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The Most Effective Lower Body Exercises, According to a Trainer

May 27, 2019

By: Haley Shaw

Haley Shaw is a wellness specialist and public speaker for her company, Amp Up Fitness. Here, she writes about her favorite lower body workouts for men and women.

I’m a big fan of lower body exercises. They’re great for lower body conditioning, unilateral strength, coordination, and improved performance. Even better: If done consistently and correctly, these exercise moves can deliver impressive results (hello, toned glutes and strong legs!) for anyone who incorporates them into their workout routine.

Here are 5 of my favorite lower body exercises. 

The Best Lower Body Exercises

reverse lunges best lower body exercises

Reverse Lunges

Why This Lower Body Exercise Is Awesome: Reverse lunges are an awesome exercise to define and strengthen the muscles of the lower body. You can target hips, glutes, and thighs all in one motion. When reverse lunges start to get too easy, add weight to make the exercise more challenging.

Reverse lunges are a great option for exercisers who have experienced knee discomfort since they place emphasis on the glutes and provide dynamic movement.


  • Step straight backward with the right leg, allowing the ball of your right leg to land on the group. Lunge downward forming two 90° angles: One with your right leg, the other with your left (forward leg).
  • Have the ball of your right foot (back leg) on the ground, and the heel of your left foot (forward leg) solidly on the ground.

RELATED: Try Lively's 30-Day Leg Workout Challenge

leg press lower body exercises

Leg Press

Why This Lower Body Exercise Is Awesome: The leg press exercise enables you to focus on your major leg muscles, adding size to your legs. It doesn’t require you to use your stabilizer muscles since this move is done on a machine, which allows you to add more weight in record time.

Leg presses are a sufficient alternative to squats if you have physical limitations (i.e. flexibility issues) that prevent you from using proper squat form.


  • Focus on proper form first before increasing loaded weight.
  • Warming up with the leg press before you perform your compound movements like the squat will also help to avoid potential injuries.

hip raises lower body exercises

Hip Raises

Why This Lower Body Exercise Is Awesome: Because you get to lay down – just kidding! Hip raises have numerous variations. From the classic “thrust” (raising hips as high as possible off the ground) to hip raise with knee abductions (pushing knees out to the sides), single leg, feet wide, narrow, or “butterfly” style. This hinging movement utilizes hip flexion and is key for creating toned glutes for both men and women.


  • Keep your glutes flexed the entire time and exhale as you push your hips up.
  • For even more impact, squeeze your glutes for 1-2 seconds at the tip of the movement.

RELATED: How to Get Stronger without Lifting Heavier

step ups lower body exercises

Step-Ups with a Knee Drive

Why This Lower Body Exercise Is Awesome: Step-ups are a great unilateral leg exercise to improve leg symmetry, core stability, and utilizes your hips to tighten your glutes. This can be helpful if you experience knee or back problems.


  • As you press through your heel, remember to keep your back tall and straight to protect your spine.
  • As you lower, focus on tracking your knee directly over your ankle/foot. Fight to prevent any sort of “plopping” at the bottom of the exercise; this is when your glutes need to kick in the most.

single arm clean and press lower body exercises

Dumbbell Single Arm Clean & Press

Why This Lower Body Exercise Is Awesome: This move builds some serious power and will definitely elevate your heart rate. It’s a low-impact plyometric exercise that emphasizes your glutes, abs, and biceps.


  • Choose a weight that’s challenging, but that enables you to do this exercise with perfect form. Form and technique are critical here.
  • Keep your abs tight to support your spine and focus on moving from your hips and not your low back.
  • Your spine should stay tall and your shoulders should stay packed the entire time.
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