Men with leg muscles too skinny usually wear long pants even on the hottest days, to hide those “chicken legs.”

And even women with stick legs may be hesitant to wear short skirts or shorts.

If you suffer from skinny legs, you can make those leg muscles grow.

There are weight training routines that will shape and sculpt leg muscles without bulking these muscles; so women, don’t fear getting big muscles.

I’ll be honest: To get nice shapely legs and increase size of muscles, you must be willing to work hard. But, your legs are worth it, aren’t they?

There are key exercise routines that will do the trick; namely, weight lifting. Again, I’m not talking about bulking muscles; this is strength training.

Key exercise equipment for adding muscles to skinny legs:

Barbell  for squats 

Leg press 


Prone hamstring curl 

Seated hamstring curl 

Leg extension 

There are other exercise routines that can add muscles to skinny legs such as hard sprints and box jumping, but let’s start out with these.

My No. 1 recommendation is the floor leg press, even though you may have heard that barbell squats are the best way to put muscle size on skinny legs.

The thing with barbell squats is that it can take a while to learn proper form, and bad form can result in low back pain or low back injury.

Secondly, if your femur length is at least as long as, and especially longer than, your torso length, squats probably will not feel right for you. If your shin is short relative to your thigh, ditto.

Overall body height is NOT relevant. But try squats anyways and see how they go.

Also, don’t assume that your thin legs can’t lift much weight. Some thin legs can lift a lot of weight.

I’ve seen men with “thin” legs squatting 225 for reps. Hmmm. Could be due to SHORT femurs relative to torso length and especially if the shins are long relative to femurs!

I rarely see men with scrawny-looking legs pressing huge amounts of weight with the floor leg press equipment.

So let’s talk about leg pressing first. You can do this blindfolded. The mistake men and women make, who want to add size to their leg muscles, is that they do not use heavy enough weight.

And they use poor form. The weight should be heavy enough such that you only have enough strength to do between six and 10 repetitions.


Your muscles should be exhausted as that last repetition approaches. Both feet should always be flat on the pressing platform the whole time.

Barbell squats. Once you have some conditioning, the same rule applies: Weight should be heavy enough for six to 10 repetitions. Make sure you squat so that your femurs are parallel to the floor.


Leg extensions. Always warm up with lighter weights for about 10 minutes, several sets, before lifting heavy weights with this exercise equipment.

Shutterstock/Ajan Alen

Weights should be heavy enough for no more than 10 reps. LOWER THE WEIGHTS SLOWLY, maybe for a two-second or three-second count. Don’t let weights just fall.

Hamstring curls. The volume of hamstring curls should be about 75 percent of the volume of quadriceps muscles (front of thigh) weight lifting routines.


Many people neglect the hamstrings because they can’t see them. Use heavy enough weight for 6 to 10 reps.

For prone (stomach-down) hamstring curls, bring foot pad all the way to your butt. Always lower for a two-three-count.

These are the basics for adding muscle volume to skinny legs.

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.