by: Yuri Elkaim

7 Fat Burning Leg Exercises

“Yuri, what are the best fat burning leg exercises that can help strengthen and tone my legs?”

That’s a common question I’ve received from my readers and clients over the years.

And it’s a valid one too because there’s nothing worse than saggy, weak legs.

Ok, I guess there are worse things… but I’m sure you catch my drift.

If you want strong, lean legs, the key is to use BIG MOVEMENTS, not isolated machine-based leg exercises that are completely unrealistic to how your body moves in the real world.

For that reason, you won’t see any recommendations for fat burning leg exercises like seated leg extensions or hamstring curls.

Those types of lower body exercises are a waste of time, create muscular imbalances, and do nothing for burning fat.

Instead, the 7 leg strengthening exercises in this post will challenge ALL of your lower body muscles and force them to work in unison to stabilize your body and generate force.

And many of the exercises I’m about to show you are also terrific for your core strength since they integrate both your upper and lower body,  which means you get a core workout without doing dangerous exercises like sit-ups!

The 7 Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises

Ok, it’s time to jump in and get to these 7 leg exercises.

Bear in mind that you shouldn’t do all 7 of them in one workout but rather pick and choose 2-3 of them for any given lower body workout.

For best strength and fat loss results, choose a weight that will only allow you to complete 6-8 reps with excellent form and complete 2-3 sets for each one.

1. Squats

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Squats

Without a doubt, squats are the most fundamental lower body exercise.

If you’re into sports, squats are a must since they mimic the exact movement patterns of jumping and sprinting. The more you can squat, the more powerful of an athlete you will be.

Squats are also hugely beneficial for burning fat since they recruit ALL of your lower body (and core) muscles. Need I say more?

Plus, if you want to firm up your thighs and get buns of steel then you can put away the Cindy Crawford workouts and start doing more squats – with HEAVY WEIGHTS and good form. Nothing will get you stronger, firmer, and slimmer than squats… nothing!

Actually, this exercise might…

2. Front Squats (or Kettlebell Goblet Squats)

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Front Goblet Squats

This is probably my favourite lower body and CORE exercise. I even prefer front squats to traditional back squats because the load is more favourably on the front of your shoulders, which lowers the stress on your low back.

Front squats are probably the most challenging core exercise you will ever attempt, especially if using a suitable heavy weight. The abdominal/core engagement that is required to maintain a neutral and strong torso during this exercise is massive.

Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think. Better yet, do a few ab crunches and see how that feels. Then, do a few heavy front squats and tell me your core isn’t working 1000x harder!

Remember, the more muscle working, the more calories you burn!

3. Forward-Backward Lunges

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Forward-Backward Lunges

Everyone’s seen the traditional lunge, right?

Well, in my workouts, I kick things up a notch (or 2 or 3) by doing forward-backward lunges.

This is essentially a lunge where you step backward, drop down into your lunge, and then push forward into a forward lunge. Then push backwards into a reverse lunge, and repeat.

Sounds a little confusing, I know.

But this exercise, when done properly (and without even using any weight), could very well be the MOST challenging leg exercise you ever attempt. You’ll know what I mean within a few seconds as your legs begin to catch fire faster than a Southern Californian forest.

4. Deadlifts

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Deadlifts

Ah….deadlifts.

What an amazing exercise.

Once again, if you want glutes of steel, a solid lower back, and a fit body, then deadlifts are a must. And, because they recruit ALL of your lower body muscles, you’ll also be huffing and puffing after just a few reps – assuming you’re using a challenging weight.

And huffing and puffing is a good sign that your body is churning through calories!

5. Glute-Ham Raises

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Glute Ham Raise

A lot of people sit all day and as a result have weak and tight hamstrings. This can eventually lead to lower back problems.

One of the best ways to avoid weak/tight hamstrings is to strengthen them using this exercise. I would have to say that the glute-ham raises will make you realize exactly how weak or strong your hamstrings really are.

Going through the motion, you’ll feel as if your “hammies” are about to pop out of your skin. But as you get stronger, you’ll be amazed at how much easier these get.

You’ll also be amazed at how this incredible leg exercise will tighten up your backside.

Alongside deadlifts and the next exercise, this is one exercise I would definitely add to your leg strengthening and fat burning arsenal.

6. Elevated Hip Thrusters

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Elevated Hip Thrusters

If glute-ham raises are a bit too advanced for you, then elevated hip thrusters will be perfect.

Yet another amazing leg exercise that targets the entire backside of your body, which means stronger and firmer glutes, hamstrings, and low back muscles. Yes, yes, and yes!

The coolest part is that you can even do this exercise between your sofa and coffee table – at least that’s what I do when I get bored of sitting on the couch.

7. Step-Ups

Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises - Step Ups

I was reminded of just how good step-ups are this morning as I awoke to a set of sore and stiff legs. That’s because last night I did just 2 sets of heavy step-ups. Man, are my legs feeling it today!

Step-ups are like doing 1-leg squats. In fact, many Eastern bloc powerlifters have moved away from exclusively doing back squats to doing more step-ups because of how beneficial they are for developing single leg strength.

Plus, doing a step-up targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. I think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.

Are you starting to get the point?

Try This Sample Lower Body Workout

Here’s a quick workout that can bring together some of the above fat burning leg exercises together for you.

Do this strength workout (or any other) 2-4 times per week at the most.

NOTE: “RM” means repetition max which means the number of reps you are only able to do with good form at a particular weight. Thus, 6RM means choose a weight that only allows you to do 6 reps.

Warm up: 5 minutes of light cardio followed by a good dynamic warm-up.

1a. Squats – 6RM 

1b. Push-Ups – to failure

Repeat for 2 sets with 30 seconds rest between exercises and sets.

2a. Step-ups – 6RM per leg

2b. Plank – 1 minute

Repeat for 2 sets with 30 seconds rest between exercises and sets.

3a. Elevated Hip Thrusters – 6RM (place weight across your lap)

3b. Pull-ups – to failure

Repeat for 2 sets with 30 seconds rest between exercises and sets.

What Makes an Exercise Great at Burning Fat?

In case you’re wondering why these lower body exercises are effective at burning fat, it’s because they involve your body’s biggest muscles.

And the more muscle you recruit in any given movement…

The more oxygen those muscles require and the more calories they consume (aka. “burn”).

That’s why using the leg exercises I’ve described above will not only will help sculpt strong legs, they will also get your legs (and the rest of your body) more lean and toned!

In case you want some more fun fat burning leg exercises to play around with then watch this video for 5 more great moves that strengthen and tone your legs. 

 And here are 4 more great bodyweight exercises for strong, sculpted glutes…