5 Exercises For Lean Legs

Target stubborn areas of fat with compound exercises and achieve stronger, leaner legs.


By Cori


If you tend to carry more weight in your butt and thighs, you may be wondering how you can target those stubborn areas of fat and get strong, lean legs. And no, the answer isn’t doing cardio for hours or even hundreds of repetitions on the adductor machine. If you want to get build strong, lean legs, you need to use compound exercises that target those trouble zones.

When my clients ask how to target and tone their legs, these are the 5 Compound Bodyweight Moves I recommend for lean legs!

Side Lunge to Lateral Raise

This move is a great hybrid exercise that combines a compound exercise, the side lunge, with a more isolated glute medius activation move, the lateral raise. It is the perfect way to really target your adductors and glutes!

To do the Side Lunge to Lateral Raise, start standing with your feet together. Step out wide to the side and bend that outside knee as you sink into a side lunge. Hinge at the hips to sit your butt back, keeping the other leg straight as you sink down. Make sure to sit your butt back as you sink down and do not round over.

Then drive off that outside foot to come back up to standing. If needed, tap your foot down as you stand tall then lift the leg you just lunge out on up and out to the side. Feel the outside of your glute on that side working to lift the leg out to the side.You can lean away just slightly to help you balance but try not to lean over to the side too much just to get the leg up higher. Do not actively rotate the toe open as you lift the leg. Lower the leg back down and repeat the move on the same side.

Squat to Curtsy Lunge

The Squat to Curtsy Lunge is the perfect hybrid leg exercise for anyone wanting to build lean, strong legs with just their own bodyweight. It combines a lunge and a squat to work everything from your waist down. This move will help you lean down your quads, hamstrings, adductors and glutes and work your legs from every angle!

To do the Squat to Curtsy Lunge, start standing tall with your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Sit your butt back and down and sink into a squat so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure not to round over and keep your chest up as you sit your butt down and make sure to sit back in your heels.

Then drive up to standing and squeeze your butt at the top before moving one leg across and behind you to sink into a curtsy lunge. Keep your chest and hips forward as you cross the leg behind and sink into a lunge, dropping the back knee toward the ground as you sink down and really sit into that front glute. Drive back up to standing and then repeat the squat, next time lunging to the other side.

Single Leg Deadlift Squat

Improve your mobility and balance as you strengthen and tone your hamstrings, calves and glutes. This move is a real booty burner and a great way to even correct imbalances between both sides!

To do the Single Leg Deadlift Squat, balance on one leg then hinge over so that your chest is parallel to the ground. Reach your raised leg back toward the wall behind you as you keep your hips square to the ground and straighten your standing leg as much as you can.

You can then reach your hands overhead toward the wall in front of you, out to the sides, back toward your feet or down toward the ground. Do not round over.

Keeping this hinged over position, bend your standing leg to perform a small squat, bending your standing knee slightly before fully extending the leg back out. Repeat again, staying balanced and hinged over as you bend the knee then straighten the leg. Do not start to stand up as you squat.

Complete all reps on one side before switching. Do not let your hips open up as you squat. Also, do not go forward onto your toes or round your back. The move doesn’t have to be super big to have benefit or make you feel those glutes, feet, calves and legs working!

Triangle Skater Hops

Work those glutes and get the blood pumping to lean those legs down with this variation of the traditional Skater Hop. This is the perfect way to work those glutes and abductors while moving in multiple planes of motion!

To do Triangle Skater Hops, start standing to the back and side of the space you have. Hinge over slightly and sit your butt back as you sink into a little squat, loading that outside leg. Jump off that outside leg to jump laterally and land on the other foot (so jumping off your left foot to your right). Jump as far across as you can. As you sink into a little squat and land on that side, load that leg to then jump laterally and forward back onto your first foot (jumping forward and to the side from your right to your left).

When you jump laterally but forward, you will be at the top of the “triangle.” Land and load again, then jump backward and laterally back onto your other foot (left back to right). From there jump across and back to your starting foot (right back to left). Once back there, jump laterally and forward back to the top of the triangle (left back to right). Then reverse the triangle.

Keep jumping as quickly and as far as you can moving not only laterally but also forward and backward with your jumps!

Reverse Lunge to Kick

Get your blood pumping as you work your legs, glutes and even your abs with the Reverse Lunge and Kick. It is a great way to target and strengthen even your hips!

To do the Reverse Lunge to Kick, start standing with your feet together. Then step back and sink into a reverse lunge, sitting back in your front heel as you lower your back knee toward the ground. Try to keep your front knee about over your ankle. Really sit back in that front heel. You can slightly hinge at the hip but do not round over.

Then drive through that front heel to come back up to standing.

Without touching that back foot down, kick that leg out in front as you stand up. Feel the glute of your standing leg work to help you drive up to standing and even lean back as you hip. Feel your hips and abs work to kick the other leg up and out. If you need, touch the toe down to help you balance as you stand up out of the lunge or even after you kick out. But only touch the toe down if needed to balance. After kicking out, repeat the lunge on the same side, moving quickly.

For more lean leg moves, check out these 23 Exercises -

Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.

Main Photo Credit: g-stockstudio/; Second Photo Credit: Undrey/; Third Photo Credit: Maridav/; Fourth Photo Credit: Undrey/