How do I slim down bulky, muscular thighs?


I'm a female with very muscular legs because I play softball and soccer, but I don't want that structure anymore. How can I slim down my thighs? I know it's possible because I have seen female body builders and then I've seen them a while later and they have a feminine body type. Please help.

— Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

The unique shape and size of every body is determined through a combination of factors. Some are out of your control, such as genetics and bone structure, while others are more flexible, such as those impacted by the amount and type of physical activity that you do. Despite this somewhat complicated equation, it's easy for many, especially women, to feel pressure to change their body shape to fit what's represented in the media. Magazines, movies, and social media often portray people that are "perfect," and encourage others to work harder to achieve their "dream body." Only about five percent of women in America have the natural body type advertised in the media, and changing body shape isn't as easy as it looks. Everyone responds differently to physical activity, meaning that even the strictest regimens may not create the results you desire. Sometimes, the more successful path to body confidence is self-acceptance and appreciation for what bodies can do, rather than striving to change physical qualities of what it can't do. 

You mentioned that you already have very muscular legs. As both a softball and soccer player, you're most likely performing power movements in your current training routines. These power movements probably involve lifting very heavy loads for a few repetitions while weight training and performing explosive movements, such as pressing off of your pivot leg when sprinting. Developing these muscles is an asset in sports like yours, and while reducing your thigh muscles is certainly possible, this may hamper your athletic performance.

If you're no longer playing or simply have a strong desire to decrease the muscle size in your quadriceps and hamstrings that make up your thighs, you may consider cutting back on lifting heavy weights while strength training. To lessen the size of your thigh muscles, you may want to introduce distance running into your training regimen, as long as you don't have or aren't prone to any joint pain in your legs. This activity can transform the size and structure of your legs. This is because distance runners adapt to this form of endurance training by developing leaner muscular legs (even though the muscle type will predominantly remain the same). You may consider starting with one mile and then build up to five to ten miles during a training session.

As mentioned earlier, genetic factors also play a role in body shape, meaning that losing muscle in your thighs and legs may not necessarily change your natural body type. Some schools of thought and fitness programs suggest that women can be one of three main body types, or a combination of more than one:

  • Mesomorphs are generally more muscular and build muscle mass quickly while strength training.
  • Ectomorphs have a rounder body shape and may need to decrease their body fat to physically change their body during strength training.
  • Ectomorphs are thinner with a straighter body shape and might benefit more from resistance training than they would from strength training.

You can target exercises towards to your natural body shape, but it may be difficult (or even impossible) to change it completely due to your inherent bone structure and distribution of muscle or fat. For example, some may be genetically predisposed to have strong leg muscles in their thighs. If this applies in your case, it may be a reason for your athletic success. But it may also stop you from seeing dramatic changes in your leg size. 

Before making any changes, you may also reflect on why you want to make these changes and what the effects would be if you do. Are you striving to meet a particular societal standard? Do you want your clothes to fit a different way? Do people in your life make comments about your legs? If you do decide you want to make these changes, how would your life change? In what ways would your ability to play softball and soccer be affected? Thinking about these questions may help you decide what steps you'd take next. While you can't change what's in your genes, you may instead be able to change how you view your body. Many people have negative feelings about their body, especially young women, and it can cause self-loathing, shame and stress. If left unaddressed, this could later lead to depression, anxiety, or disordered eating behaviors, which can negatively impact mental and physical health. One way to improve body image is to focus on physical activity in a way that makes your body feel good, rather focusing on potential change to your appearance. It also may be helpful to build your self-confidence in other ways, or talk to friends, family or a mental health professional about how you feel.

Last updated Feb 04, 2022
Originally published Apr 22, 2005

Submit a new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

The answer you entered for the CAPTCHA was not correct.