Best Cardio For Legs – 8 Options For A Great Butt And Thighs!

If you want to firm up your legs, cardio might be your best option.

While leg exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises do an excellent job of building muscle, they don’t burn as many calories as cardio workouts like running or cycling do.

If you want firm and toned legs, while also boosting your calorie burn and heart health, consider adding some cardio to your leg workouts.

Here are the best cardio exercises to get the job done in no time!

1. Walking

Because walking is low-impact, it’s easy on your joints and tendons.

That said, because you’re using your own body weight as resistance when you walk, you’ll get very little cardio benefit unless you really push yourself to walk faster or farther than usual.

If your main goal is to burn calories—or lose weight—walking isn’t a great option.

However, if your main goal is cardiovascular health (that is, keeping your heart healthy), walking fits like a charm.

For an even better workout that will also help tone your legs without putting too much strain on them, consider jogging instead of just walking fast (which can be hard on the knees).

Either way, try to aim for at least 30 minutes of walking or jogging each day.

The more time you spend moving each day, though, the more benefits you’ll reap.

One to two hours a day is optimal. 

Plus, those shorter walks add up over time, so remember to take frequent strolls during your workday.

You could also invest in a treadmill desk or other creative solutions that let you combine sitting with light activity for maximum health.

2. Running

Best Cardio For Legs - man-running-on-a-trail

The most effective way to build muscle in your legs is with running, especially if you have healthy body weight.

Running can be done almost anywhere and is relatively inexpensive, making it a highly accessible form of exercise.

However, it’s also important to remember that endurance running has little impact on building muscle mass in your lower body.

That’s why a lot of runners focus on distance more than speed.

Running helps build strong leg muscles by requiring your quadriceps (front thighs) and hamstrings (back thighs) to repeatedly contract against gravity as you take steps.

Some common running exercises include jogging, HIIT training, sprinting and trail running.

In addition to your lower body, long-distance running also increases stamina and cardiovascular health.

A cardio routine focused solely on vigorous distance-running won’t help you gain much muscle mass in your quads or hamstrings – but because it involves repetition at maximum effort, you will burn fat quickly.

Related Post: How Running Benefits Mental Health

3. Cycling

If you’re looking to build lean muscle mass, a great way to do so is through cardiovascular exercise.

Over time, cardio training can help to reshape your legs and transform them into solid pillars of lean muscle that are absolutely stunning.

Cycling is one of those workouts that will push your legs from their current state toward what they can be in 6 months—all while burning fat along with calories.

If you want strong calves, build them through cycling.

To start building beautiful shapely legs, hop on a bike and get pedaling!

And don’t forget to include lunges and squats in your workout routine as well.

These exercises will keep leg muscles big, lean, and muscular.

What Kind of Bike Should I Get? 

There are plenty of bicycle styles available these days, ranging from casual cruisers to serious road bikes that have been carefully engineered for high-performance racing.

Some kinds of bicycles also require more upkeep than others.

Before you go shopping for a bike, decide what kind of riding you plan on doing and how often you expect to ride your new set of wheels.

Next, you’ll want to make sure you get a bike that is appropriate to your height and body size—the last thing you want is something too big or too small!

Finally, some bicycles (like full-on racing bikes) can be very expensive; if cost is an issue stick with something less expensive but still in good condition.

4. Swimming

Best Cardio For Legs - fit-swimmer-training-in-the-swimming-pool

If you’re not a swimmer, it might be difficult to come up with reasons why swimming is one of the best exercises around.

But once you start doing it regularly, there’s a good chance you’ll learn to love all its benefits—which are substantial.

This low-impact exercise strengthens your muscles without putting any strain on your joints or tendons (the major weight-bearing structures in your body).

Swimming also offers an aerobic workout and an increased calorie burn, which contributes to weight loss.

With so many health benefits, swimming may be just what you need to help get on track towards reaching your weight-loss goals.

Related Post: The Top 10 Best Supplements For Swimmers

5. Stair climbing

When you don’t have access to a stair stepper, try to fit in some stair climbing whenever possible.

It’s a great way to get your heart rate up and burn fat quickly, especially if you climb more than three flights of stairs—just be sure not to take too many breaks on your way up.

Just keep moving at a steady pace, and remember that even walking fast can be enough. 

If you live in an apartment building or work in a place without elevators, consider installing a set of steps between two pieces of furniture so that it can function as an aerobic step-trainer when you’re short on time.

6. Assault Bike

The assault bike workout is an excellent way to build lower body strength while also improving cardio endurance.

This heart-pumping machine combines hand pedals and foot pedals in one, forcing you to coordinate your arms and legs together in a specific pattern.

Essentially, it’s an upper-body exercise (the handlebars are similar to a bike’s handlebars) that improves your coordination as well as strengthens your legs.

The assault bike can be found at most gyms or health clubs, and if not there, many home equipment departments carry them.

An added bonus:

You don’t have to go very fast on an assault bike—it’s about muscle endurance more than anything else!

If you like lots of high-impact movements, consider throwing in burpees or squat jumps between sets to maximize your time.

Below I’ve added a link to the best value assault bike on the market. In my opinion. So if you’ve been interested in getting one, look no further.

Assault Air Bike
Assault Air Bike

7. Rowing Machine

Although rowing doesn’t burn as many calories as running, it does help improve cardiovascular endurance and can lead to weight loss.

Rowing machines allow you to increase your pace if you want to or take things slow if that’s what you need right now.

In addition, rowing offers a different kind of challenge because each stroke works a different set of muscles than the last—it actually gets more difficult toward the end of your exercise session.

This is why people who row regularly often look leaner even though they might not weigh less than their stationary-bike-riding counterparts!

Ever wonder what Preworkout is best for cardio? Check out this article!


Whether you’re looking to slim down or bulk up, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can help you achieve your goals.

HIIT workouts get your heart pumping, raise your metabolism and burn fat at a higher rate than other types of cardio.

The best part is that you don’t need any special equipment—you can use a treadmill, stationary bike, or simply walk outside in order to maximize muscle gains and tone your body from head to toe.

Check out this HIIT workout I posted on youtube for you to follow along with.

Is Cardio Good To Tone Legs?

You may have heard that cardio is good for losing weight, but in reality, it’s not any better or worse than resistance training.

In general, muscle growth requires a caloric surplus and cardio helps you maintain one (if done in moderation).

If your main goal is toning your legs, there are many compound leg exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously (e.g., squats and lunges) and hit them hard with each rep.

You can also add single-joint movements to further isolate specific muscles; however, these are less effective at recruiting overall leg muscle mass.

With either approach, proper form will help you get more out of each set while minimizing injury risk—so be sure to consult an experienced trainer if necessary!

Related Post: Why Can’t I Just Do Cardio?

Does Cardio Build Leg Muscle?

The short answer is no.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle on top of your existing leg muscle! The reality is that to build muscles, you need to put them under a certain amount of stress—and cardio exercise doesn’t do that.

However, it’s still possible to add muscle and strength while you’re doing cardio.


By incorporating light weights into your routine.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, try supersets or circuits as well! 

A combination of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise and weight training at least twice per week will help you build up both.

Plus, since muscle burns more calories than fat (even when you’re at rest), building up more lean tissue can help rev up your metabolism so that you burn even more calories when standing around or just walking from room to room in your house!

You might be shocked at how much time (and effort) goes into lifting weights after all.

But trust us, it’s worth it in the end when those jeans start getting too loose around your waistline.

Related Post: How To Build Muscle

What Cardio Burns The Most Thigh Fat?

Unfortunately, you cannot spot target fat.

That means you not going to be able to burn fat from just your thigh, when we burn fat it comes from everywhere. 

So how do we go about losing fats off our thighs?

The key is changing our body composition in general not isolating a specific area of our body. 

There are 3 things that you need to focus on 

  1. How much calories/nutrients you are taking in 
  2. How many calories/nutrients you’re burning each day and 
  3. What % of those calories are coming from carbs vs protein vs fat. 

Related Post: Can You Eat Carbs After 3pm?

Should I Train Legs if I Run?

Best Cardio For Legs - man-exercising-on-leg-extension-machine-1

If you are training to become a runner, there’s no reason not to be including leg exercises in your program.

And if you run already, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Even world-class athletes can benefit from leg work because some of those little muscles are often forgotten during their training.

Training your legs properly is important because it helps improve form and reduces injury risk.

When planning out your workout routine, don’t forget about your lower body as well!

A mix of full-body strength training with cardio will give you the best results when it comes to burning fat and gaining lean muscle.

Don’t focus solely on the upper body – you have more than that!

Do Squats Make Your Thighs Bigger Or Smaller?

Best Cardio For Legs - man-doing-a-front-squat-with-a-barbell

Squats are a compound leg exercise that focuses on your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Because they target so many different muscle groups and can really do wonders to help shape up those thighs of yours.

If you have overly developed upper legs or love handles, squats will help get rid of them faster than ever before.

That being said, squats alone won’t make your thighs bigger or smaller.

To build muscle you need to eat more protein and more calories in general. 

Also, there is no point in doing any isolation exercises if you want bigger thighs.

Squats work all muscles at once while isolating exercises focus on one part of a muscle group only (Biceps anyone?).

In order to grow big muscles, it is best to lift heavy weights using compound exercises like Squats and Deadlifts.

What Cardio Should I Do On Leg Day?

Whether you’re trying to add muscle, lose weight, or both, cardio should be included in your workout.

While lifting weights can definitely get your heart rate up and burn calories, doing cardio is also necessary to increase muscle tone and burn fat.

Try adding a 30-minute cardio session after your workouts three times a week.

Using a mix of jogging, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and cycling, you’ll work multiple leg muscles while improving your cardiovascular health and burning more calories than with traditional strength training alone.

To really rev up leg day (and every other day), start incorporating these big 3 exercises into your routine: squats, lunges, and deadlifts.

Final Mop Up

You can make your legs look good by performing any cardio workout.

Try a mix of the exercises we covered today and see what works best for you!

For example, walk on the treadmill first thing in the morning to wake up your muscles, jog at lunchtime to help burn more calories over the course of the day, and then try a night-time session of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn even more fat.

However, you choose to do it, go hard. You’ll be surprised at how much difference that makes!

If you just want to see how just like me, you can train when and where you want. Get your FREE copy of my Ebook. Train Wherever The F*ck You Want!

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