There are three basic requirements for weight lifting for women:
1. Perform resistance training and weight lifting exercises for the lower body. To improve the appearance of your legs, hips, and glutes, you absolutely must perform compound weight lifting exercises for the lower body using a sufficient amount of weight. These compound exercises include: squats, deadlifts, leg press, and lunges. Isolation exercises for the lower body, although not as crucial, are also helpful. Isolation exercises for the lower body include: leg extension, hamstring curl, and calf raise. Other exercises such as abduction and adduction (inner and outer thigh and hip machines) are also helpful for certain purposes, such as improving the stability in your hips. This can in turn help you perform the compound movements better. However, hip machines and exercises such as leg lifts aren’t going to change your appearance very much--if they change it at all. These types of exercises don’t involve the large muscles, which means you’re not going to get much of a muscle-toning effect--AND you’re also going to burn very few calories doing these types of moves.
When I say that you need to use a "sufficient amount of weight" during your weight lifting, I mean you should choose a weight that allows you to do 6-12 repetitions before your muscles "give up." Your muscles "give up" when you cannot continue to lift the weight, or when you are forced to use improper form to continue (if you don’t know the proper form for basic exercises, click here: Basic Home Workout
Unless you are pregnant or have a health concern that limits you, always choose the heaviest weight possible during weight lifting (assuming that you're able to maintain good form) for best toning results.
Your legs and glutes have the potential to develop more muscle mass than any other part of your body. By developing them through a proper weight lifting routine, not only will you have a tight, toned, and shapely appearance, but your body will also burn more calories every day as a result of that extra muscle mass--which helps you lose fat. Worried about bulking up? Don’t be. As long as you aren’t eating more calories than your body is burning, your body will not get bigger. If you are maintaining your bodyweight or losing weight, you won’t get any bigger no matter how you work out. In fact, regular weight lifting actually makes your body SMALLER at a given weight: A 120-pound woman who exercises with heavy weights is smaller than a 120-pound woman who exercises with light weights or doesn’t lift weight at all. Moreover, it's important that you develop muscle in your lower body if you want to improve the shape and firmness of your legs, hips, and glutes.
2. Perform resistance training for the entire body. So you’re probably thinking, "Great--I’ll just do those lower-body weight lifting exercises, and do cardio." Not so fast! See, your back, abs, arms, and shoulders all have the potential to carry a significant amount of muscle mass, too. Developing the muscles in these areas will result in an even higher metabolic rate than if you just exercise your legs. Besides, it’s important that you fill out your body with feminine curves as the fat starts melting away--skin and bones is just not attractive. 99% of women simply don’t have the hormonal makeup to build a "manly" physique. You are performing weight lifting to help develop feminine curves and raise your metabolism. Again, it's important that you choose a heavy-enough resistance, or weight. The heavier the weight lifting, and the more intense the workout is overall, the greater your post-workout caloric burn will be. The post-workout calorie burn can last for up to 24 hours after your workout, and if you work hard enough to trigger it, you’ll be burning more calories than you normally would have THIS ENTIRE TIME. This is in addition to the calories burned during the actual workout, of course, which is also greater the heavier you weight train.
3. Perform cardiovascular exercise. Some people like it and most people hate it, but females especially almost always have to do cardio in order to lose much bodyfat. It's common for men to be able to get and stay lean just by working out with weights and following a clean diet. Women, on the other hand, really need the extra boost to fat loss that cardio provides. And cardio helps women make the most out of weight lifting, because if those beautiful muscles are covered by fat, aesthetically there's not much good in having them!