I’ve seen it time and time again: A woman with thick legs spending lots of time on cardio equipment, pedaling away like an automaton, or stepping incessantly on the revolving staircase while grabbing hold of the rails and leaning over, or jogging slowly for an hour on the treadmill.

And yet, these women have the same thick legs months later, even years later.

There are two exercises that women with thick legs don’t think to do: 1) Intense weightlifting, and 2) Plyometrics.

Women with thick legs typically believe that any kind of weight lifting will further “bulk up” their limbs.

In order for this to happen, the extra size in their thighs and calves has to be muscle, rather than fat, and then, they have to train like a bodybuilder, which includes a diet to support a bodybuilding program.

However, my recommendation is that of intense strength training, not bodybuilding; they are NOT one and the same.

Plyometrics is the term for jumping routines. I don’t mean jumping jacks and jump rope.

Plyometrics includes routines such as:

  • jumping onto and off of a stool high enough to challenge you
  • jumping over the stool
  • jumping over a succession of stools with only one landing in between them
  • jumping onto a stool sideways
  • squat jumps
  • lunge jumps (which can be alternating)
  • and other variations of hopping, leaping and bounding.

The mass in a woman’s “thick” legs is mostly fat. She is predisposed to having fat concentrated in her lower limbs, just like some women have thinner legs but a plump, solid midsection.

It’s body composition distribution. Having fat concentrated in your legs does not predispose you to bulking up with muscle there if you do intense barbell squats, leg presses and other strenuous lower body weight workouts.

The weight load should be enough to make it impossible to do more than 12 repetitions, but manageable enough to do eight reps.

Intense weight lifting recruits fast twitch muscle fiber, which burns much more fat than slow twitch (which is what long duration cardio recruits).

So if you commit to an intense weight lifting program for your gams, the thickness (i.e., fat) will start melting away.

Plyometrics also recruit fast twitch muscle fiber, and will have a similar result. You must engage in jumping drills to the point of exhaustion for best results.

To combat thick legs, women should also do the following routines for overall fat-burning: deadlifts and Olympic style lifting. These are multi-joint exercises and will burn a lot of 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.