How to get a body like Halle Berry: Legs workout

 Halle Berry Top 10 Ultimate Performance

Halle Berry

American actress Halle Berry is widely recognised as having some of the best legs in Hollywood.

Having entered several beauty contests in her younger years, she finished as the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant and came in sixth in the Miss World 1986. Now into her 50s, Berry’s passion for fitness hasn’t derailed. Her various movie roles, Catwoman, X-Men and most recently her role in her MMA drama, Bruised, have kept her motivated to stay in shape.

In particular, Halle’s legs stand out. So how can you build strong, lean legs of the kind? The actress has herself spoken about her intense workout practices which include boxing and MMA-style training, often posting short clips of her routine to her Instagram account.

Research has shown time and time again that resistance training is so beneficial for fat loss and building muscle and shape in your body. The same applies for your legs, so don’t be afraid to push them frequently with weight training. To get you started, we have included a workout below of some key leg exercises that are challenging and will work all parts of the leg musculature. Remember to choose a weight that is challenging to you individually and you can do with good form for the desired rep ranges.

The Halle Berry workout

How to perform the exercises

This guide is aimed at trainees with a good knowledge of the exercises and how to train safely and effectively.

To start your life-changing body transformation today, visit any one of our gyms around the world or begin your online training program.

Barbell back squat

The set-up

  • Stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • The bar should be resting on your upper back above your shoulder blades.
  • Hold the bar on either side of your shoulders with your elbows pointing down.  Pull down on the bar to engage your back muscles and brace your core.
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • With your back straight and core engaged sit the hips back and bend your knees to lower down into the squat position.
  • Keeping the weight in the heels straighten the knees and drive the hips back to the starting position.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the squat then repeat.

Trainer tips

  • Remove your shoes or wear lifting shoes when performing this exercise.
  • The set-up of a squat will vary significantly between individuals depending on your limb length and range of motion.  Finding the right set-up for you may take some trial and error and you may find it useful to enlist the help of a PT to check you are using correct form or video yourself from the side.
  • You should be aiming to squat to parallel or lower in order to fully engage the muscles of the lower body so you may need to play around with your set-up to get this right.
  •  Keep tension in the legs throughout the set by not locking out at the top of the squat.
  • Keep your bodyweight distributed evenly between both feet.
  •  Focus on keeping your knees out and don’t let them cave in.
  •  Keep your abs engaged through the exercise and don’t let the back arch.

Barbell or dumbbell Romanian deadlift

The set-up

  • Set up the bar in a rack at hand-level and add the desired amount of weight (start small and build up as your technique improves).
  • Stand close to the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart and reach down to take the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip.
  • Before taking the load, make sure to “take the slack out of the bar” by pulling away from the bar slightly to ensure your arms are taught. Lift the barbell off the hooks and take a step backwards.
  • Stand as tall as possible with your shoulder blades tucked into your back pockets. The barbell should be in contact with your thighs and there should be a soft bend in your knees.
  • Look at the floor just in front of you or the barbell (this prevents the head from moving during the movement – we want zero movement in the spine throughout the exercise).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Push your hips backwards and bend forward at the hips. The movement should come only from the hips and you should feel a noticeable increase in hamstring tension.
  • Keep your back straight and pull the barbell into your body to prevent it from drifting away from you. Keep the lats tight by imagining you are trying to “protect your armpits”.
  • Lower the barbell as far as possible until you reach the end of your range-of-motion. You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you can go no further without the lower back rounding or the knees moving.
  • Pause for a moment in the bottom position and drive your hips forwards and squeeze your glutes to return to the start position. Make sure to “press” the weight upwards with the feet rather than yanking with the upper body.
  • Make sure to keep a solid brace throughout (see “How to Brace”).
  • To begin, practise performing this exercise with control throughout. Once you have mastered the movement, you can add a more ‘explosive’ concentric movement (although this must still remain controlled).
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Use lifting straps to prevent grip becoming a limiting factor.
  • Practise the hinging motion before attempting this exercise.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout.
  • Avoid over-arching at the top of the movement; your lower back muscles will be working but you should not feel them throughout the movement.

Wide-and-high-stance leg press

The set-up

  • You may have access to either a 45-degree incline leg press or a horizontal leg press but the set-up is similar for both.
  • Load the weight plates onto the machine or set the pin to the desired weight.
  • Set the safety stop in the right position for your range-of-motion.
  • Sit down on the machine and place your feet on the platform wide and high up the footplate – a wider stance will favour more glutes/hamstrings.
  • Position your feet at a level that is comfortable for your ankles (so that your feet remain in full contact with the foot plate at all times).
  • Grip the handles firmly and pull yourself down into the seat.
  • Straighten your legs to take the weight off the racks.
  • Your knees should be slightly bent (not locked out).
  • This is the start and end position for each rep.

The movement

  • Start the movement by lowering your legs to bring your knees towards your chest.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot lower your legs any further without your heels lifting or buttocks lifting off the seat.
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom position, keeping tension in your legs (do not let the weight “sink” into the hip joint at the bottom.
  • Press both legs into the platform to return to the start position. Focus on pushing through the entire foot; the toes, ball of the foot and the heel equally.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Keep your knees in line with your feet and do not allow your knees to “lock-out” at any point.
  • Practise keeping a rock-solid brace throughout.
  • Only pause briefly at the top position between reps, not several seconds.

Barbell hip thrust

The set-up

  • Position a flat bench in an open space (or in a rack/cage) and secure it with something heavy to prevent it sliding forwards.
  • Sit straight legged on the floor with your upper back resting against the bench. The edge of the bench should be just underneath your shoulder blades or bra line. If the bench is too high, it may be useful to place a plate underneath your buttocks to position you correctly.
  • You can perform this exercise with bodyweight only, use a single dumbbell or barbell for added resistance (if you’re a beginner, we advise progressing in this order).
  • Make sure you’re using a hip pad or folded up matt over the hips and roll the barbell into position so it is situated directly over your pelvic bones (not over the abs or upper thighs).
  • Tuck your feet in towards your buttocks and keep your feet roughly shoulder-width apart (a slight external rotation of the knee favours the abductor muscles).

The movement

  • Drive your hips upwards towards the ceiling, pushing through your heels and squeezing your glutes. Keep your knees in line with your toes.
  • In the top position, your hips should be fully extended and your torso parallel to the floor.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting your glutes (imagine you are trying to crack a walnut between them!), with a slight upwards rotation of the pelvis.
  • Lower your hips down towards the floor. You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when you cannot move any further without your lower back rounding or knees rocking backwards.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • If the bottom of your range-of-motion is higher than floor-level, place blocks or plates underneath the barbell plates to standardise the range-of-motion.
  • Keep a solid brace throughout and do not relax the tension at the top or bottom of the rep.
  • Focus on ‘pivoting’ on and off the bench, do not allow your pelvis to rock backwards and forwards as this will strain the spinal erectors.
  • Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement and you should not feel this in the lower back.
  • Keep the head in a neutral position by keeping your eyes on the bar pad at all times.

Dumbbell walking lunges

The set-up

  • Start by standing straight with a dumbbell in each hand.
  •  Your feet should be hip-width apart, your chest up, and your core engaged.

The movement

  •  With one leg, take a big step forward and place the foot flat on the ground.
  •  Bend both knees and lower down under control until both your knees are bent at 90° and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
  •  Push through the front foot and bring your back foot forwards stepping straight into another forward step.
  • Repeat on the other side.

 Trainer tips

  •  Keep your hips square and feet facing forwards throughout the movement.
  • To increase the emphasis on your glutes, lean the torso forward over the front leg and hold the dumbbells closer to the knee.
  • Keep the front heel down throughout the lunge.
  •  Regress the exercise by bringing the feet together between each rep rather than stepping straight into the next lunge.
  • Use straps to prevent grip from becoming a limiting factor when using dumbbells.
  • Make sure to keep the range of motion consistent throughout.

Lying leg curls

The set-up

  • Adjust the ankle pad so that it is just above the ankle joint.
  • When you lie down on the machine, your knees should be just short of full extension (this set-up will vary between machines).
  • Position yourself so that your knees line up with the machine pivot point.
  • Grip the handles, lift your chest up slightly and engage the lats by tucking your armpits down towards your hips. Point your toes up towards your shins.

The movement

  • Push your thighs down into the and curl your legs up towards your buttocks.
  • You have reached the end of your range-of-motion when your knees are fully bent or you cannot move any further without your hips or thighs lifting off the pad.
  • Pause for a moment and focus on contracting (squeezing) your hamstrings.
  • Reverse the motion, under control, to return to the start position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Keep your abs braced to limit movement of the hips at the top of the movement.
  • Avoid ‘swinging’ the weight; as your feet near your buttocks, the movement should be slowest as this is the shortest and weakest position.
  • Keep the range-of-motion and tempo consistent throughout.

Abductor machine

The set-up 

  • Sit on the abductor machine with your feet firmly on the footrests and gripping the handles either side.
  • Your thighs should be resting against the inside of the leg pads.
  • This is your start and end position.

The movement

  • Exhale as you push your thighs against the pads and separate your legs as far as possible (your individual range).
  • Hold the tension for a moment, and inhale as you return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Trainer tips

  • Ensure you keep your upper body still throughout the movement and your bum stays in the seat – only your legs should be moving.
  • Always choose a weight that you can comfortably do and then work up from there, slowly increasing the resistance.
  • Lean your torso slightly forward at the hips, so you are in a slight hip flexion to engage your glutes more.
  • Try not to use momentum to move the pads, keep the reps strict and controlled.
  • If you do not have an abductor machine you can emulate this movement with a resistance band around your thighs.

Why this workout works

Developed by U.P.’s elite personal trainers, this workout aims to hit all parts of the leg with high volume, to build strength and muscle as well as cut fat and lean the legs out. We start the workout with bigger movements like squats and deadlifts and then taper down to accessory work and conditioning. This is not for the faint-hearted! You will feel challenged.

Barbell back squat

When performed correctly, this exercise is one of the most effective when it comes to leg training. Working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes whilst also strengthening your joints, ligaments and tendons around the knee and hips. Not only does this build the legs, but it will also improve your core activation. It is a compound movement with lots of muscles involved, so it has an added benefit of high-calorie expenditure, leading to a stronger, leaner physique.

Romanian deadlift

An amazing posterior chain exercise, if performed correctly. It is a brilliant hip hinge movement where you can really load the hamstrings and glutes and build shape in the back of your legs without placing too much stress on your joints. One ‘pro-tip’ is to try and keep the bar as close to your legs as possible as you push your hips back. Think about trying to tap a wall behind you with your glutes while maintaining a neutral spine.

Wide-stance leg press

Using a wider/higher stance on the leg press places emphasis on the inner muscles of the thigh and encourages the glutes and hamstrings to work more in the press. The leg press allows you to load your legs in a fixed pattern of movement, so it is relatively safe and requires less stabilisation. This means you can lift heavy safely and you can adjust the weight of your lifting very quickly.

If your goal is leaner legs, the leg press is excellent because you can push yourself with shorter rest periods, adding heavier weight each set and not have to worry too much about losing your form. Just focus on keeping your glutes glued to the seat and don’t lock out those knees!

Barbell hip thrusts

Often seen as the king of glute exercises, as it’s designed to improve the strength, size and power of the glutes. A lot of exercises like squats and deadlifts won’t maximise hip extension so we cannot fully engage our glutes – enter the hip thrust. Including these in the session will help you develop shapely glutes, not only aiding you in your quest for leaner legs, but stronger glutes will also improve core strength and posture, aiding you in other exercises.

Walking lunges

When trying to shape the lower body – walking lunges are an excellent exercise that challenges your balance, helps strengthen each leg unilaterally, improves flexibility in the hip and works your glutes, quads and hamstrings hard. This is quite an advanced movement because of its dynamic nature and it requires hip and knee stability, so it is also excellent for conditioning, and can challenge your cardiovascular system as well as your muscles.

Leg curls (lying)

Lying leg curls isolate your hamstrings, which are usually under trained compared to the quads. We are looking for a balance of muscle in the legs and this is one exercise which can help us achieve that goal. This exercise is low impact, and we have added it in the tail end of the workout to really burn out the hamstrings and get in a little bit of calf work too.

Hip abductors

Such an important and forgotten muscle that contributes to preventing knee and hip pain – also they help get a tight and toned backside! The abductors are located around your glutes and outside of your thighs below the hips. When you push your hips out and squeeze your glutes, you will feel them all working together. Again an important exercise to include for shapely well-rounded glutes.



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