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Is HIIT making my legs bigger or smaller?

By Rachael Attard, Updated Sep 20, 2020
hiit legs bigger or smaller

HIIT workouts are a very common type of exercise. They’re convenient, good for you, and great at burning calories. However, many women (including myself!) noticed that their legs got bigger from regular traditional HIIT workouts.

In this article, I’ll explain more about HIIT, what it does for your body, and give you suggestions for how to do HIIT workouts without bulking up. :)

WHAT IS HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training.

During a HIIT workout, you do an exercise (for example high knee runs) for as hard as you can but for a short period of time (less than a minute usually).

After pushing your hardest, you go back to walking, jogging, or some other mellow activity to give your heart a quick break. Then, you repeat the intense exercise again.

These workouts are pretty short. They typically last for just about 10 to 30 minutes. However, that doesn’t make them easy.

Even though most HIIT workouts don’t last more a half an hour, you are guaranteed to be sweating and breathing hard by the end of a session!

hiit makes legs bigger

SO, WILL HIIT MAKE YOUR LEGS BIGGER OR IS IT GOOD FOR SLIMMING DOWN YOUR LEGS?

In most cases, yes, traditional, standard HIIT workouts will make your legs bigger over time, especially if you tend to build muscle more easily.

YOUR BODY TYPE AND HIIT WORKOUTS

The impact HIIT has on your body will mainly depend on your body type.

If you’re a mesomorph or endomorph body type, traditional doing HIIT will easily build muscle in your legs and make them bigger.

To find out more about the mesomorph body type, read my blog post on how to eat and train if you are a mesomorph female.

To learn more about endomorph body type, read my blog post on how to eat and train if you are an endomorph female.

And if you are an ectomorph body type and you how trouble building muscle tone, HIIT will probably help you get toned more easily.

To learn more about this body type, read my blog post on how to eat and train if you are an ectomorph body type.

HOW HIIT MAKES YOUR LEGS BIGGER

When you do a HIIT workout, you burn a lot of calories! Because of this, I see many people (especially women!) doing lots and lots of HIIT thinking that it will help them slim down and get smaller legs.

However, HIIT workouts and workouts similar to HIIT (like sprinting, CrossFit, and plyometrics) are often very leg focused. These routines usually have lots of squats, lunges, and burpees.

These moves will work your leg muscles and make them bigger over time. Building larger, more muscular legs is perfectly fine! However, not all people want their legs to grow.

If you want to incorporate HIIT workouts into your routine, but you don’t want to add bulk, check out this full body HIIT routine. It will give you an idea of the types of moves you can do that reduce your chances of getting bulky. :)

RELATED POST: DO SQUATS MAKE YOUR LEGS BIGGER OR SMALLER?

THE BENEFITS OF HIIT: WHY YOU SHOULD STILL DO IT

HIIT BURNS A TON OF CALORIES QUICKLY

Most people think that a long workout equals a higher calorie burn. However, with HIIT, you can burn a LOT of calories in a pretty short time period. For example, a 40-minute run and a 20-minute HIIT session will burn roughly the same amount of calories.

This makes it great for people busy with school, work, children, and just life!

YOU BURN CALORIES AFTER YOU’RE DONE WORKING OUT

This is one of the best features of HIIT workouts! HIIT really improves your metabolism during and after the workout. The better your metabolism, the more calories your body burns.

RELATED POSTL HOW TO BOOST YOUR METABOLISM

hiit metabolism boost

HIIT HELPS YOUR BODY BECOME BETTER AT BURNING FAT

HIIT is a challenge to your entire body, especially to your cardiovascular system. The more HIIT you do, the stronger your heart will become.

The fitter you are, the longer your body will stay in the aerobic (or fat burning) zone while you exercise.

This means that the more HIIT you do and the stronger your cardiovascular system becomes, the more your body will opt to burn fat over carbs.

RELATED POST: HIIT VS LISS – WHICH IS BETTER FOR FAT LOSS

HIIT HELPS YOU REDUCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR AND BLOOD PRESSURE

In general, most exercise will help you reduce your blood pressure. This is important because high blood pressure is associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, and lots of other health problems. HIIT is even better than most exercises at reducing high blood pressure.

HIIT workouts can also help your body consistently lower its blood sugars. This is especially important if you struggle with insulin resistance or weight loss.

HIIT IS CONVENIENT

Honestly, one of the reasons people love HIIT is that it is easy to do from anywhere and at any time.

You can do HIIT workouts while you’re traveling in your hotel room. You can do them in your bedroom after a day at school or work. They’re short, so you can squeeze one in while your baby is napping.

HIIT is an easy way to incorporate exercise into a busy schedule!

hiit legs getting bigger

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU DO HIIT?

HIIT clearly has many benefits! But that doesn’t mean I recommend that people do it all the time.

Instead, I suggest that you incorporate it into your workout routine. I like to do it once or twice a week alongside other types of training like cardio and resistance training.

Here’s why I don’t recommend doing much more HIIT than that:

HITT IS HARD ON YOUR BODY

The point of HIIT is that it is hard. If you can do HIIT every day, you are either incredibly fit or you probably aren’t pushing yourself hard enough during your HIIT sessions.

Your body needs time to rest in between HIIT workouts to recover. You need this recovery time to prevent burn out or, worse, injury.

HIIT CAN RAISE CORTISOL LEVELS

The stress that HIIT puts on your body can actually raise your cortisol levels. In other words, it raises your stress hormone.

In small doses, cortisol isn’t bad. It helps us act quickly and get through stressful situations. However, over time, cortisol actually changes the way your body burns fat, carbs, and calories. Cortisol causes your body to store fat, especially in the hips and belly.

I personally found myself struggling to lose weight (especially in my hips), and I realized that I had hormonal imbalances. If you’re constantly stressed out, make sure that you’re:

  • Getting enough sleep. This is so important!
  • Eating healthy food.
  • Doing gentle exercises. Yoga and power walking are great too!

IT IS EASY TO USE INCORRECT FORM DURING HIIT WORKOUTS

Because of the quick nature of HIIT intervals, it is very easy to do exercises incorrectly. Many people are so focused on the intensity of the workout that they forget how to do basic moves like squats and burpees.

Poor form can lead to chronic injury, muscle problems, and general aches and pains. Taking a break in between sessions gives you opportunities to strengthen the rest of your body and perform your workouts correctly.

can hiit slim down your thighs

RELATED POST: HOW TO GET LEAN LEGS – WHY YOU NEED CARDIO FOR SLIMMER LEGS

SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO BULK UP

If you’re somebody who loves a bulky, muscular look, that’s great! However, I know that that isn’t the look many women are going for.

If you don’t want to grow your legs, keeping your HIIT workouts to once or twice a week should keep you from getting much larger.

As always, your body type will play a role, and you can adjust if you’re seeing physical changes that you don’t like.

HOW TO DO HIIT WORKOUTS WITHOUT ADDING BULK

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY TYPE

If you don’t know what you’re body type is, take my free body type quiz.

Knowing your body type will help you better understand how to incorporate HIIT into your workout routine. You’ll also learn how to eat for your specific body type.

DON’T DO HIIT TOO OFTEN

Try adding HIIT to your workout routine just once or twice per week. If you notice that you’re getting bulky, you can try cutting back.

However, if you want to experiment with more HIIT sessions, you can do that too. Just be paying attention to how it impacts your body!

PICK THE RIGHT HIIT ROUTINES

Try to avoid routines that are super leg focused. Lots of squats, burpees, and jumping can really make your muscles grow.

Here are some of my favorite HIIT workouts that don’t cause bulk:

HIIT offers a lot of great benefits that I don’t want you to miss out on! However, if you don’t want to bulk up, just be extra mindful of how often you’re doing HIIT and the type of HIIT you’re doing. :)

Love Rachael xx

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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