Reader’s request: Lower body training tips

[Just’s a heads up, if you’re struggling with anything regarding body image, this may be a post to skip. What we read can affect our body and minds, so if you don’t think it would be a smart choice to read about lower body tips/strengtheners, meet me back here tomorrow with for crazy new green drink thing. Sending love to those you who are experiencing or recovering from any type of eating disorder or body image-related illness.]

Hi everyone! Hope you’ve had a wonderful day <3 This morning, I taught Zumba and also a mini barre class to the studio owner so she could see where I need to go with my training. Each studio has their own routine and method -the one that picked me also seems to be one of the most challenging workouts- and I’m excited to learn more about how to teach. 

I tried to take a selfie to show my Zumba clown pants, but my phone couldn’t even handle it haha:

Photo 57

Shoes on the stage:


Photo 56

When I was regularly training clients -which seems like so long ago since I’ve been only doing handfuls of new clients here and there!- there were three areas that always seemed to be of top concern: triceps (firming up the back of the arms), stomach, and legs. For the ones who wanted to firm and sculpt their arms, I usually suggested the trifecta of killer results: cardio, adequate nutrition, and strength training. For stomach, it was almost all about nutrition. Legs were a little more complex. 

Here are some of my best lower lower body training tips if you’re looking to build strength/power and lean muscle, while simultaneously burning fat.

Increase leg strength

-Adequate nutrition still plays a huge role. Make sure that you’re fueling yourself well throughout the day -especially pre and post workout- and consuming sufficient nutrition to support your activities. You can check out some great pre and post workout meal suggestions here.

-Lunges and squats are your friends. Some more of my favorite exercises if you’re looking for strength and definition:

Stability ball hamstring curl

Kettlebell swings

Weighted squats with tempo variations

The pretzel. The f*&*@#& pretzel kills.

-Work ALL of the muscles of your lower body. If you’re just doing the quad, hamstring and leg press machines, there are some pieces of the puzzle that are likely missing from your training. (Like inner/outer thighs, gluteus medius, calves, etc.) A good rule of thumb: change your leg workout each time you work you legs, and challenge you leg and glutes in all planes of motion. Experiment with unstable surfaces (like the BOSU or a stability ball), prone position (on your stomach for V-glutes or a dumbbell glute raise), supine (hip raises, stability ball hamstring curl, calf raises), on all fours (donkey kicks, leg raises), side (Pilates-style side leg lifts, clamshells), standing (squats, lunges, lateral lunges, curtsy lunges, step ups), and direction changes (squat jump with rotation, clock lunges, walking lunges, bounding jump squats).

Vary your cardio. A leg-shredding routine will include a combination of speed drills, resistance (treadmill = incline), steady state and rest. Different types of cardiovascular workouts will trigger different results and improvements in overall fitness, performance, and strength. You will also work different muscles based on the type of cardio you choose. Spinning and barre are fantastic for working various lower muscles during a single class.

-Add additional challenge through weight, unilateral movement or resistance bands. Unilateral leg exercises can be extremely challenging, particularly single-leg or split squats. You can also add plyometric bursts in between each leg exercise (like jumping lunges or jumping squats). An easy way to target your inner thighs: place a small playground ball in between your thighs before squats. You’ll feel this more in your glutes and inner thighs.

Here are some of my favorite lower body workouts:

Spring leg workout 

10 ways to lunge

Lean mean leg workout

Shake up your leg routine

tips for firing up your weights routine

and a similar post about increasing upper body strength and definition.

So tell me friends, what’s your favorite leg or glute exercise? How often do you train your legs?

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day!



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  1. Heather on May 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Great Advice! I Love working on my legs, I was afraid I would get bulky but I’ve seen so much more tone since I’ve started weight training. And cleaning up my diet has helped shed fat! Summer shorts here I come!

  2. Suzi @ Confessions of a Fitness Instructor on May 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    The pretzel DOES kill! Perhaps that’s why I like making people do it 😉 hahahaha

  3. Natasha on May 20, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    whoa – you read my mind! I came back to the computer now with the idea to search for some exercises to strenghten the lower body, specifically legs, and saw your facebook post about this! Perfect timing, thank you!!!

  4. Megan @ The Skinny-Life on May 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Weight training my legs is my least favorite. They always burn so much afterwards! But I know it’s good for me & push through it. These are great tips! My favorite is the stability ball curl. My least favorite are lunges.

  5. sarah on May 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Goootta be one of my favourite posts from you! Goblet squats, straight leg , and single-leg straight leg deadlifts are some of my current favourites. And I strength train lower body 2X a week. It’s a love/hate relationship :).

  6. Jackie on May 20, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    I love this!!! I need to switch it up more!

  7. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on May 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Love this!! I have been trying to focus on more lower body workouts!

  8. cait @pieceofcait on May 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    LOVE training my legs and working on my booty 🙂 thanks for some new things to try!

  9. Livi on May 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I love kettle bell squats and side lunge!!

  10. Alicia on May 20, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I just wanted to comment that even though I have never suffered from an eating disorder I find it amazing that you put a trigger warning at the beginning of a post like this. It shows great empathy and I have so much more respect for you than ever before. Keep up the great blog work, I love reading it! 🙂

    • Fitnessista on May 21, 2014 at 11:31 am

      <3 thank you so much, alicia

  11. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on May 20, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    I train my legs with nearly every class that I teach, mostly through lunges, squats, skaters, etc. I’ve recently discovered the art of foam rolling before a training session to help get better movement through my muscles, which is important for releasing tight hip flexors (for people who sit all day) etc.

    I completely agree with nutrition as a super-important aspect of fitness. We only have so many hours to train, and the rest of the time we have to be feeding our body the right stuff. (With a little wiggle room for fun on the weekends of course!).

    Love this post. Are you excited to get back to training clients?

  12. neurosciency on May 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

    i was reluctant to do squats and lunges because i was worried i would get hulk legs, but actually i think my lower body looks better. i am currently working on my core strength though more than anything though (i’m not very core-y haha) in the hopes that it will help me run faster for my upcoming half-marathon.

  13. Lucie@FitSwissChick on May 21, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Great tips!
    I love my hill or stair sprints, squatjumps or straddle jumps or incline walking when I do Cardio – cable kickbacks are my favorite strength exercise, I also love alternating lunges. Squats are not my friend but I need to do them for Crossfit – ass to grass – SO hard!

  14. Colleen on May 21, 2014 at 6:23 am

    My Physique 57 dvds are my favorite leg toning workouts, though I loved doing deadlifts and squats when I had I gym membership. I work out at home now, so most of my leg training is plyometric or body weight. I kind of miss having access to heavy weights and squat racks- I have the dial-a-weight dumbells, but they aren’t very comfortable to hold when I make them heavy enough to fatigue my legs in 12 reps.

  15. Stacy on May 21, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Great post and advice!

    A lot of clients are scared of lifting legs because of ‘adding size’…that myth needs to be put out! I work my legs in all of my classes, and also lift legs on my own. It is the highest calorie burn day because of the large muscle groups. I find that speed and intervals in your cardio sessions make a huge impact on definition. My classes LOVE the clamshells and pilates side leg lifts…they are great burn outs after a squat and lunge session. Great, inspiring post!

  16. Maria on May 21, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Barre has taken my legs to a whole other level of toned 🙂 I love pulsing lunges and PRETZEL!!!!! Embrace the burn 🙂

  17. Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} on May 21, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I love adding a little plyo to the leg workouts as well. Jump squats, or jump 180 squats, I feel these really help my lower body and I see more definition throughout my lower body!

  18. Katie on May 21, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I have been badly missing my squats and lunges! I injured my hip last year and I just can’t seem to rehab it enough to get back to them. Now when I do body pump, I step put of the room during the squat, lunge and sometime the back tracks (if its heavy on alot of hip movement) and do focused machine work on my quads/hamstrings/glutes (leg extension, leg curl, leg press), body weight exercises like single leg dead lift, leg raises, bridges, and then resistance band work. It’s all good stuff, but I don’t see the results I had when I was able to do weighted squats and lunges.

  19. Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment on May 21, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I train my legs three times a week with strength training but I benefit from the cardio and yoga that I also do on the other days.

    Good post! It’s so important to stress nutrition too.

  20. Ally on May 21, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Thank you for the post! Since there are no barre classes in my area… apparently some of the Midwest still hasn’t caught on.. do you recommend any home barre workout DVDs?


  21. Kathy on May 21, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Thank you! I love my kbells and for some reason I do not know, I’ve wandered away from them. So back to it! That brings me to video ideas / requests: 1) Naturally now I’m in to all things kettlebell again and 2) how about a new calming stretch & renew type of video 🙂

    Thanks for all you do Gina!! I hope you are having a ball with the 4 generation visit

  22. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat on May 21, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I take body pump 2-3 times a week so legs are worked there. Plus all the running, long runs plus tempo and speed workouts help to vary things.

    I love love love dead lifts.

    I love that you point out nutrition. All the workouts in the world will not help if you aren’t fueling correctly!

  23. Tracy on May 21, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Some of my “favorite” leg moves? Plie squats, step up to reverse lunges, around the clock lunges and also “around the worlds” which includes a right step up, squat to right, right reverse lunge then repeat in reverse on left side. Love it!

    Hope you’re enjoying your time with your nanas!

  24. Britt on May 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Loooove this informative post so much I read the arm one as well. Thank you for some fresh ideas !!

  25. Kim on May 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks, Gina!
    What about your thoughts on leg/hip flexibility? I feel like I could get more from my leg strength training if they weren’t so dang tight!

  26. Jennifer on May 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Favorite leg exercises? Curtsy lunges, weighted and with the TRX. Woah mama. Love what some barre work has done to my booty, and the pretzel, gotta love it! Great post, gotta remember that nutrition.
    Overall, cardio has been a big factor in my toning. Thanks!

  27. Brianna K. @ Hungy Gator Gal on May 22, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I usually complete one workout per week that focuses entirely on lower body muscles. I think my lower body is worked enough secondarily in my other workouts during the week. I’m always a fan of heavy traditional squats, but I’m loving clock squats right now. They challenge your legs and core!

  28. char eats greens on May 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I need to start training more, especially since I want to increase my running distance and want to make sure I’m going to injure myself. Now that my toddler is busy and walking, she won’t let me hold her as much- waaaaaaaaah! haha

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