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Will These Exercises Make My Legs Bigger?

By Rachael Attard, Updated Mar 26, 2019
will cycling make my legs bigger

I get lots and lots of questions about certain exercises and if they will make your legs bigger or bulkier. So I thought I would summarize them all into one big blog post. If I haven’t mentioned an exercise that you are wondering about, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer and add this to the blog post too!



If you are an endomorph, then yes cycling will most likely make your legs bigger so I would avoid it completely.

If you are a mesomorph, you may or may not be able to get away with cycling. Some mesomorphs are OK with it, while others aren’t. However either way, I would still only do it 1-2 times per week maximum because overdoing it with cycling will most likely make your legs bigger.

If you don’t know your body type, you can take my Body Type Quiz. It’s completely free and it will help you learn your body type in just 2 minutes :)


This really depends on what type of dancing you are doing and how much you’re doing. If you’re dancing for really long periods every day, then your legs may increase in size, regardless of what dancing you’re doing. Overusing your leg muscles can cause bulkiness.

If your style of dance requires lots of jumping and moving from sitting to standing, then it may cause bulkiness. But again, this depends on your body type too.

will cycling make my legs bigger


Barre classes can be great, but it depends on the teacher and the style of barre they do. I have been to a barre class which did have some exercises standing at the bar, but also had lots and lots of squat jumps, squat holds and burpees. This type of barre will make your legs bigger. But if your teacher sticks more to floor based workouts and exercises at the bar, then I think that’s great. It could be worth trying a few different classes / teachers to find a style that you really like.


Skipping is great cardio but can’t be substituted for walking and running because it won’t slim down your legs. It does burn a lot of calories which is, but the jumping motion uses your calves heavily. Skipping will most likely contribute to bigger calves and can make your legs bigger all over.


If you are an endomorph, I would avoid sprinting all together. And if you are a mesomorph, I would sprint with caution. I prefer to do my sprints as more of a “fast paced run” and make the sprint intervals longer rather than just 30 seconds. This won’t cause bulkiness like short and intense sprints will. If you’re worried, I would just stick to steady state running instead.


I don’t think this machine will really cause bulkiness, but it won’t slim down your legs like running and walking will. The pushing down motion means you engage your quads more so it will build more muscle here. But it’s not the style of workout that will necessarily cause bulkiness. If you can’t walk or run for some reason, the cross trainer is the next best thing.


I love reformer pilates! But I have had some women tell me that they have bulked up from reformer pilates. Some workouts do include lots of squats and lunges which build muscle in your quads and can make your legs bigger and more muscly. This depends on your teacher and the style of reformer pilates that they teach. Again, I would try a few different teachers and classes to find one that suits you best.

will cycling make my legs bigger

If you are still having issues with reformer pilates, I would try regular floor based pilates instead.


I used to think rowing mostly used your arms, but it really is a full body workout. I must admit I do enjoy rowing for this reason and I feel like I’ve worked really hard afterwards. But rowing relies heavily on your quads and glutes, so it can bulk up this area. I would not do it too often.


The step machine will cause bulkiness and I would avoid this, regardless of your body type. You are much better off walking on a flat surface instead.


Running is a great exercise because it burns LOTS of calories and helps you slim down all over. But doing too much running can actually have the opposite effect and can bulk up your legs. I would only recommend running 3 times per week at a maximum.

will cycling make my legs bigger

If you are an endomorph or are shorter, then you may experience your legs bulking up with running. This is because running actually does build muscle in your legs. If you have this issue, I would avoid running.


This one is kind of like skipping. It won’t slim down your legs and the bouncing motion can actually make your calves and thighs bigger. Every once in a while is probably OK. But I don’t think it is the most effective exercise.


I think swimming is great cardio and is a good alternative if you can’t run for some reason. It tones up your arms and increases your cardio fitness really quickly. I have personally achieved really great results with swimming.

If you do lots and lots of swimming every single day like a professional swimmer, you might bulk up and get broad shoulders. However if you just swim for fitness (i.e. 30 minutes 3 times per week) I don’t think you will get bulky – just don’t overdo it :)


Yoga classes can have a lot of poses that focus heavily on leg strength. I don’t think yoga will cause you to bulk up as such, but it can increase muscle size which can be unwanted. If you are on the shorter side, or an endomorph, or both, doing too much yoga may cause too much muscle. If this is the case, I would avoid overdoing it on yoga classes. I think 1-2 classes per week is fine. But everyone will be different!

yoga for lean muscle


Roller blading probably has similar effects as running. It can be really great and is good cardio. But certain body types (i.e. shorter endomorphs) may experience bulkiness if they do it too much. But if you love it and get good results with it, then definitely do it!

As I mentioned, if I haven’t mentioned an exercise that you are wondering about, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer and add this to the blog post too! Thanks to all those who have commented so far xx


I should also mention my 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program which is designed to help you get gorgeous lean legs without the bulkiness.

It is an 8-week program that combines cardio and resistance training according to your body type so you can be sure you’re going to get the best possible results.

My program also includes a complete 8-week meal plan which will help you eat healthy.

As you guys know, I always say that the good diet is the key to success :)

Picture of Rachael

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.

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63 comments on “Will These Exercises Make My Legs Bigger?”

    Amanda Thomas says:

    This was a great article! As a former elite, D1 track and field mid-distance athlete, I’ve always been on the mesomorph/endomorph side. I am currently working on losing fat and leaning out by mixing some resistance training with floor barre, walking, running, occasional HIIT, and pilates. I think my issue is doing to much, rather than sticking to a consistent method. It’s a journey, because in the past, if did too much cardio and not enough resistance, I got flabby and cellulite was more apparent. If I did a ton of HIIT or stationary cycling, I would retain my muscle and not get the lean look I wanted. I have a lot of muscle on me and am relatively lean; 5”7 at 151lb. My goal is to lose some muscle and fat, and lengthen my muscles through cardio and little to no isolation exercises.

      Sara - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely <3,

      Seems like you have a great plan ahead of you!:)

      It's always a journey, no matter the starting point, I agree with you!:)

      If you have any questions, feel free to ask!:)


    Anne says:

    Imm based in the UK so unfortunately couldn’t subscribe to this program but it sounds fab. Just wanted some advice, Ive recently been trying ballet exercises (ballet beautiful by mary Helen bower) would this cause thighs to bulk up? I started an exercise program a few months ago which caused my thighs to bulk up because it involved a lot of squats and lunge jumps so trying to find a program now to get rid of this extra muscle. Have also heard of pvolve as well but unsure if this would help?

      Marina - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hey lovely,

      You can get Rachael’s program in any country in the world. Everything is completely digital so there’s no shipping :)

      Yes, unfortunately, ballet classes can cause bulkiness, especially if you are a Mesomorph or Endomorph body type.:/

      If you need help with slimming muscular thighs, I would recommend reading this blog post first.

      Let me know if you have any other questions! xx


    Elle says:


    This is a great post, very informative, but for someone who has done the lean workout program and has a mesomorph and ectomorph body type what type of workout will be good to further target fat thigh loss and slimming? Is boxing dancing good ideas? and maybe alternating one-day cardio and one-day resistance


      Marina - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hey lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      After finishing the first 8 weeks of the Program, Rachael usually suggests doing another round for even better results or maintenance.
      You can also add (slightly heavier) ankle weights or resistance bands, or you can increase repetitions per set to make the workouts more challenging.

      If you’d like to add more variety in the second round, you can combine the program with other types of workouts such as swimming, boxing, pilates, yoga and similar! xx

      Hope this helps :)


    Blanca says:

    Hello, I am an endormorph and I was wondering if walking in a inclined superfice or walking in heels do bulk up your legs.

      Tijana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely <3
      Walking and running is best done on a flat surface if you don’t want to bulk up your quads. Any uphill walking and running will use your quads more and can make your legs bulkier. If you are on the treadmill, you can set your incline to 0.1% to replicate walking outside. But if you have trouble with shin splints (like Rachael does), it's best to keep it to 0%.
      As for heels, I don't think they would bulk up your legs but wearing them often shortens muscle fibers and causes cramped calves, so if you need to wear them all day because of work, I would stretch out my feet periodically and try to alternate between flats and heels.
      Hope this helps! xx

    Jo says:


    Can you recommend some exercise classes suitable for endomorph body shapes please. I get you want to sell your lean legs programme, however, I still like classes because I like the social aspect and can motivate myself more.

    I wound like to know a few different classes that work well for endomorphs to incorporate in their routine.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I know that working out in a group can be a lot more fun and motivating for some girls! :)
      The best classes suitable for endomorphs would be boxing, pilates, yoga, pvolve and similar.
      All the best! xx


    Henna says:

    Hi- great material. Very helpful. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on power walking and/or running on a treadmill instead of on ground?

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I’m glad you’ve found the post helpful! :) There are a couple of differences between cardio done on a treadmill and cardio on ground. To learn more about it, please have a read of this blog post.


    Anna says:

    Hello! :)
    I have started dancing at home-zumba.I want to loose weight,especially in thighs and calves.
    Do you think this kind of exercising will help or it will make them look bigger?This is the main thing i want to avoid.
    Thank you :D

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      No, I don’t think zumba will make your legs bigger, but there are more effective workouts that will help you slim them down. :)

      Our Lean Legs Program has been designed to include the perfect type of resistance training and cardio to give you a lean and toned look, without making you bulky.

      It’s an 8 week workout and nutrition plan that 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.

      If this is what you’re looking for I would definitely recommend giving our program a go. :) You can find out more about it here:

      Lean Legs Program


    Madeleine says:

    Is a recumbent bike used at a low resistance setting any better than an upright bike? I would like to do 30 mins once or twice a week to give some variety. I am a mesorph. Thank you

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      I don’t think there’s a big difference between these bikes. If cycling doesn’t make your legs bulky, feel free to add it to your workout routine! :) xx


    E. Denise says:

    My daughter was a gymnast up until July and has been doing your suggested leg workouts for lean legs in order to slim down. We both wanted to incorporate cardio into out week and since she is shorter in stature, we have been sticking to walking. We live in Michigan, and with the cold Fall and Winter seasons we find it hard to get outside to walk. My daughter and I found walk workouts on YouTube which mainly use walking in place as well as moving forward and back, knee lifts, kicks, and side-to-side steps. We are wondering if these added moves besides the walking motion will build muscle. When we are doing the workouts and they suggest sitting into the side to side motion to make it more of a squat, she doesn’t do that, but instead just steps side to side. Thank you for your advice.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      It sounds like you’re doing a great job so far :) I don’t think this will build any muscle, so keep going!
      I would suggest considering a gym membership where you have access to a treadmill (at least during the winter), so you don’t have to substitute walking and running – which is the best for slimming down your legs! xx

      For more helpful info please have a read of this blog post.


    Kayan says:

    I’m so confused. I feel like all of these exercises are cautioned for endomorphs not to do them. So what do you recommend for endomorphs, not only for legs, but like whole body slimming?

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      Yes, endomorphs should avoid most of these exercises (except pilates, yoga, swimming and some forms of dance). I would recommend power walking as much as you can in combination with resistance training – you could also use light ankle weights or resistance bands.
      If you store a lot of fat in your upper body, you could also do some light HIIT that will target your abs.

      We have designed the Lean Legs Program to include the perfect type of resistance training and cardio to give you a lean and toned look, without making you bulky.
      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


        Vijitha says:

        Are the ankle weights and resistance bands for power walking as well or just the resistance training?

          Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

          I would only recommend them for resistance workouts lovely! It’s better to do cardio without any extra weight :) xx