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Last Updated May 11th, 2020 4:20 PM

If you join a gym, attend almost any fitness class or ask a PT for advice on how to slim down your legs– chances are you’re going to end up doing lots of squats.

But, do squats actually make your legs smaller, or do they actually increase thigh size? Will you end up with bigger legs overall with lots of squatting?

This is the question I get from a lot of girls, especially the ones that feel like they have issues with getting thinner thighs in general.

So, let’s find out.

Which Muscles Do Squats Work?

Are squats good for slimming down legs

The squat is one of the best compound exercises, meaning multiple muscles are activated at once – your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.

This is why squats are included in the majority of fitness programs and routines.

Squats will hit multiple muscles at once and (in most cases) give you a fantastic looking butt– which is the desired fitness goal for most girls.

But, doing a high volume of squats (especially with heavy weights) will definitely increase the size of your legs (quads and hamstrings).

Whether your legs end up bigger or smaller largely depends on your body type, your starting point and your diet.

But, if your goal is to specifically slim down your legs – this might NOT be the way to go, as doing lots of squats will most likely make your thighs bigger, not slimmer.

Let’s explain a bit more about how different body types respond to exercise in different ways.

Different Body Types Respond To Exercise Differently

can i get bulky legs from squats

Are your legs getting bigger from doing squats even though you see your friend getting slimmer legs with the same workouts?

You most likely have different body types.

There are 3 main female body types- ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph, and each responds differently to the same diet and workout regime.

And actually, 2 out of 3 female body types can get too muscular!

Endomorphs and mesomorphs build muscle quite quickly, while ectomorphs usually struggle to put on any muscle size.

Some girls will find growing muscles in their legs not to be an issue (as long as they’re building a booty), while some will end up feeling like their thighs got bulky from doing lots of squats.

I was one of them.

I was doing lots and lots of squats, trying to slim down my legs and ended up feeling very bulky…especially in my thighs!

My legs grew twice in size. I had trouble fitting into my old jeans and shorts, even though I was working out consistently and keeping a close eye on my diet.

Meanwhile, my friend – who did the exact same gym routine I was doing – actually got thinner thighs and really toned up her body.

I was doing lots of squats and lunges, expecting my thighs to get thinner, but I ended up making them bigger.

I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong!

That is until I learned the difference in body types and how to adjust my workout and diet regime to get the results I actually wanted.

So, incorporating a lot of squats in your exercise WILL make your legs bigger- especially if you are a mesomorph or an endomorph.

If you’re not sure what is your body type, you can take my FREE quiz that will help you find out in just 2 minutes. :)

WANT TO KNOW YOUR BODY TYPE?

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

  • It’s FREE
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Benefits Of Doing Squats For Your Body

Hitting multiple muscles in your lower body is good for burning lots of calories and, obviously, training lots of muscles with a single exercise is efficient.

And doing squats with a proper form will also help you get a lean and toned core and a bigger booty.

But you are building these leg muscles, which means you are increasing the size of them (i.e. you are increasing the size of your thighs and hamstrings).

Squats don’t necessarily get rid of the fat on your legs, either. That can only be achieved with a controlled and healthy diet.

Overall, squats are a great compound workout for your body – they help you get stronger legs and a bigger, rounder booty.

I’m not saying they’re bad at all! :)

But, I want you to be aware that you CAN get a bigger booty with other types of exercises that won’t necessarily make your thighs bigger.

Can I get a bigger booty without doing lots of squats?

Squats are known as the butt-building king of exercise. And, it will definitely work your glute muscles a lot (if done properly).

But, there are still ways of growing your butt without growing your legs.

This can be achieved with butt isolation workouts, which are especially efficient if you are quad dominant.

The truth is unless you activate your glute muscles properly before doing lots of squats (i.e. with glute bridges), the vast majority of girls seem to be quad dominant.

This means that when doing squats, your quads (front thighs) are doing the majority of the work and firing up, while your booty…not so much.

do squats make your legs bigger or smaller
My butt was not built from squats

To summarize, if you want lean legs, heavy squats won’t necessarily give you that look (unless you are an ectomorph body type and find it difficult to gain muscle/fat).

And if you want to reduce muscle bulk on your legs, you need to stop squatting.

You won’t reduce the muscle size if you continue to squat and continue to use these muscles. Use it or lose it rule, remember?

THE PRESSURE TO SQUAT 

Everywhere you look, people are advocating for squats, squats, squats!

Trainers will tell you that you can’t get too muscular from squats, and squats are honestly the number 1 exercise that trainers live by (I know this too because I worked as a personal trainer in a gym).

Having too much muscle on your legs is really up to the individual, as it really depends on personal preference.

The number one issue I’ve seen from working out as a PT is the lack of communication about the desired physique.

For example, one person might think that this woman’s legs look amazing, and others might think they look too muscular.

So if a trainer wants you to achieve this look, and you don’t like it, you’re going to have a problem.

These legs are achieved by squatting with very heavy weights.

CAN I GET THINNER THIGHS WITH LIGHTER WEIGHTS AND HIGHER REPS?

If you continue to squat, you will continue to grow your leg muscles. It’s that simple.

Any workout that targets your quads heavily, will maintain or grow your muscle size (depending on your diet).

Even if you are doing lighter weights and higher reps, you are still using these muscles.

You may not build as much muscle compared to heavy lifting, but you will still continue to work these muscles. That means they will not decrease in size.

To decrease the size of the muscle, you need to stop squatting and also stop other exercises that are targeting these muscles directly.

That is the fastest way to decrease muscle size for any body part.

IF MY THIGHS ARE TOO BIG, CAN I JUST DIET TO SLIM THEM DOWN?

Diet will help you with reducing the fat on your body, which is great! And it will also help you reduce fat on your legs (although not as much as cardio).

If you diet and eat better, but continue to squat, your legs won’t go down in size. You can still maintain muscle at a slight calorie deficit.

So, this might help you lose weight but won’t change the size of your thighs.

Related Post: How To Slim Down Muscular Thighs

WILL SQUATS MAKE YOUR THIGHS SMALLER: SUMMARY

  • Squats will most likely make your legs bigger – especially if you’re an endomorph or mesomorph (and especially if you’re doing heavy weight squats)
  • Squats increase the size of your leg muscles (especially quads, hamstrings and glutes) and don’t do much to decrease the fat, so overall your legs will look bigger.
  • If you’re trying to decrease the muscles in your legs, you need to stop squatting.

I hope you found this blog post helpful!

HOW TO EXERCISE TO GET SLIMMER THIGHS, NOT BULK UP

If doing squats has made your legs bulkier, and you would like to lean them out, I should also mention my Lean Legs Program 1, which is designed to help you get lean legs without the bulkiness. :)

There are 3 different versions of my program, one for each body type.

Each version includes the right type of resistance training for one particular body type, so you can be sure you’re going to get the best possible results. 

The resistance training has FULL-LENGTH videos that you can follow from warm up to cool down.

To find out more about my Lean Legs Program 1, CLICK HERE!

Love Rachael xx

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.

46 Responses

  1. Hi Rachael,,,
    Thanks a lot for those info…. I’m endomorph type…. I’m always with squats and wondering about my thighs… Getting bigger and bigger…… Then I found your article.. Thankgod!!! hahaha!!! So, should I stop doing squats or what? I wanna get fit and slimmer not big and big and big… Can they go back to their ori size?…. Oh gosh!!! I’m stress with this all but laughed when I found this article… What I’ve done… haha! 🤦

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      You can do squats but make sure that you are using bodyweight and not overdoing it :) If you notice that it’s still causing bulkiness, I would suggest to avoid them completely. Rachael has an awesome guideline for endomorphs that I think you’ll find super helpful, you can find it here.

      I hope this helps, please let me know if you have any questions! xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  2. Hi there,

    We have got a trampoline and I have started jumping on it most days with my daughter. Will this type of exercise add to thigh size? I think I am between meso and endo.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      Jumping on a trampoline is kind of like skipping – it's a great cardio exercise but it won’t slim down your legs and the bouncing motion can actually make your calves and thighs bigger. Every once in awhile is probably OK. But I don’t think it is the most effective exercise – power walking and running are more effective in terms of cardio :)

      I hope this helps! xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  3. Hii Rachel,
    I’m a ectomorph person,My legs are too thin like chicken leg but thighs are fine how can I get bigger calf muscle.

    1. Hi lovely,

      Rachael’s Program is made to slim down legs, calves including. So unfortunately, I don’t think that you’ll find much information on how to make your calves bigger on Rachael’s blog.

      Best wishes! xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  4. Hii Rachel,
    My legs are too thin like chicken leg but thighs are fine how can I get bigger calf muscle.

    1. Hi lovely,

      Rachael’s Program is made to slim down legs, calves including. So unfortunately, I don’t think that you’ll find much information on how to make your calves bigger on Rachael’s blog.

      Best wishes! xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  5. Hey Rachel,

    I am from Indian and I just starting out on my fitness journey and I have been doing squats a.d lunges wihout any wieghts. Will this also increase the bulkiness in my leg ? Should I completely avoid doing them or is there some balance?

    1. Hi lovely <3

      Unfortunately, squats and lunges even without weights will most probably bulk up your thighs unless you are an ectomorph - if you are not sure about your body type you can do Rachael's Body Type Quiz.
      It is completely free and takes just 2 minutes! :)

      I hope this helps! xx

      Love,
      Ana

  6. Hi Rachael, m from India. 2 years before i joined gym to reduce my weight, they told me to do squats and heavy squats…and in return my thighs and butt increased a lot. I left the gym bcz of my tight schedule. Now I’m suffering with heavy thighs which I don’t like at all.
    Any exercise to reduce my lower body. M bit confused . Please provide me with the advice

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

      The 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 (hips, thighs and calves), 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

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

      1. So my question is if you’re doing cardio and do squats as part of your routine because you need to replace some of that fat with lean muscle and not lose any muscle, which should be a goal for a person that truly needs to lose weight, to tone the body up and doesn’t muscle take up less space in the body then fat, so how is it that squats would make your thighs/legs appear bigger unless you don’t have much to your thighs in the first place then I could see squats making you appear bulky and not just a little muscular and toned and less flabby???
        Kind of a run on question sorry, but the article seems a bit off from what I know and have been educated about in the first place.

        1. Hi lovely,
          Our experience with training ourselves and other women is that squats tend to build up too much muscle in the quads. It’s really a matter of personal preference and what you consider to be too much muscle. If squats are working for you, then keep it going girl! xx

          Love,
          Diana

    1. Hi lovely,
      I recommend doing more cardio like running and power walking and avoiding squats, lunges and heavy weight lifting because that can make your legs bulky. You could add some ankle weights and resistance bands if you’d like to increase the size of your glutes.

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

      The 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).
      There are also extra booty workouts to help you get a perkier butt.
      It includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.
      You can find out more about the Lean Legs Program here:

      Lean Legs Program

      For more helpful info please have a read of these blog posts:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/236-butt-workout-that-wont-bulk-up-your-quads/

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/booty-workout-for-women/

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  7. Hii Rachael !! I m big fan of yours… I m from india … I want to join your lean legs program … My body is endomorph type .. Is it possible to join your program and I m totally vegetarian and please tell me how to join your lean leg program ??

    1. Hi lovely,
      The 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 Lean Legs Program here:

      Lean Legs Program

      The meal plan in the program hasn’t been tailored for vegetarians, but we have a list of vegetarian alternatives and recipes that I can send you to help you modify the plan :) xx

      Love,
      Diana

    1. Hi lovely,
      While squats can help you reduce fat, they may build unwanted muscle.
      I know that reaching your fitness goals is hard and that you probably have lots of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      We would love to help you as much as we can :) So that’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program!

      The 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 Lean Legs Program here:

      Lean Legs Program

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  8. Hi Racheal! Is it possible to get bigger thighs from just body weight squats? Like 15 reps, 5 sets daily. I have started boxing classes recently as I thought it would involve primarily upper body workouts but was surprised when my trainer got me to squat as well :( Apparently stronger legs will help me with boxing and hip movements.

    1. Hi lovely,

      Yes, it’s possible to get bulky legs from body weight squats if you gain muscle in legs easily.

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

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  9. if i continue to do squats it would increase its size but is it possible if they turn into muscles and it would look firm?

    1. Hi lovely,

      Yes, your legs would look firmer whether you incorporate squats into the Lean Legs Program or not.
      If your goal is to have lean and toned legs instead of bulky and muscular then we advise you to skip the squats :)

      Love, Lean Legs Club support xx

  10. Hi I have become super depressed as squatting has given me thunder thighs and I used to have the perfect skinny legs. I have stopped all trAining as I struggled to fit into a size 12 even after being a size ten all my life. In four weeks I have seen some muscle atrophy but my legs are still huge. Will I get my legs back to the way they were in a few months

    1. Hi lovely,

      I know that reaching your fitness goals is hard! And that you probably have lots of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      Rachael would love to help you further along your journey :) That’s why she has created her Lean Legs program and the Lean Legs Club, where she’s available to answer ALL of your questions and provide more guidance with the workout program and nutrition.
      The 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. Check out this link for the full program!

      For more useful info please read this blog post:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/slim-muscular-thighs-skinny-legs/

      Love, Lean Legs Club support
      xx

  11. Hi there, i have really muscular legs naturally and don’t want them to get bigger. What excercises can I do to get a toned bum without getting muscular legs? Thanks

  12. my thighs are very skinny and i want them bigger I am doing 100 to 300 squats a day for the past couple days and it feel as if my legs are getting bigger should i continue doing them i do them at home because i cannot go to the gym i really want them bigger

    1. Hi there, yes if you are trying to increase size I would do a combination of leg exercises such as squats, lunges, as well as plyo exercises such as jump squats, box jumps, burpees, etc. Squats alone are great but mix it up to get better results! :) xx

  13. My main problem area are my thighs. I joined gym to slim them down. But i feel they hav grown bigger. I was just squatting with my own body weight. I am short and bulky legs is something i never want. My quads hav grown in size. Trainer tells me eventualy wen fat wil go away i wil hv good shaped legs. Its fat over muscle which is mking dem look bulky. I am in a calorie deficit. I eat 1000 cal a day. Please help. What should i do to slim them down?wat wkrkouts?

          1. Okay thanks for responding. It’s kind of hard to find workouts on youtube without lunges or squats.

    1. Hi Eva! They do focus mostly on your butt but also use your other leg muscles too. If you don’t engage your glutes properly with glute bridges, your quads will take over and you might make them bigger.. xx

    1. Hi Lindsey, they will still build a bit of muscle but depends how many you do and how often. They won’t lean out your legs though. If you’re trying to reduce muscle, I would avoid them xx

  14. Hi Rachael,

    I have been following you for a very long time now, but still haven´t taken the opportunity to buy your e-book. Mostly because I have been hesitant about whether it would actually work. But something so strongly tells me it does!

    I finally joined a gym a month ago, and had 3 sessions with a personal trainer. I have to say I was quite disappointed as it seems almost all my exercises consist out of squats and in my opinion machines with too heavy weights for my weight. I am currently 56 kg and 1.68 tall. I gained a lot of weight in the last 2 to 3 years. I actually used to be between 48 and 52 kilos. Now my ideal goal is to be 52 kilos +/- again (though I don´t want to focus just on the number) and my problem areas are my thighs, belly and waist in general.

    The problem is that now that I am finally hitting the gym on a daily basis, I am 100% sure I am doing the wrong workouts provided by the trainer. My skinny legs (which I had all my life), have turned in to more bulkier legs and of course I still have lots of fat to burn off but I feel like they are not slimming down. My question to you: you think my body type is ectomorph or esomorph? A few years ago I would have said ectomorph without a doubt, but because I gained weight I don´t feel that is my body nowadays, though it is my goal to get it back. I would really like to purchase the ebook soon and work with your exercises!

    My apologies for the long message – I couldn´t find a contact page to personally send you an e-mail regarding this subject.

    Shareen

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