How To Slim Thighs Without Building Muscle

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Leg workouts are often some of the main focuses and key components in many women’s fitness routines. Strong legs and lean, toned thighs literally carry you throughout the day and are the basis of many workout routines – not to mention they’re very aesthetically pleasing.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with building strong and powerful legs! They’re often a testament to your fitness level and are especially helpful if you’re very active and need the strength to lift heavy weights and perform athletic skills like sprinting and squatting. However, some women might find that they prefer the look of leaner – but still toned and strong – legs and thighs.

If you’re trying to figure out how to slim thighs without building muscle, read on! We’ll dive into the anatomy of strong thighs and explore the options you have for slimming them down, plus we’ve also included some great exercises to get those thighs toned and shapely.

Is it possible to slim down muscular thighs?

There are two different factors to consider when you’re looking to slim down your thighs: fat and muscle. Both factors can be addressed with the correct nutrition and exercise choices.
Women especially tend to carry a lot of their fat stores in their hips and thighs. If you think your bigger thighs are caused by an excess of body fat, you might consider implementing a weight-loss routine to cut the extra fat. 

If you think the extra weight around your thighs is due to heavy exercise, your answer could be as simple as changing up your workout routine to one that doesn’t push your leg muscles as hard. You can lose the excess muscle mass but still maintain lean and toned thighs by focusing more on lean muscle mass rather than higher-intensity and explosive workouts.

A little disclaimer here: any lower-body workout is going to be targeting your leg muscles to a degree, and those muscles are important! The two main muscle groups you work in your thighs are your quadriceps and hamstrings, and your fitness activity can determine the makeup of your muscle fibers. For example, power athletes are more likely to have more fast-twitch fibers in their thighs that can lead to bigger thigh muscles, while endurance athletes will have more slow-twitch fibers which contribute to leaner legs.

The healthiest way to approach this topic is to focus on toning and building lean muscle rather than wishing those muscles away completely, so you can have slim and toned legs that are still strong and powerful enough to keep you in your best shape.

4 ways to slim your thighs without building muscle

Girls working out her thigh muscles using a leg press exercise machine

Implement a proper diet

A proper diet is the cornerstone to reaching any fitness goal.

Consuming enough lean protein is important for muscle recovery and body function, plus it helps to keep you satisfied, but you’ll want to avoid having it in excess as protein is your body’s main muscle-building ingredient.

Luckily, many people don’t have an issue getting an adequate amount of protein – in fact, your dietary requirement is probably less than you think! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that people only need to eat no more than 6 ½ oz of protein every day. Figure out the correct amount of protein you should be eating and don’t exceed it if you don’t want to run the risk of building too much muscle.

In addition, you might think about eating at a calorie deficit if your goal is to lose weight. Supplement your diet with a variety of colorful vegetables and small portions of high-quality carbohydrates like quinoa and brown rice to have a healthy and balanced diet without an excess of calories.

Increase your cardio

Adequate cardiovascular activity has long-been the “secret sauce” for many weight-loss programs. If you’re looking to cut fat but avoid building a ton of muscle, you’ll want to do moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio – think long-distance running with little to no incline to make the focus primarily on getting your heart racing, rather than challenging your leg muscles.

Avoid exercises that involve heavy resistance, like biking hills or running up inclines – you’ll need to use more muscle to perform these activities which could cause them to grow more than you’d like.

Perform low-resistance leg exercises

If you want to avoid “bulking up,” you should be focusing more of your energy on workouts that shape and tone your muscle, rather than building it. The best exercises to get your thighs lean and toned will be bodyweight exercises, such as pilates, or low-weight activities, like bodyweight squats.

When you’re working out to slim thighs without building muscle, try to perform these lighter training exercises at high repetitions. You should feel the “burn” in your quads and hamstrings.

Avoid explosive workouts that build leg muscle

While HIIT (high-intensity interval training) has exploded in recent years as one of the best ways to maximize your heart rate and lose weight, performing leg-intensive moves like jumps and sprints will build your leg strength and as such might increase your muscle mass. Stick to steady-state cardio for weight loss.

What are the best exercises for slimming your thighs without bulking up?

Fit women performing squats

Cross jacks

Combine your cardio and your thigh exercises in one with this multifunctional move. Start by standing with your arms straight out in front of you and legs shoulder-width apart. Perform a jumping jack by jumping and landing with your legs further apart, and as you do, move your arms out to a “T.”

 Jump back in and bring your arms in at the same time, crossing one leg over the other and one arm over the other. Jump all the way back out to the wide “T” position, then repeat for thirty second intervals, alternating which arm and leg crosses over the other each time.

Reverse clamshells

Start by lying on one side with your knees slightly bent, toes touching, and your elbow on the ground and head propped up on that hand. Move your upper leg at the hip so that your knee is up but your feet are still touching in a “clamshell” motion. Lower upper knee back down, then repeat, focusing on your thighs as you move. This move is great for toning your inner thighs as well as your glutes.

Bodyweight Lunges

This move is great for focusing on one leg at a time. Start standing, then move to plant one foot forward and lunge, making sure that your knee doesn’t move further forward than your toes. Step back and repeat on the other side.

How long does it take to slim your thighs?

Consistency is key for any of your fitness goals – physical changes don’t happen overnight.
If you are consistently performing your thigh-toning exercises (about three days a week), you may start to see the results of your lean muscle toning in as little as a week. 

When your focus is on weight loss, this might take a little longer depending on how much you want to lose – generally, people start seeing progress after a month of a consistent health and fitness routine.
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The bottom line

A healthy fitness routine is going to involve your leg muscles no matter what, so if your focus is to slim your thighs down you should be doing low-resistance toning exercises and eating a diet with lean protein.

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