Train Legs Without Making Them Bigger


For most guys, we want broad shoulders, defined arms and full pecs. Women, on the other hand, tend to focus more attention on their hips, legs and thighs. The best leg workouts for women to get lean legs that look firm and toned (while not being big and bulky) need to be structured and setup differently than the way most guys lift.

Often I’ll hear someone trying to say that a woman can lift weights like a man but get totally different results. I agree, our bodies are different, but they are not that different.
First of all, do more than “just squat”

The “just squat” or “she squats” memes we see all over fitness Facebook pages promote the squat as the exercise to be doing to shape up your bottom half. The truth is if you want lean legs and firm glutes you’ve got to do more than squat.  Leave the memes to male entertainment.

Tips1: Flat, saggy bottoms

You may have a flat bottom or no bottom at all. This is common with women who are naturally leaner or women who choose endurance events or yoga as their main form of exercise instead of weight training. As you may well know, things also tend to sag as we get older.
If you have a hard time filling out a pair of jeans, some squats and direct quad training will probably look great on you. Adding muscle will give you the shape you are missing.
However, to pick up your bottom, you’ll need more than squats so be sure to include a variety of the glute building exercises . I recommend doing some form of glute training at least two but preferably three times a week.

Tips2: Thick, muscular legs

If “thunder thighs” comes to mind when you describe your legs, this might be you. No joke. I remember being teased about my thunder thighs as a teenager. My legs weren’t overly big but they were muscular because I lived on a pair of skates year round.
As an adult, I’ve realized I have a mesomorph’s tendency to put on muscle. If even walk by the squat rack I can feel my legs growing.

Not all women are going to get big and bulky from lifting weights, but some women do put on muscle more easily and need to be more careful with the exercises they choose.
If you are a women who puts on muscle easily or if you already have big quads and thighs from the sports you do, then squats may make your legs look even bigger.

Tips3: Too much fat and cellulite

If you’ve got some weight to lose or a genetic predisposition to holding fat in the legs, then this is your biggest complaint. Your upper body might look okay but you tend to hold your extra weight in your legs.

First thing you need to do is clean up your diet and make a plan to start losing weight. Clean diets can go a long way to reducing the appearance of cellulite.

My client pictured below dramatically changed her legs in only six months by cleaning up her diet, reducingxenoestrogens, and incorporating leg circuits into her program.

If you are worried about making your legs bigger you may want to limit:

Heavy squat and leg presses
Weight lunges
Weighted step ups
Leg extensions
Stationary bike
Stepper

Regardless of your body type, you should do some form of glute training.
To shape up your glutes and reduce the appearance of cellulite, incorporate these exercises into your training:

Stiff leg dead lifts
Glute Bridges or hip thrusts (weighted, single leg or any variation)
Cable kickbacks or donkey kicks on a machine
Reverse or curtsy lunges
Band walks
Hip abduction on a machine
 
For best results and to make a really visible change, I recommend incorporating glute training into your program three times a week. I like having one heavy glute day where I focus on progressing glute bridges and stiff leg deadlifts, and then I incorporate other exercises like kickbacks, band walks and plyometric exercises into two other workouts during the week.

In the end, the best way to train your legs depends on your body type and your goals. Stop to assess your legs from time to time. If they are looking too thick, you can pull back on quad dominant and/or weighted exercises. If they need some shape, they you can hit the weights more

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