Are you wondering how to get skinny legs? Over the past few years, I have met with hundreds of girls who all face the same problem. They all want to look elegant, feminine, with lean legs, but don’t know how to get the skinny legs that they are looking for.
You want your legs to look like the girls you see in magazines and like the fashion bloggers you see on Instagram. You want to feel amazing at the beach, not self-conscious about your butt and thighs. You want to feel comfortable in shorts and leggings. You don’t want your legs getting bigger and too muscly so that you can’t fit into your jeans, or so that your legs rub together when you walk. Trust me, I know what that’s like.
The problem is not easy because there are many contradicting opinions about it.
Working as a personal trainer, I found that most women wanted to do cardio and try to slim down their legs, but were always pushed to do weights and lift heavier and heavier. Cardio was usually out of the question.
Whenever a client would tell a trainer that they wanted to know how to get thinner legs, the trainer would tell them why this shouldn’t be their goal. That wanting skinny legs isn’t healthy. And whenever someone complained about getting bulky, the trainers would say “you can’t get bulky, women don’t have enough testosterone to get bulky.” I am so sick of hearing that! If a woman thinks she is getting bulky, who are you to tell her that she is wrong? It is her body and her idea of “bulky” might be different to yours.
So I made it my mission to help other women understand how to get skinny legs and how to do resistance training to get toned without getting bulky.
If you want lean and toned legs, you need to:
SO many people want to make changes to their lifestyle, exercise regularly and eat better, but they never do. Preparing yourself mentally for these changes is just as important as actually doing them. This is really the first step to getting the body of your dreams, and making sure that you get long term results.
Cardio should be a really important part of your training program. So this blog post will focus only on the cardio side of things and how to get lean legs with the right type of cardio.
Have a read of this blog post for details on how to do resistance training without getting bulky.
Learning how to get skinny legs starts with knowing how your body works. So try to stay with me for the science.
Your body creates energy in two basic ways:
When your body uses the anaerobic pathway, it uses creatine phosphate and stored glycogen (carbohydrates) to produce energy.
Your body will use the anaerobic pathway for:
When your body uses the aerobic pathway, it uses stored fat, stored glycogen (carbohydrates) and on occasions, protein to produce energy.
Your body will use the aerobic pathway for:
Low intensity exercise burns FAT, and this is why it is super important when understanding how to get skinny legs.
Do you think I need an infographic for this? It seems hard to put into a picture without being confusing
When I say low to moderate intensity exercise, essentially I’m talking about walking. Walking is the best type of exercise for getting rid of excess fat on your legs and leaning them out. And walking burns a surprisingly high number of calories.
However, long, slow cardio (i.e. walking) is NOT the most effective way of losing weight. This is because it only uses your aerobic system, and it doesn’t burn as many calories as other types of exercise. It is important to understand that when you are trying to lose weight, you should be trying to burn more calories than you are eating. So burning more calories during a workout is a good thing!
Walking is very specific to getting rid of fat from your legs. But to lose weight from your entire body, you should be using both your aerobic and anaerobic systems to increase your overall fitness, increase your metabolism and burn more calories. This means doing some higher intensity exercise such as running and resistance training, as well as the walking.
Running burns a LOT of calories. And resistance training will increase your metabolism. A higher metabolism means that your body will burn more calories throughout the day just to keep itself functioning.
A good workout program for overall fat loss should include a combination of all of these types of workouts –
Getting the balance right between walking, running and resistance training is very specific to your body type. Some women will need a lot more walking than others because of their body type. I’ll get to body types a little further down.
When you do cardio at a low to moderate intensity, your body burns stored glycogen (carbs) first, and then fats. However, the longer you exercise, the more fat your body will burn. So by doing longer power walks, your body will burn more fat and it will help you get lean legs.
You can however accumulate periods of cardio over the day. For example, you can do 6 x 10 minute walks throughout the day, which equals 60 minutes of cardio. However, as discussed above, the longer you walk in a single period, the more fat you will burn, and the quicker you will get skinny legs.
Personally though, I have experienced significant fat loss from my legs by both accumulating cardio over the day, and doing my walking all in one hit. They both seem to work for me.
It is very important to make sure that you are doing your cardio on a flat surface. Walking uphill will use your quadriceps and glutes and this will cause bulkiness.
Try to avoid the cross trainer / elliptical machine and incline walking on the treadmill. I see a lot of women doing this and while it may burn more calories than walking on a flat surface, you will build muscle and it won’t help you get lean legs. There are better exercises you can do to build muscle and benefit your whole body, and there is a better way of doing your cardio.
You should also avoid the stair machine and spin bike as these will build muscle in places you may not want.
Walking works if you do it at any time of the day. But to get the best results, try to walk first thing in the morning before you have eaten anything – this is known as fasted cardio. When you first wake up, you have not eaten anything for at least 10 or so hours. This means there is not much stored glycogen (carbs) in your body to be used up for energy. As a result, when you do cardio first thing in the morning, you will end up burning more fat instead.
Fasted cardio works best if you are depleted of glycogen (i.e. you don’t have many stored carbohydrates). So to make your fasted cardio workout really count, try to eat a low carb dinner the night before.
When you are walking, your body is in the “fat burning zone” and this is the best place to be to get skinny legs. The fat burning zone is when your heart rate is between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is a simple equation: 220 minus your age. I will show you an example of how to calculate your maximum heart rate and fat burning zone heart rate range using my age. I am currently 29 years old.
Maximum Heart Rate
Fat Burning Heart Rate Zones
My maximum heart rate is 191 bpm; so my heart rate should be between 115 and 134 bpm to burn fat. When I power walk, my heart rate is usually between 65-68%; and this is 124 to 130 bpm.
I know this seems technical, but honestly, the speed doesn’t matter TOO much. If you just aim to walk at a medium fast pace, your heart rate will be in the right zone. You don’t need to go full speed and feel really puffed out. It should be a fast pace, but you should able to maintain this speed for at least 1 hour.
I walk at the speed of 7 km/hr. Occasionally I will walk a little slower or faster, but it will always be between about 6.6 – 7.2 km/hr. You don’t need to walk at the EXACT same speed as me – this is just to give you a guide. Your speed will depend on your height and the length of your legs. Obviously taller people will be able to walk a bit faster.
The more walking you do, the better your results will be. So my suggestion would be to do it every day if you can, or at least 5 times per week at a minimum. Most health guidelines specify that you should try to walk at least 10,000 steps per day and this is a good guide to go by. However, as I mentioned, the more the better! So I always try to aim for at least 10km per day.
A good way to fit in the 10kms per day is to start your morning off with a walk. Set your alarm a little bit earlier and go for a walk as soon as you get up. Not only does this get it out of the way early, but it is more effective for burning fat as you are doing fasted cardio. I try to do a 5km walk in the morning (sometimes I’ll do 6 or 7km) and then I try to make up the remaining 3-5kms throughout the day just by doing as much walking as I can. If you make a really conscious effort to do lots of walking throughout the day, it’s not as difficult to reach 10kms as you might think!
I use the free Health app on my phone, which tracks my steps and kilometers, and I love it! There are also lots of free pedometer apps that you can download onto your phone to help you track your distance and reach these goals.
One of the most common complaints I hear about walking is that it is boring. And I will admit that sometimes it is. Here are some tips that I use to help keep me entertained during my daily cardio:
If you want to know how to get skinny legs, understanding your body type is important. There are 3 main body types, which I will briefly explain:
A lot of women ask me what my body type is, and I would say I am a mesomorph.
It’s important to exercise (and eat) according to your body type so you can get the best results. If you are an endomorph body type and you’re doing lots of heavy lifting and eating a moderate to high amount of carbs, you’re not going to achieve the best results, or get results as quick as you can. Endomorphs need more cardio and a low carbohydrate diet. So you really should know your body type, and tailor your program to both your body type and your goals.
This is a summary of how to do cardio to suit your body type:
Most ectomorphs are probably already thin so they don’t really need to know how to get lean legs. They should focus on getting toned, rather than losing fat. Ectomorphs don’t really need to do any cardio. But in saying that, cardio is great for your body and your heart, so there are still other benefits!
Ectomorph women should focus more on resistance training and only do cardio if they want to (but it’s not necessary).
Mesomorphs should do a combination of cardio (both low intensity and high intensity cardio) and resistance training. Walking should be something that they do every day if possible.
A lot of women ask me how to get skinny legs if you are an endomorph body type. It will be more difficult for endomorphs because of their body shape, so cardio should make up the majority of their program, and they should also try to do as much walking as possible. I would recommend walking at least 5 times per week and try to run a few times per week too.
Endomorphs should also do some resistance training and their workouts should be intense to try and burn lots of calories. But they should be careful not to overdo it on resistance training as they can bulk easily.
If you are a short endomorph, you may experience your legs getting bulky with running. If this is the case, I would avoid running and just do walking instead.
Well not necessarily. Running is an anaerobic activity (remember I discussed it above). This means that when you are running, your body will burn glycogen and creatine phosphate, not fat. But at the start when you are building up speed, it might burn fat.
If you run really slowly so you aren’t really puffed out, your body might use some fat. But you are better off getting the full benefits from running by running faster. This will help you increase your fitness and it will burn LOTS of calories. If you want to burn fat and get lean legs, walking is better than slow running.
Some women have told me that they get overly muscular just from running. This is because running does build some muscle. I know that a lot of Victoria’s Secret models don’t run for this reason.
As I mentioned above, if you are shorter and are an endomorph body type, your body might get bulky from running. If you find that this happens to you, I would avoid running. You can still get great results from walking so focus on that!
No. Resistance training is also an anaerobic activity. However, resistance training can help improve your metabolic rate, which in turn increases the number of calories you burn. This is important for losing weight overall.
Resistance training does build muscle though, so you need to be careful. You need to do the right type of resistance training so you don’t pack on too much muscle in the wrong places.
You might be tempted to avoid resistance training all together, but it is still important. As I just mentioned, it increases your metabolic rate so that you burn more calories throughout the day. And it also helps shape your legs – without resistance training, they won’t look very toned. Cardio only can give you the “skinny fat” look, so you should do some form of resistance training.
Not immediately. While high intensity interval training does cause weight loss, it doesn’t typically burn fat while you’re doing it. Like resistance training, HIIT burns stored glycogen and creatine phosphate.
The biggest benefit of HIIT is that you will burn lots of calories in a short workout, you will still continue to burn calories after your workout, and it builds muscle which improves your metabolism and helps you burn more calories throughout the day. To give you an idea, I will usually burn the same number of calories in a 25 minute HIIT workout as I will during a 1 hour power walk.
HIIT is not necessary for getting lean legs and can often cause your legs to bulk up (especially the endomorph body type). So you just need to be careful when doing HIIT workouts, and avoid overdoing it on leg exercises such as burpees, jump lunges, jump squats, box jumps, etc. If you are trying to reduce muscle on your legs or you bulk up easily, it might be best to avoid HIIT altogether.
I mentioned that HIIT doesn’t really burn fat. BUT you can do HIIT cardio in a way that causes you to burn more fat and lean out your legs.
My favourite type of HIIT to lean the legs specifically is interval running. Most people do sprints at their maximum pace for around 30 seconds and then rest for 30-60 seconds. This type of sprinting is going to make you fit, but may cause bulky legs.
I like to do my HIIT cardio by doing 2 minute fast pace runs (not an all out sprint) and then walking for 1 minute. I then repeat this 5-10 times, depending on my fitness level. I usually do these fast pace runs around 13-14 km/hr.
This type of workout burns a LOT of calories and is great if you want to push yourself. But it is really difficult and if you are not already fit, I would not recommend it. If you are fit and would like to do it, I would do this once per week at a maximum.
Unfortunately, the only thing that will help you to reduce muscular legs is time and avoiding using these muscles.
Walking doesn’t build muscle, but it doesn’t make you lose muscle either (unless you are eating suuuuper low calories and low carb, which I don’t recommend). Running actually builds some muscle, but not as much as resistance training and high intensity interval training.
I know that sounds a bit confusing, so I have written a much more detailed blog post on how to reduce muscular thighs. Have a read if you need more information on this topic.
OK so I know a lot of you are probably thinking that you can’t spot reduce fat from certain body parts. And this is true to an extent. However, my legs get a lot slimmer when I do low intensity cardio and a series of exercises described in my 3 Steps To Skinny Legs eBook, even when my diet is not perfect.
I can’t choose exactly where the fat comes off from my legs. But most girls, including myself, store most fat around the inner thigh area. And this is where I tend to notice the most difference.
I do believe that you can’t really spot reduce fat from a certain body area, especially your stomach, arms, face, etc. But you can reduce the fat from your lower body specifically, you just can’t pick whether that comes from your calves, thighs, butt, etc.
I have done a lot of cardio in my time including walking, running, cycling, swimming and aerobics classes such as body step and body attack. The most effective cardio for slimming my legs has always been walking.
Diet also plays a part in helping slim down your legs, but cardio will always play the major part. In my own experience, doing lots of walking and eating a moderately good diet is better for getting lean legs than eating a perfect diet and not doing any walking.
Anaerobic exercise (running, HIIT, resistance training) is fantastic for you and your overall health! The only issue that a lot of women have with these type of workouts is that it causes them to get bulky and build too much muscle in their legs. That’s because these workouts are designed to do that.
You can still do these workouts in a specific way so that you don’t get bulky. I have posted a few free skinny legs workouts on my blog – these are resistance training workouts that you can do to tone up your legs and butt, without getting overly muscular and bulky.
Proper change takes time. But if you are committed, this is how to get skinny legs fast. First of all, you need to get off your butt and actually do something about it! You can do all the reading you want, but if you don’t put it into practice, you’ll never get the legs that you want.
Walking is great for getting lean legs, and I recommend that you do lots of it! BUT it is not the most effective way of losing weight from your entire body. You should be using both your aerobic and anaerobic systems to increase your overall fitness, increase your metabolism and burn more calories. This means doing some higher intensity exercise such as running and resistance training, as well as the walking.
A good workout program for overall fat loss should include a combination of all of these types of workouts –
If you want results fast, you need the right type of program, so that you don’t waste your time testing and trying different things. Something that is tailored to give you the EXACT results you are looking for, a plan that has been tried and tested by others, written by someone who has been where you are right now. So are you really ready to get lean legs? If the answer is yes, my 3 Steps To Skinny Legs eBook is the answer!
I created my Skinny Legs eBooks to help women understand how to do resistance training without getting bulky, and how to get skinny legs with the right type of cardio.
My eBooks include a full workout and nutrition program which will help you get a lean and toned body, and amazing legs!
Because all of us are different, I have created separate eBooks for each of the 3 main body type.
Casey, 23 years old, from Brisbane, was a previous client of mine. Casey first came to see me with the goal of getting skinny legs. Unlike other trainers, I didn’t tell her that this was a bad goal and that her goals should be more focused on strength, not what you look like.
Casey had started her fitness journey by following online programs based around weights and HIIT training, with the goal of building a booty. But what the programs didn’t mention was that when growing your booty with these type of exercises, you will also end up growing your legs too.
She went to see a personal trainer in the hope that they would help her slim down her legs and lose weight. The personal trainer told her that heavy weight lifting would slim her down, so that’s what she did.
After 8 weeks, Casey came away unhappy and frustrated because she now weighed more than she had before, and she hated looking at her legs in the mirror. I completely related with her because the same thing had happened to me years ago. I did heavy lifting in the past because that’s what everyone said I should do; and while it made my upper body look good, my legs became so big and they felt heavy and uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why everyone kept telling me that heavy lifting was the best type of exercise.
Poor Casey had tried everything, and had starting googling how to get skinnier legs, when she found me! I designed a program for her, very similar to my 3 Steps To Skinny Legs guide. After just 2 weeks, she noticed her legs slimming down. She was so hopeful and it made her even more determined, so she put in the hard work. After 8 weeks, she had lost weight, gotten rid of the bulky look from her legs, and she could fit back into her old clothes again!
She was like a changed person. I could tell that she was happier and more confident. And best of all, she knew what type of exercise to do to tone up (and get a perky booty!) without getting bigger legs.