Last updated on August 1st, 2019 10:09 AM
Are you wondering how to get skinny legs? From the time I had originally written this post (in 2015), I have met with hundreds of girls who all face the same problem.
They want to feel confident in dresses, shorts, and leggings. And they want to feel amazing at the beach, not self-conscious about their butt and thighs.
The problem is, they don’t know how to eat and train to get slim legs without building too much muscle in the process. And, no matter what popular opinion says: Women can get too bulky… for their own liking.
The truth is, not everyone responds to training in the same way. Our genetics determine the types of muscle fibers we have, it determines our ratio of testosterone to estrogen and where we store body fat.
And it also determines our body type.
Working as a personal trainer, I found that most women wanted to do cardio to lean out their legs, but were always pushed to do weights and lift heavier and heavier. Cardio was usually out of the question.
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 had the same experience with a PT and ended up very disappointed.
This is what got me into studying fitness and nutrition, becoming a personal trainer and finally creating the 3 Steps To Lean Legs Program and Lean Legs Video Course for women who wanted a lean and toned body, but were misunderstood by other PT’s.
I made it my mission to help women understand how to get slim legs and how to do resistance training to get toned without getting bulky. So, let’s cut to the chase!
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.
When I talk about low to moderate intensity cardio, essentially I’m talking about walking.
Walking is the best type of exercise for lean legs. It will help get rid of excess fat on your legs and lean them out. And walking burns a surprisingly high number of calories.
However, it is important to mention that long, slow cardio (i.e. walking) is NOT the most effective way of losing weight overall if that is your main goal. When you are trying to lose weight, you should be trying to burn more calories than you are eating.
But, here we are focusing specifically on how to get thinner legs.
When you do cardio at a low to moderate intensity i.e. walking, your body burns stored glycogen (carbs) first, and then fats.
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.
That said, 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 are both great for helping me get lean legs.
Walking is very specific to getting rid of fat from your legs. It is great for slimming down your legs, but you need to combine it with the resistance training to tone them up further.
Resistance training will not only tone your legs, but it will also increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories. This helps with overall weight loss. More on that below.
Running burns a LOT of calories, so it is great with overall weight loss.
However, running doesn’t seem to work as good as walking does for getting thinner legs, especially for certain body types (see more below).
If slimming down legs is your goal, I would focus mostly on walking and add some running to mix it up.
BONUS TIP: For getting thinner legs faster, make sure you do long-distance running instead of sprinting and avoid running uphill or using the stairs that can bulk up your quadriceps (front of your thighs).
When you are walking, your body is in the “fat-burning zone” and this is the key 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 30 years old.
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.
BONUS TIP: 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. Aim for a fast pace, but you should able to maintain this speed for at least 1 hour.
I walk at a speed of 7 km/hr. Occasionally I will walk a little slower or faster, but it will always be between about 6.5 – 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. My recommendation is 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.
Here are some helpful tips on how to do more cardio daily:
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!
Walking works if you do it at any time of the day. But, if you want to know how to get skinny legs fast, walk first thing in the morning before you have eaten anything – this is known as fasted cardio.
Intermittent fasting has many benefits, but when you exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, you will end up burning more fat instead.
When you first wake up, you have not eaten 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.
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.
One of the most common complaints I hear about walking is that it is boring. Here are some tips that I use to help keep me entertained during my daily cardio:
OK, now when we covered the cardio part, let’s move on to the next step.
You can not get skinny legs if you are doing the wrong resistance training.
If you do the incorrect exercises, your legs will either stay the same (and won’t slim down no matter what you do), or get bigger and bulkier.
You must avoid quad focused exercises that build muscle at the front of your thighs. This may cause your legs to bulk up, especially if you gain muscle easily.
These exercises include squats, lunges, burpees, and any heavy style workouts that you see in CrossFit workouts. Especially anything with heavy weights.
To tone up your legs and butt without adding bulk, you should focus on lighter workouts. Think Pilates-inspired moves such as:
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.
You can take my Free Body Type Quiz to discover which of the three body types is yours.
This is a summary of how to do cardio and resistance training to suit your body type:
A lot of women ask me how to get skinny legs if they have an endomorph body type, and if it’s even possible. It is more challenging than with other two body types, but definitely possible.
Note: 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.
You can do lots of walking and do all the correct resistance exercises, but if you aren’t eating a healthy diet and aren’t eating the right amount of food, you won’t get results.
To lose weight overall and slim down your legs, you need to be eating less food than your body needs. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy diet:
If you made it all the way through here- good job! Let’s recap everything we’ve covered and then move the most frequent questions I get asked by women I am working with.
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 for longer distance, so you aren’t really puffed out, your body might use some fat. But, in that case I believe 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!
Resistance training is an anaerobic activity, so it will burn stored glycogen (carbs) and creatine phosphate (unlike walking which burns fat).
However, resistance training improves your metabolism, which in turn increases the number of calories you burn.
This is important for losing weight overall. So, it is very important when it comes to fat loss.
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 altogether, but it is still important.
As I just mentioned, it increases your metabolic rate so that you burn more calories throughout the day.
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.
Usually, I 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 Lean Legs Program, 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.
Eating healthy is extremely important. But if you’re not used to having a healthy diet and you’re not sure where to start, I suggest you try it for a week or two.
I have a FREE 7 Day Slim Legs Diet Plan that will help you get used to a healthy diet but also it will help you slim down your legs.
You can download it below :)
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 Lean Legs Program is the answer!
I created my 3 Steps To Lean Legs Program 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 program includes 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 guides for each of the 3 main body types.
Also, for the Resistance Training part of my Program, I now have FULL-LENGTH videos you can follow from warm-up to cool down.
To find out more about my FULL-LENGTH VIDEOS, follow this link:
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 to 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 started googling how to get skinnier legs when she found me!
I designed a program for her, very similar to my 3 Steps To Lean Legs Program. 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.