Exercises for the Legs, Butt & Abs

Compound exercises involve more than one muscle and more then one joint. The advantage of these exercises is that they recruit a maximal amount of muscle fibers. When you work your legs and butt with compound exercises, you are forced to contract your abs to maintain good postural alignment. The abs can also be singled out with isolation exercises. You can use free weights and body weight to achieve a desired result.

One Leg Squat

One leg squats are performed with a pair of dumbbells and aerobic steps. Stack the steps up to about 6 to 12 inches high. Stand with your back to the steps and hold the dumbbells in your hands. Place the top of your right foot on the step and lower your body toward the floor. Stop when your left knee is bent 90 degrees, stand back up and repeat. Do a set and switch legs. Throughout the whole exercise, keep your core tight, your back straight and your eyes looking forward.

Lateral Drop Lunges

Lateral drop lunges are performed with a barbell across your shoulders behind your neck. Grab the bar with a wide grip and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, your core tight and your gaze fixed forward as you step back at an angle to your left with your right foot behind your body (think of a curtsy). Lower yourself down by bending your knees. Stop when your left thigh parallels the floor and your right knee is an inch above the floor. Stand back up, bring your feet together and repeat with your left leg behind your body at an angle to the right. Keep alternating back and forth for a set of reps.

Sumo Deadlifts

Sumo deadlifts are performed with a barbell and they work your butt, hamstrings and quads. Stand with your feet in a wider than shoulder-width stance. Hold the bar against your thighs with a shoulder-width grip. Turn your toes out 45 degrees and lower the bar to the ground by bending your knees. Keep your back straight and core tight as you do this. Stand back up and repeat.


Starbursts are exercises that work your legs and butt, and they also involve your core muscles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms tucked into your sides. Lower your body down into a squat and jump in the air as high as possible. Extend your arms and legs out at an angle so you form an “X” shape. Land back at the starting point and repeat.

Plank Lifts

Plank lifts are a spin-off of a yoga pose. Lie on your stomach with your hands directly under your shoulders. Move your feet out to a wide stance and place your toes on the floor. Push your body up until your arms are extended. Lift your hips in the air as high as possible and look between your legs. Lower your hips back towards the floor and look forward. Repeat going up and down for a set of reps. Actively engage your abs to create the movement.

Windshield Wipers

Windshield wipers emphasize your obliques and lower abs. Lie on the ground with your hands out at your sides so your upper body forms a “T” shape. Lift your legs up in the air so the bottom of your feet parallel the ceiling. Lower your legs toward the ground on your right side, lift them back up and lower them to your left side. Keep going back and forth in a smooth and continuous motion.

Elevated Crunches

Elevated crunches are performed with a bench. Lie on your back and prop your heels up on the bench. Your knees should be bent at this point. Place your hands on the sides of your head and curl your body up in the air. Squeeze for a second, lower yourself back down and repeat.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.