One thing I have learned over the past 5 years of being a personal trainer and working with many women online, is that there is a misconception about women getting bulky.

I’m sure you’ve heard over and over again that women can’t can’t bulky, so you shouldn’t be scared to lift heavy weights.

But this isn’t true, because:

  1. What someone considers “bulky” might be different to your version. So if you think a girl looks great, but she thinks she looks bulky, you can’t change what she thinks.
  2. Women CAN gain muscle. Yes it is difficult for us to look like weight lifting men (although not impossible), but we can still build muscle too!

I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to get bulky. I felt very uncomfortable in my body when I was bulky, and it was also very difficult to find any fitness professional who understood that I didn’t like having lots of muscle.

So I want to tell you a bit about what happened to me and how you can hopefully learn from my mistakes!

muscle toning vs bulking up


In my early 20’s, I didn’t have to do much exercise or worry about what I ate, and I stayed pretty slim. But after a while, my unhealthy lifestyle caught up on me, and I found myself bigger and pudgier than I liked.

I joined up at a gym with one of my girlfriends and I remember feeling sooo excited! I was 1000000% determined. My goals were getting abs, getting in the best shape ever, and running the 10km Bridge to Brisbane race.

I started out going to classes – all the regular ones like Body Pump, Body Attack, boxing and spin class. While I was walking on the treadmill one day, a personal trainer (PT) named Cassie started chatting to me. She convinced me to do a few free personal training sessions with her, so I agreed.


I loved my first few PT sessions and Cassie promised me that I would reach my goals much faster with her, so I continued training with her 3 times per week. She knew I wanted abs so we did lots of core work, and a bit of cardio to help with my 10km runs. We did lots of other things too, such as HIIT and weight lifting.

Things started out great. We trained super hard and I felt like Cassie really cared about me. She put lots of thought into my training and gave lots of attention to my technique. I learned a lot!

After the first few months, I lost the pudgy look and lost some weight too! My clothes fit better than they ever had, I had baby abs, and I felt super fit! I was so happy.

what is your body type
I toned up quickly and was very happy!


After a while, I noticed my clothes fitting tighter. I had always worn nice crop tops and tight singlets to the gym. They were getting so difficult to put on and it was like my back was wider. I also used to wear shorts to the gym but they were getting uncomfortable because my upper thighs were now rubbing together. SO I started wearing tights instead.

I talked to Cassie about it and told her that I was getting bigger. She said that it was just because I had gained muscle but still had some fat to lose. And that increasing muscle would help me lose fat, and then I would slim down. I felt relieved!


Cassie increased the intensity of my training. I started lifting heavier, having less rest, and adding super high intensity exercises including sprints. After each session I was exhausted but I knew I was working hard and I was determined to slim down.

To my disappointed, I kept getting bigger. I was feeling so bulky. I saw a photo of myself with my girlfriends when I was wearing a dress and I remember looking at my legs and thinking that they didn’t look like me. They were so much bigger than I remember them being.

I told Cassie that I was looking and feeling bulky, and wasn’t happy with my body anymore. She told me that women can’t get bulky and that it was a myth. Women’s testosterone levels are not the same as men, so weight lifting doesn’t have the same effect on us.

Lastly, Cassie said that having muscle was a good thing and I should try to keep increasing it. I said that I want to try and trim down the bulky muscle but she kept telling me that this shouldn’t be my goal.

All I really wanted was to feel comfortable in my body again. But Cassie didn’t seem to understand.

what is your body type
When my body started getting bulkier

I had become friends with another PT at the gym named Sarah. I had a chat to her about the way I was feeling and to my surprise, she told me the EXACT same thing as Cassie! She said that women can’t get bulky and that I looked great.


I was at a bit of a loss about what to do next. I knew something had to change though, so I stopped training with Cassie. She was disappointed, but not as disappointed as me. Even though I was strong, I was feeling so unhappy with my body.

A lot of women say that “it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel.” But for me, how I feel has a lot to do with how I look.

And a lot of women train to feel strong – I think that’s great! But I wanted to train in a way that made me look good so I could feel good.

Instead of hiring another personal trainer, I decided I was going to exercise on my own. One of my best friends Nicole joined me, and she became my workout buddy / workout tester.

killer ab workout for women


I tried a lot of different workouts to see how they affected my body. And I started really listening to my body. I know it sounds cliche. But previously, I was training to the point of exhaustion and training even on days when I was extremely tired from lack of sleep. I learnt that this wasn’t good for my body.

I’m also a sucker for research, so I researched a LOT! There seemed to be lots of other women with the same problem as me, but no solutions. I needed to dig deeper so I decided to study personal training.

I loved fitness and I wanted to learn everything I could about it. And at the end, if I could help other women, that would make it all the worthwhile!

I studied at the Australian Institute of Fitness. And I got my Certificate III and IV in personal training and group fitness training.

While I was studying, I started observing all the other personal trainers to see what type of exercises they did. And I noticed that they ALL trained their clients the exact same way! Some women were bulking up like me, whereas other looked great.

reasons your legs aren't changing


After months and months spent on research and trial and error, I discovered that how your body responds to exercise, depends on your BODY TYPE.

Heavy weight lifting made some women look amazing because of their body type. And it made others bulky because of their body type.

While working as a personal trainer, I saw the training programs that the women were on. ALL of them were about lifting heavy weights and doing Crossfit style workouts.

And the results from women lifting heavy weights were varied. Those that were naturally skinny (the ectomorph body type) got great results and looked really toned, but stayed slim.

The mesomorphs lost some body fat and toned up, but looked really muscular.

The endomorphs just got bigger.

When I thought about it, no personal trainer had ever asked me “what is your body type“…

I know you may not have heard about the different body types, so let’s dig a little deeper!


Endomorph body types are generally curvier and shorter. They have trouble losing weight, but can gain it quite quickly.

One of their main traits is that they can get bigger and musclier very quickly with exercise, because they naturally already have muscle. This is often my main complaint from endomorph women, and a lot of personal trainers don’t take this into account or just neglect the endomorph woman’s fears.

I know endomorph women can sometimes feel unlucky, but they have some amazing benefits! They have a huge potential to change their bodies, and make drastic physical differences. And in shape endomorphs can look beautiful, womanly, with a stunning hourglass figure.

Endomorphs also have really great strength and endurance, which the other body types can struggle with.

It may be a little harder for endomorphs to get in shape, but the rewards are greater and they can have truly amazing figures!

how to get skinny legs endomorph


Mesomorph body types are usually in between endomorphs and ectomorphs.

They can build muscle easily like endomorphs. But one of their main traits is that they can lose and gain weight quickly.

If a mesomorph is not careful with diet and exercise, they can become overweight and unfit. But if they eat well and exercise consistently, they can generally lose weight and get in shape without too much trouble.

Mesomorphs can change the shape of their bodies quite easily, so they need to be careful that the type of training they are doing is suitable to what they are trying to achieve. Heavy weight lifting WILL cause you to build more muscle. If this is what you are trying to achieve – that’s great! If not, just keep this mind and adjust your training.

I’m a mesomorph body type :)

how to get a lean and toned body


Ectomorph body types are very tall and slim. They don’t have much muscle and find it difficult to put on muscle or any weight in general. It is very unlikely that you will ever see a bulky ectomorph.

If ectomorphs don’t eat healthy or exercise regularly, they can go one of 2 ways. They can get even skinnier. Or, they can become “skinny fat”, which is a term used to describe someone who looks slim in clothes, but a bit flabby in a bikini.

Even though ectomorphs have genetically slim bodies, it’s still important to eat healthy and exercise regularly for general health and to look fit and toned.


If you want to know your exact body type, you can take my free body type quiz! :) You’ll find out what your body type is, and how you should be training and eating to suit your body type.


We’ve Created A Quiz To Help You Determine Your Body Type!

  • It’s FREE
  • Takes Only 2 Minutes To Complete
  • You’ll Get 3 Workout & 3 Nutrition Tips For YOUR Body Type
calculator_imagev-2 (1)


I completely changed my workouts to suit my body type (I’m a mesomorph by the way), and the results were amazing. I slimmed down to the size I used to be, and I managed to build muscle so that I looked toned without being bulky.

My friend Nicole and I were now regulars at the gym. Girls had started coming up to us and asking me to train them instead of other PTs! I knew I was doing something right :)

So I started working as a personal trainer. And while most other personal trainers did the same old heavy weight lifting routines, I was the only one who trained my clients differently.

when should you quit a workout plan
My body lifting VS lighter training

I listened to exactly what they wanted to achieve and made a plan to suit them. I only trained women, and most of them had the same goals as me – to be toned but not bulky.

My clients got AMAZING results! I was so happy and felt like I had finally achieved what I wanted. I was helping women with the same thing I had struggled with. And I had found out how to stay fit, active and healthy, without any fear of getting bulky.

After seeing how happy my clients were, I decided to create my own workout and nutrition program for all women who want to get toned and lean.

My program is called Lean Legs Program 1 and there are three different versions of it, one for each body type. (I want you girls to be able to get the best possible results!)


Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

37 Responses

  1. THANK YOU!!!! I noticed this when looking at weight loss before and after pics. I noticed so many ladies had wide unattractive midsections and upper bodies, very masculine looking. Then kept reading advice from (obviously) tone deaf and blind trainers who kept swearing women can’t bulk up when I was trying to craft a fitness routine. It’s so sad how our health and fitness industry are.

    1. Hi lovely! Thanks for your feedback. Everyone has different fitness goals and it’s important that you follow the right plan that will help you achieve it. :)

  2. I used to be a dancer and never even touched a set of weights before I signed up to a CrossFit gym. My body changed DRASTICALLY. To go from my perfect lean, slim and toned hourglass figure dancer’s body to a *very* bulky CrossFit body was a real eye opener for me. I know you say you look bulky in your photo but at my bulkiest I was about twice your size with thighs and calves almost the size of a man’s! Do not do not not lift heavy weights if you’re a mesamorph/endomorph like me, especially if you did a lot of sport growing up (I did swimming when I was going through puberty which gave me very broad shoulders for life). To say that women can’t get bulky from lifting heavy weights is the BIGGEST myth in the fitness community today. I now know that I should be structuring my workouts to focus on cardio most days of the week to keep my body fat percentage low and resistance exercises like Pilates and light (not heavy) weights to keep my muscles toned, and I aim to do no more than 1 hour a week of resistance training just to be on the safe side.

    Thank you for your article, it’s so rare to find trainers speaking up on this prevalent and widespread issue. Keep doing what you’re doing and helping women who are currently in the same boat I once was!

    1. Hi lovely,

      You’re very welcome! We’re glad to know that you were able to relate and learn a lot from Rachael’s blogs. If you need any help or tips, feel free to reach out to us at

      I wish you all the best on your fitness journey! <3

  3. Such an eye opening article! I also started to get so bulky I was tearing through my clothes. The more I trained, the harder I trained – the more uncomfortable I felt in my body. Women can bulk up. It’s true. I switched trainers since I moved away and my trainer (a woman) totally understands. Being short (about 5’0) and leaning towards a meso-morph frame, I do get very bulky and awkward looking. I realized, only after the pandemic hit, and gyms closed that I was over training. I started to retain water. My ankles started to swell. I would get weird aches and pains. Finally my body was saying “it’s been too much”. I ended up get a hormone test done and my c reactive protein was out of whack. The sleepless nights, the lack of energy, and the soreness that wouldn’t go away was a sign to slow down & my trainer never understood. I am so glad that I switched gyms & are starting to love fitness again & looking less bulky.

    1. Hi lovely,

      We were glad that you were able to find out what is best for you! I hope you enjoyed reading this article. :)

      We wish you all the best in your fitness journey! xx


  4. Oh my gosh. Thank you. Thank you – someone finally understands!! 15 years of misattuned “fitness” advice/training and I’m finally on the path of becoming less bulky. I have the exact experience and body type as you wrote here, down to the frustration of so many people in the fitness world and on the internet completely invalidating our real goals – slim but healthy, not bulky. I’m so happy for your article. I’m still trying to reduce the large muscle mass left over on my thighs (almost 2 decades). I dream one day of being able to wear heels and a short dress and feel soft and slender without random people commenting sarcastically and judgmentally “Wow, you workout much?” about my arms and legs. Thank you. Giving your leg workout a try today!

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      I'm so glad to know that Rachael has helped you in so many ways. Regarding your concern, she also wrote a blog post that will help you slim down muscular thighs so feel free to give it a read. :)

      If you need more help or tips, you can email us at

      Wishing you the best of luck! xx

    1. Hi lovely,

      Body types are more on the way your body responds to exercises and certain diets, not just the appearance.

      No matter what your body type, you can lose body fat, gain muscle and make an improvement to your legs. But you can’t change your body type. If, for example, you are an endomorph, you will never have the physique of an ectomorph, and this should not be something to aim for.

      Learning how to adjust your diet and workouts for your own body type is one of the most important things that will help you achieve your desired results. :)


  5. I cannot thank you enough for this post! I have had the exact same issue with everyone telling me women cant put on size. I am a strong mesomorph and put on bulk almost instantly and end up looking stocky albeit fit, i have had to completely change my training on my own to finally lose all that bulk in addition to really watching my carb intake. Sorry but all those ppl talking about eating 2000+ calories and looking like a vs model have just been misleading women, esp those with meso and endo body types. I have done the 2000+ cals while training extremely hard and ended up looking like a heavy weight champion. I am still in the process and figuring out what suits me but yes ‘women cant put on bulk’ is one big myth and needs to be confronted more.

    1. Hi lovely,
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience and thoughts :-)
      We are happy that you have found this post inspiring and you are right, women should be aware of this topic more!

  6. hi Rachel, I’m in love with your site. I’m from Brazil, sorry for bad english, but I hope u undestand. I’m 1,71 cm and I’m skinny for the belly up, my legs are skinny too but my genetic is have a thick calf and ankle, not too much thick, but in the future probably I will have. I really want to have a skinny calf and ankle, but I don’t know how exercise to do or what I eat. Beyond have an skinny body I need to be health for all my body, skin and mental. I’m looking your site and I’ll make an diet plan based on VS angels, my dream is be an Angel, so I hope I get it. Thanks!! XOXO <3

    1. Hi gorgeous <3
      I agree completely - mental health is just as important as the physical! :) Here's a blog post that I think could help, it concerns slimming down calves.
      Also, if you register to Rachael’s platform for free, you will find a sample of a 7-day meal plan that you might find useful (it’s under ‘Free Items’), here’s the registration link.
      Good luck with your modeling career, babe!! xx

  7. hi rachael – i took your quiz but cannot tell how to answer the last q about my legs and arms. i have relatively skinny/avg arms with some tricep area fat but legs with larger than avg thighs and butt (is that short and thick or avg w upper fat?) im also 5’6″ 138lbs. i gain weight quickly and can only lose quickly when on an extreme and unhealthy diet. i have been working out cardio/resistance/weight lifting training for a little over a yr and have lost 12 lbs, 3in each off my waist and lower belly. 1in off my butt/hips area but not one mm off my thighs. currently i am a sz 27 in waist. Am i an endomorph or mesomorph?

  8. Hi Rachael!

    I’m very in between endo and mesomorph. I am super athletic and have broad shoulders and muscular thighs. I gain muscle and fat fast. I have a slim waist and I am 5’10. What book do you suggest I go with?

  9. Hi Rachael! My name is Nora and i’m 17 years old. Since i can remember i’ve always been overweight and wanted to lose weight. So i decided to join my local gym but i didn’t know a lot about exercise and i didn’t know which ones would make me bulky. So when i came across your website I was very excited because i’ve finally found a personal trainer who perfectly understands my problem. The only problem now is that i can’t really understand whether i’m a mesomorph or an endomorph. I’m naturally muscular especially on my thighs, calves and arms, where i also have some extra fat. So as a result i look big. Besides my shoulders are really broad and larger than my hips (I think my body shape is a triangle or a rectangle ) . Can you help me, please?

    1. Hi lovely,
      I’m so glad you’ve found the info on our blog helpful! :)
      It sounds like you’re the endomorph body type so I would recommend doing the endomorph program or following the endomorph guidelines.

      Our Lean Legs Program is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking.
      It will help you slim down your entire legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).
      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the ​Lean Legs Program here.


  10. Sorry I posted twice on accident. I promise I’m not trolling you! Also, my legs and my arms are naturally muscular. I’m not ripped, but when I flex, you can see muscle definition. I have most of my fat on my lower body. My calves are solid; but they are also kinda big. I have big feet for my height too and bigger thighs.

    1. It’s always me Nora. I’m 5’4(1, 64 m) tall and i weigh 143,3 lbs (65 kg). I also have a relatively big bone structure. I’ve actually lost 13 lbs through the summer and reached 141 lbs just before Christmas. But since then i’ ve been struggling a lot to lose weight. 2 years ago i’ ve been able to lose 22 lbs in a few months but even if everyone was telling me that i looked better i personally didn’t see any huge difference and clothes didn’t fit very loose. After Christmas i gained all the weight back and more, and went from 127,8 to 156,5.

  11. Hey Rachel!
    I can’t figure out my body type. I’m a busy senior in high school and don’t eat that much. I actually realized one time when I tried tracking for two days that I eat like between 1000 and 1500 (on a good day) calories a day! I’m 5’2 and 125 pounds. But when I go on holidays (1-2 weeks) and I eat like normal people :) — like 3 full meals a day — I easily gain like 5 pounds. I don’t know if this helps, but I look like a slightly bigger you, and I’m always at least in the 70th percentile in terms of weight for my height. I weigh the same as my 5’4 and 5’5 friends who look bigger than me. I aso have dense and fairly large bones — I can’t float :)

    1. Hi lovely,
      It sounds like you’re between the mesomorph and endomorph body type. In that case we recommend doing the endomorph program or following the endomorph guidelines.
      We suggest eating at least 1200 calories for a healthy weight loss. Eating below that can result in a damaged metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight later. It’s best to maintain a small calorie deficit diet (eat 200-400 calories less than you burn) and of course, make sure you’re getting the nutrients from whole foods! :)
      Hope that helps! xx


  12. I’m a mesomorph and short- I’m 5’1 and I find that hiit really burns fat from my waist but not my legs. Do you think if I just stuck with it longer the fat loss would eventually reach my legs? Or is this style never going to work for my body type?

    1. Hi lovely,
      You could still do some HIIT that focuses on your abs, but I would recommend doing mostly cardio and resistance training.

      We would love to help you as much as we can :) So that’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program!

      Our Lean Legs Program is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking.
      It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).

      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the program here:

      Lean Legs Program


  13. Hi Rachael,

    I’ve had an experience just like yours and I’m so glad someone is addressing the issue of looking bulky! It’s a real problem for mesomorphs like myself and it’s so discouraging. I used to lift weights, but I stopped because I didn’t like the way my legs looked and even when I was dieting/cutting, to the point of losing my period for months, my legs were still too muscular! It was clearly not the right training for my body type.. and not even healthy.

    That being said, I’m interested in purchasing your program! I was wondering, though, if you could share how much of a time commitment it is per week? I’m easing back into a fitness routine and I want to see if the amount of activity is right for me at this time.


    1. Hi lovely,
      I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. :( The workouts in the program are 5-6 days per week and they take about 20-40 minutes, plus walking. You can also combine the two workouts in a day by doing the run or circuit first and finish it with as much walking as you can! xx

      Wishing you all the best!xx


  14. Hey Rachael!

    I have just started your lean leg program, and feel a little sore. Is that a bad thing? Will I become bulky?


    1. Hi lovely,

      No, it’s normal to feel a little sore after a workout :) I haven’t designed the workouts to not make you bulky, so no need to worry about that. Hope you’re enjoying it! xx

  15. It’s beautiful that u share ur experience with the ones who need it . I personally wanted to find a solution for my legs since I am on low-carb diet currently (lost 14kgs) but not finding any results on my legs dissapoints me . However , I was expecting more from my legs. I hope I benefit from ur tips. Thanks !

  16. Hello Rachael, thank you so much for having come up with the lean legs guide. It’s what I’ve always wanted because most exercises tend to build muscles, making me gain weight and looking “tougher.” Following the above post, I’ve already owned 3 Steps to Skinny Legs and I’m wondering if it is still necessary to purchase 3 Steps to Lean Legs. Are they very different? What’s your recommendation? Thank you xx

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks so much for your support! And I’m really sorry for the confusion. I updated 3 Steps to Skinny Legs to 3 Steps to Lean Legs and made some improvements (whilst changing the name).

      I sent out the new version to everyone who had already bought it, but if you have not received the most up to date version, please email me at with proof of your order, and I’ll send it to you straight away xx

  17. Hi Rachael! I was looking for a good program to get lean legs without bulking and I found your website, which is fantastic! The only problem is that I got pretty confused when I saw both, the the 2 programs 3 steps to skinny legs and 3 steps to lean legs. Is the guide 3 steps to skinny legs no more available? Which one is more indicated to get slim legs without bulking? Are the exercises inside the two guides very different? Thank you ver much

    1. Hi lovely! I’m really sorry for the confusion. I updated 3 Steps to Skinny Legs to 3 Steps to Lean Legs and made some improvements (whilst changing the name). 3 Steps To Lean Legs is the only one available now and is dedicated to getting slim legs without bulking xx

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