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My Legs Won't Shrink


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I'm just not sure what to do so I was hoping to get some first hand advice.  I have read so many articles that contradict each other about how to lose inches from the leg area that I don't know what to believe.  My body in general isn't too bad until you get to my thighs and calves.  I hit puberty and they just got huge and they won't go away.  I assumed that general weight loss all around would help, but its not.  I have lost inches from my waist and hips and my legs have not budged even half an inch.  What can I do to make them smaller?  (Any excercises that involve toddlers or babies would be especially helpful as I have on of each and they don't like when they aren't included lol)

Thanks in advance!

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I don't know what to say to help you, but I can let you know that I am in the same boat. I have lost plenty everywhere but my legs! It's rather frustrating.

Your body burns fat from wherever it feels like in whatever order it feels like.  You can't spot reduce.  However, as you continue to lose weight, eventually it will start to take fat from your legs.  I know that's not an answer you were hoping for, but that's the way it works.  I feel your pain.  I've lost a little off my thighs, but not much.  I'm grateful for how much I've lost off my stomach because that's a big problem area for me, but I keep looking at my thighs every so often and order them to shrink already.

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I find that sometimes doing too much exercise doesn't help matters- which sounds strange. But if you're prone to chunky legs, exercising too much (in particular if you're doing lower body exercises like cycle/stepper/cross trainer or lunges/weights on lower body) can actually bulk up your legs. Stick to activity like running, rowing  or swimming which involves your whole body and try some muscle lengthening exercises like those done in pilates or yoga.

  Doing too much volume of low-resistance exercise like unweighted squats and lunges (and stepper/cycling/cross trainer with high resistance, one presumes) can also be a factor:

Generalization #3: Low rep leg training builds bulky legs, whereas high rep leg training brings out the detail and will build nicely toned legs.

Truth: For the majority of muscle groups, performing reps of 10 or below does seem to work better for mass, but legs are an exception. Assuming you're training close to failure, nothing builds "bulky" legs faster than performing intense sets of 20-50 on squats, leg presses, lunges, and other hard movements.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but keeping the reps low when training legs is more conducive to "tone" than to "bulk." I can't stress this enough.

The girls who come to me complaining of stocky legs are almost always doing sets of 20 or more on legs. I simply switch them to lower reps; over time, the legs stop blowing up, and daylight starts peeking through between the thighs. Hallelujah!

Ten Training Truths You Need To Hear
by Jen Heath

Neither yoga nor Pilates can lengthen muscle - that would involve ripping the tendons off the bone and attaching them in new places, which isn't something you see in exercise classes in general. What they can do is cause muscle atrophy through being ineffective exercise, and muscle atrophy is bad. Losing muscle means you lower your metabolism and burn less calories in a day, making it harder to lose fat.

 In general strength training has the highest priority when it comes to fat loss exercise - cardio is "extra credit" to be done when and if you have the time.

Try doing squats, lunges, etc while holding a child.  It adds weight to the exercise, which is good, and they really love it.

Ugh me too. I call them my soccer legs, but when I quit soccer they stuck around. I'm switching up my workout since I plateaued, but even the weight I've lost hasn't seemed to come off my legs. I'm running now, but maybe the weight training is the way to go.

Melkor gave great advice...but I'm confused by your post [the OP's post]. Are you legs genetically stocky or are they fat? The difference in my response relies on your answer to that question bc honestly, you can not change the shape your legs are only the shape they are in!

Like fitnessgirll, I'm curious.  I have "big" legs, too, but they're big with muscle--which I'm proud of!  Makes it hard to buy boots, though.  Bootmakers want you to have straight up-and-down calves, it seems, instead of the rock hard Betty Grable stems I've got.

They're fat.  I'm confused because I wouldn't be considered large anywhere else on my body.  I'm 28" around the waist 3 months after giving birth, which I don't think is too bad.  My legs however look like they belong to someone like 30 lbs heavier than my top half.  I just don't get it.

I really want to make sure I am getting what Melkor said.  So in theory if you do less reps when working your legs the will begin to tone instead of bulking up.  Currently I do three sets of 10 for everything including my legs and I feel like my legs are huge.  I am told by others that it is muscle but I just see BIG.

Original Post by melkor:

  Doing too much volume of low-resistance exercise like unweighted squats and lunges (and stepper/cycling/cross trainer with high resistance, one presumes) can also be a factor:

I like to run but I use the eliptical and stationary cycle to give my knees a break a couple of times a week. I try to put the resistance up high to get more of a workout. So, that alone could bulk my legs up? I always thought I would have to do a **** of weights, supplement and change my diet for that to happen... I'm currently eating on a deficit, so maybe this doesn't apply to me?

I would like to see scientific evidence for what you're saying

'What they can do is cause muscle atrophy through being ineffective exercise'.

No form of exercise will cause muscle atrophy- this is what happens when muscles are not used and is otherwise termed as muscle wasting.

As for saying that Pilates and yoga are 'ineffective exercise' I am sure that there are numerous professional athletes and sportsman who would disagree!

So Melkor, if I have generally muscular stocky legs, what you're saying is that it's better to do, for example: (what I might do in the gym)

10 reps of 400lb leg press (my heaviest load on the hack sled, anyhow)

vs

4 x 10 reps of 100lb leg press 

Can you explain to me how the muscle fibers would be recruited differently to net results, in the geeky way only you can?

Original Post by ruthtongue:

No form of exercise will cause muscle atrophy- this is what happens when muscles are not used and is otherwise termed as muscle wasting.

Do you really think that if Ronnie Coleman stopped lifting and only did yoga he wouldn't lose any muscle? 

Yoga and pilates are inefficient because there are other forms of exercise that will improve any aspect of fitness quicker than they will.

The only thing that yoga or pilates will improve better than any other form of exercise is yoga and pilates.  If your goal is to be the best yogi (is that a word?) or pilates practicioner that you can be, then yoga or pilates is the best thing to do.  If you want to get stronger, leaner, improve you balance, agility, endurance, or get more flexible or mobile, there are better ways of going about it.

I think the whole point of this thread was that Shannon didn't want to look like Ronnie Colman! i.e. huge legs!

LOL ya I'd rather not look like that :)

Original Post by shannon_a_s:

LOL ya I'd rather not look like that :)

You couldn't if you tried. 

Original Post by ruthtongue:

I think the whole point of this thread was that Shannon didn't want to look like Ronnie Colman! i.e. huge legs!

 I think you totally missed my point.

 It's one of those areas where I'm relying a little on guesswork - but check out the legs on a pro cyclist or speed skater; that ain't exactly chicken. So okay, most of them weight train in the off-season, but not all and you still see them have enlarged leg muscle.

 What I suspect is going on is enlarged cell volume rather than muscle fiber; the muscle cell cytoplasm - the sarcoplasm - transporting nutrients to the muscle cells gets enlarged to more efficiently supply the muscle fibers that are expected to perform at a high intensity for long stretches at a time. Proper endurance training causes increases in mitochondrial density; apply a load as well -as in going uphill or low gear, or doing high-rep work for arms- and you'll see the same kind of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy in muscle both places, except that legs have more slow-twitch fiber/muscle cells so the effect is more pronounced.

 Sod if I know though; call it educated guesswork. Right now I'm reading up on how hyperplasia, cell proliferation and nucleus donation from satellite cells might work in humans but I'm not convinced I've got a clear handle on it - there's a couple things in here that at least sounds like it's contradicting what I thought I knew.

 Nature doesn't do contradictions, it's just flaws in my understanding that make it seem like it - but in practical terms, Jen Heath's been a trainer for a good long time, so has Rachel Cosgrove and Clay Hught who advise something along similar lines.

 Keep volume of exercise under control, high load/low reps is better than the opposite even when total work performed is nominally the same, and while you're eating at a deficit there's not much going on in terms of your muscles gaining new protein/enlarged muscle fibers. You can still apparently enlarge the cell volume, but that effect doesn't seem to stick around for long once you stop applying excessive training volumes if I'm interpreting Jen correctly.

 You want some studies to look at, Ruthtongue? Consider these studies:

D, DE, and DES demonstrated a similar and significant (P <= 0.05) reduction in body mass (-9.64, -8.99, and -9.90 kg, respectively) with fat mass comprising 69, 78, and 97% of the total loss in body mass, respectively. -
Kramer, Volek et al. Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.

and Hunter et.al. : Resistance Training Conserves Fat-free Mass and Resting Energy Expenditure Following Weight Loss. In the Kramer study, a third of the weight loss in the diet-only group was muscle(2.98 kg, or 6.5lbs) and the diet+cardio exercise group also lost significant muscle(1.98kg or 4.35lbs), while the diet+cardio+strength training group mostly retained theirs, losing 0.297kg or just shy of 0.6lbs of muscle.

In addition to Wayne Westcott. PhD's study of resistance training versus endurance training (Westcott, W., Fitness Management. Nov., 1991.) - in addition to the effect on fat loss, Westcott documents the phenomenon known as 'newbie gains' where beginners to exercise can add muscle even in a calorie deficit. Also check out Resistance Weight Training During Caloric Restriction Enhances Lean Body Weight Maintenance (Ballor, D.L., Katch, V.L., Becque, M.D., Marks, C.R., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 47(1): 19-25, 1988.) -

 Every time you diet and don't do resistance training with a load higher than 60-80% of your 1RM corresponding to your 8RM-12RM range you lose muscle mass due to dieting. Yoga and pilates is flexibility training and do not qualify as exercise involving resistance in the 60%+ of your 1RM, therefore, in the context of preserving lean mass while dieting yoga and pilates is ineffective and willl in fact cause atrophy due to representing insufficient adaptive stimulus to your muscles.

 I don't know of any professional athlete or high-level amateur who got good at their sport through doing anything other than practicing their sport. While going outside of sports-specific training for recovery workouts, mobility work, pre/rehab and tissue regeneration is a given at the higher levels of competitive athletics, I don't know of any athlete who'd seriously credit yoga or pilates as being a significant factor in their success compared to more updated methods based in modern exercise physiology.

 

Original Post by melkor:

  I don't know of any professional athlete or high-level amateur who got good at their sport through doing anything other than practicing their sport.  

This is totally off topic, but Stephen Neal (offensive lineman for the NE Patriots) didn't play football in college or his first couple years out of college but still got good enough at it to make an NFL team. 

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