Some women have disproportionately big bulky legs, no matter what they do.

The bigness is stubborn fat, though it may appear to be primarily muscle.

If you have “thunder thighs” or overall “solid” legs, and the rest of you is lean-looking, then get a body fat test (calipers) taken of your legs before you conclude what precisely their composition is.

Any personal trainer at a gym will be happy to do this.

Don’t be surprised if the calipers pinch quite a bit of flesh.

Make sure you have not exercised prior, as exercise alters the reading. The trainer will be able to give you an idea of fat to muscle composition, based on the millimeter reading of the calipers.

Fat or Muscle?

Some women may believe that most of their big legs comes from muscle.

But although your legs may have a higher-than-normal amount of muscle, they appear bulky due to a propensity to collect fat.

A personal trainer can get a good idea of the level of excess fat in your “muscular” thighs by simply taking a skin fold measurement in that location.

So what can be done about bulky legs?

Below are three plans. Two won’t work very well. Which one do you think WILL work?

1)     Do tons of cardio nearly every day. Make cardio your primary mode for leg exercise. Go light on weights so you don’t further bulk them up.

2)     Focus on tons of repetitions with light weights using any kind of equipment or device that requires moving the thighs — like the “inner outer” machines. Continue to do cardio, but only a few times a week for short sessions.

3)     Slam your legs with intense weight routines — twice a week. And on two other days, do cardio in the form of high intensity interval training, and only 30 minutes per session.

The answer is No. 3. No. 3 will produce the greatest fat-burning — as well as leg reshaping — effect.

Lifting heavy on your leg days creates hormonal changes that ultimately result in a faster resting metabolic rate. This translates to the burning away of stubborn fat in your legs (and overall body)., halayalex

But it’s not a matter of merely lifting heavy versus lifting light.

To lean out overly-thick legs while also creating a nice sculpted look, you should use a range of eight to 15 repetitions. Some 20’s here and there won’t hurt, either.

For example, a 20-rep MAX, full range of motion leg press is a killer that can help reshape and slim down chunky legs.

Full range of motion leg press. Shutterstock/Syda Productions

If you’re going to do 20 reps, choose a weight so that rep 21 is not possible. Your muscles should be completely failed by rep 20.

If you can’t complete only eight reps, the weight load needs to be lighter.


Endless miles of fixed-pace jogging isn’t the answer. It’s great for your heart, but doesn’t qualify as a stellar leg trimmer and shaper.

Typical steady state cardio, such as jogging, will not shape, buff and lean out the legs nearly as effectively as will weight routines.

Yes, long-duration, slower cardio of a fixed pace will reduce some fat, but there will also be little definition or that much-coveted tight look. You will not get the enviable gams of the woman below.


Resistance is mandatory for streamlining and shaping the legs. Resistance comes in the form of lifting weights, jumping and sprinting.

Though anyone can begin lifting weights, the jumping and sprinting can be daunting to non-trained bodies.

But as you train hard to become efficient at sprinting and jumping, the side effect will be a remarkable improvement in the shape and composition of your legs!

Track sprints and power-based jumping drills recruit fast-twitch muscle fiber, which requires more fuel for recovery than do slow-twitch (endurance aerobics) fiber. The fuel will come from stored body fat, including that in your legs.

Kick Butt

The honest truth is this: If you’re fed up with thick, “squishy” legs, you aren’t going to fix this situation with “joyful movement,” housework or after-dinner walks around the neighborhood.

You truly have to kick some serious butt with the strength training, jumping and sprinting.

However, you can accomplish insane legs just from strength training alone, if jumping and/or sprinting don’t appeal to you.

But just remember that adding in some sprint or jump workouts will  help towards your goal.

Here are instructions on how to do high intensity interval training to strip off fat.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/B-D-S Piotr Marcinski