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!
Will These Exercises Make My Legs Bigger?
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, please have a read of this blog post to find out.
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.
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.
Cross trainer / Elliptical
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.
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.
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.
Trampolining / Bounce
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!
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