Keeping toes pointed straight ahead and knees over toes, lower into a standard squat (b). Hold that squat position as you take two steps to your right (c). Pause, then take two small side steps to your left (d). Repeat.
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3. Plank Leg Lift
Plank form is everything, so you’ll want to read this first to make sure you’re getting the most from this move. Do them right and you’ll hit the lower body, while toning up your core and shoulders, too.
How to: Get into a high plank position on the floor, hands planted under your shoulders, butt down (a). Engage your abs by pulling your belly button in towards your spine (b). Squeeze your left glute to lift your left leg two inches off the ground, keeping your leg straight (c). Tap your left leg out to the side, then back to starting position. Repeat, then switch legs (d).
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4. Fire Hydrant
This mobility-focused move should be more than just a staple of your dynamic warm-ups — it’s a killer booty shaper as well.
How to: Put yourself in tabletop position, standing on your hands and knees. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button in towards your spine (a). Keeping your hips pointed towards the ground and leg bent to a 90-degree angle, raise your left knee out to the side as high as you can (b). Pause at the top, then return to starting position (c). Repeat, then switch legs.
5. Lying Leg Lift
No, no, it’s not nap time. But it is your last move in this dynamic lower-body series. We’re hitting those glutes from all angles, and this one is not to be missed.
How to: Lie flat on your stomach, with your forehead resting on your hands (a). Squeeze your left glute, to lift your left leg and thigh as high off the ground as you can, keeping your leg straight (b). Pause at the top, then lower back down (c). Switch legs, repeating 10 times on each leg.
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Originally published on September 2015. Updated on September 20, 2016 and December 7, 2021.
GIFs by Daily Burn. Cover image via Shutterstock