If I have to pick the most popular question I am constantly asked, it would definitely be: ”How to slim down muscular thighs?”
How to Slim Down Muscular Thighs – Get Toned Without Bulking
I know most people go to the gym to build muscle, but many women actually have issues with getting overly muscular legs when they exercise.
Some people have even told me that their legs get bigger with running, barre, yoga and other exercises that you wouldn’t expect to bulk up your thighs.
In saying that though, everyone’s idea of “bulky” is different. This is something every personal trainer should be aware of.
For some women, having just a little bit of muscle in their thighs might be too much, and for others, it might be OK.
However, my arms and stomach tend to slim down. Even just 2 weeks of HIIT, will cause my legs to increase in size. I don’t have too many examples of photos of me when I’m like this, but here is one so you can get an idea.
I will share with you the exact exercises you need to do to slim down muscular thighs. And at the end, I will also give you some ideas on exercises you can do to slim and tone the rest of your body, but without bulking up your legs.
Steady State Running
Everyone knows that marathon runners have skinny legs. Long duration steady state cardio will slim down your legs.
I would run at a medium fast pace and aim for 5kms or at least 30 minutes. But longer is better if you’re trying to slim down muscle.
For speed, I would recommend somewhere between 9-12 km/hr.
And always make sure you’re running on a flat surface. Any uphill running will use your quads more and will contribute to bulkiness.
I should also mention that if you are very short and are the endomorph body type, your legs may actually get bigger with running.
If this is a problem for you, I would focus on walking.
Power walking is the best exercise for slimming down your legs and still burns a surprising number of calories, so don’t feel disheartened if all you can do is walk.
The last thing I want to mention is that running is much more effective at slimming down your legs than the cross trainer/elliptical.
In case you want more details or have more questions about cardio, read my Q&A Cardio post.
Do Fasted Cardio
When you do cardio, your body will burn stored glycogen (carbohydrates) first, and then fat, followed by protein (muscle).
If you do cardio before you eat, you will have less stored glycogen, and your body will, therefore, burn more fat and muscle.
But for this to work, you need to eat low carb (preferably you haven’t eaten any carbs for dinner the night before), and you need to do cardio for a fairly long period of time.
I have written a much more detailed blog post on fasted cardio, so have a read of this here if you’re interested.
Eat At A Calorie Deficit And Low Carb
Decreasing your calorie intake will help you lose weight and also muscle. Muscles are a metabolically active tissue, so they require calories.
If you reduce your calories, your body will not be able to sustain your muscle size, and they will decrease. To work out how many calories you should be eating, read this blog post.
If you also eat low carb, your body might also use fat and protein (muscle) for energy, rather than carbohydrates. This will help you decrease your muscle size quicker.
OK, so if you do these 3 things, your leg muscles will start to decrease. However, it is important to know what NOT to do.
What Not To Do
Avoid Any Exercise That Uses These Muscles
As long as you are lifting heavy or doing exercises that use your leg muscles, you won’t lose the muscle.
It’s really that simple.
Even if you’re doing light weight and high rep, you still won’t lose the muscle. You won’t necessarily build muscle, but you will maintain the muscle that you currently have.
So avoid anything you’re doing that uses your legs, including the traditional squats, deadlifts, burpees, and leg weighted machines. And avoid “leg days”.
I would also avoid exercises such as HIIT and CrossFit.
Avoid Any Exercise That Causes You To Get Bulky Legs
As I mentioned, some women experience bulky legs when they do running, barre and yoga.
If you notice your legs increasing in size with a particular exercise, don’t do it! It is very individual, and you need to do what works best for you.
On my blog, I do have some HIIT exercises that won’t cause you to bulk up.
However, if you are an endomorph, are very short, or very very sensitive to building muscle, these exercises still might cause you to build too much muscle for your liking. So I would do these with caution.
If they work for you, that’s great! If not, don’t do them.
Cardio is good for slimming down your legs, but not if you’re sprinting.
Sprinting will build muscle, and especially in your quads. Make sure your cardio is steady state. And again, make sure it’s on a flat surface (no hill or stair runs!).
How To Tone Up Without Bulking Up Your Legs
There are still different types of exercises and resistance training workouts that you can do to tone up, without targeting your legs and making them bigger.
ALL of the workouts on my blog are designed to help you tone up without getting bulky, so I would highly recommend giving them a try! :)
For your lower body, my favorite exercises are pilates-style moves and exercises that focus on toning up your butt, rather than increasing the size of your thighs.
For your upper body, I absolutely love swimming and boxing for toning up (as well as burning LOTS of calories) without bulking up.
When I lift weights for my upper body, and especially when I do pull-ups and overhead pressing, my back gets really wide.
However, if you still want to do weights, read my blog post on how to do it without getting bulky.
Boxing tones up my shoulders and arms without getting broad. Swimming is also great, but just be careful not to overdo it, or your back might get broad.
I also have a Lean Legs eBook which will help you slim down your legs and tone up your body, without getting bulky legs. It includes cardio and the style of resistance training that I have mentioned in this blog post.
Check out my eBook here.
And as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! xx