How Long Does it Take for Lunges to Start Toning the Legs?

Dumbbell lunges tone your legs quicker.
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Lunges are one of the top exercises for toning your legs, according to a survey of American Council on Exercise (ACE) fitness professionals. But Richard Cotton, the ACE's chief exercise physiologist, warns that lunges will only visibly tone your legs if accompanied by fat-burning exercises. Other factors that determine how long it will take for lunges to tone your legs include your body-fat levels, and the frequency and intensity of your workout program.

Targeted Muscles

Lunges work your butt together with all of your leg muscles including your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors or inner thighs and calves. According to, lunges with a short step emphasize your quadriceps and lunges with a long step emphasize your butt. When you step into a lunge, keep your body upright and your front knee in line with your heel.

Performing Lunges

If you are a beginner, start with body-weight lunges. Aim to do three to five sets of 15 to 30 repetitions three days a week on non-consecutive days. This allows you to recover between workouts. As you get fitter and stronger, add resistance by holding a pair of dumbbells hanging by your sides, or holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders. The added resistance induces your muscles to work harder, causing your legs to get toned more quickly.

Increasing Intensity

Increasing the intensity of your lunges workout accelerates your progress. One method is by doing walking lunges with your body weight or grasping a pair of dumbbells. To do walking lunges, perform a normal lunge then step forward into another lunge with your rear leg. Keep stepping forward until you have performed your desired number of repetitions. If you are feeling strong, increase your intensity further by lunging backward to your starting point.

Fat Burning

When you start doing lunges, you may feel your leg muscles getting tighter and firmer within two weeks. Generally speaking, it may take up to four weeks before you actually see toned muscles on your legs. It may take longer if you carry a lot of fat on your legs. Fat-burning exercises such as brisk walking, uphill walking, stair climbing, running, hiking, bicycling or using cardiovascular equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical machine help you shed fat from your legs. This enables the underlying muscle to show through. The frequency and intensity at which you perform these exercises determine how quickly your toned leg muscles become visible. Depending on how much fat you have to lose, do 30 to 60 minutes of fat-burning exercises two to four times a week.

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