I train with a lot of women. When they start training, most of them are bifurcated between the myths about women and weights and their inner sense of what is right. They come and train with me, they notice their own progress, but in the same time they cannot get rid of the notion that weights make women bulky.
After a month of lifting weights, they come to me and tell me that they have the feeling that their legs are getting huge. I take a look at them, and I don’t see anything – neither their pants are tearing on the edges, nor their thighs are rubbing. We look at the same thing, yet we see something different. Everybody sees reality through the filter of his own convictions.
Still, if you are completely convinced that your legs are huge, read THIS post.
Then, here is what you can do, if you have fears from lifting weights – if you are afraid that you will grow huge legs, but still you want to grow your butt.
What you need to do is to emphasize on exercises for our posterior chain – i.e. your butt and hamstrings. The exercises that load the lower part of the body, could be divided in two categories:
1.Hip dominant exercises – they, predominantly, load the posterior chain ( think about hip thrusters, good morning, swings, straight leg deadlift)
2.Knee dominant exercises – they predominantly load the anterior chain ( think about squats, lunges, pistol squats)
In my opinion both types of exercise are needed and if the body functions properly and if the exercises are performed properly, then there will be a balance between the activation of the anterior and the posterior chain.
Very often, loading the predominant loading of the anterior chain (i.e. the “huge legs” that you do not like) is due to the fact, that you do not perform the exercises properly and you do not activate your posterior chain. You rely just on the quadriceps to do the work.
That’s why mission number one is to learn how to perform the exercises properly. For those of you who are more curious: read HERE how important is the angle, under which we perform an exercise.
Mission number two will be as follows – include more exercises, which predominantly load the posterior chain and do not activate the anterior chain up to that degree.
Here, I want to note that the reps and sets, are not always the key to if the muscle is growing or not. What I mean is that every time you stress the muscle, i.e. you work to failure, no matter if you do 5, 12 or 30 reps, you could achieve hypertrophy ( increase of muscle mass).
Still, if you want to get the benefits of your workouts, you will load yourself enough and you won’t do really light sets, that don’t challenge you at all.
What are the exercises you should include?
1.Hip Thrusters on One Leg
GREAT exercise! There isn’t an exercise that loads my posterior chain, the way that this exercise does it. The way my posterior chain looks is due to this exercise.
This is another favorite exercise. While I am doing it, it is not one of the exercises that exhaust me… until the next day when I wake up and the memory of this exercise, has left a lasting trace on my hamstring – a great feeling of soreness. An exercise that reminds of itself, long after you have done it in the gym.
This is one of the exercises that I do not recommend for beginners. You should first learn how to activate your posterior chain, in order to learn how o bring your hips back. Otherwise you can injure your lower back.
Swings are a great exercise, that can help you activate your posterior chain. Unfortunately, I observe that most people do it wrong. Even trainees that have experience in the gym, fool themselves that they are performing it properly. More often than not, they are just leaning back and stressing their lower back.
4.One Legged Deadlift
This is another one of the great exercises. Here, you should once again be advanced. It is important to have some progression in the exercises you include. Enjoy your journey and do no rush it. The more coordinated you become, the stronger you become, the more complicated progressions you can include.
5. Swiss Ball Roll-out
This exercise loads the posterior chain. I perform it either on one leg, or on both legs. When you do it on one leg it is kind of challenging, so if you are a beginner, start on both legs.
This exercise is pretty complicated. Still, there is always a way to perform it. The challenge for your posterior chain is huge and initially, you might feel your calves cramping ( I will share a post with you, where I will explain you how to deal with it). Until then, just stretch and massage your calves.
7. Straight Legs Deadlift
This is an exercise that once again goes in the “advanced” category. If you have not started to feel your body better and to activate your posterior chain, you might put an unnecessary stress on your lower back.
At the beginning, train the movement without weights and then start increasing the load.
8.Swiss Ball Drag
Sure, there are a lot of exercises that you could do, but these are on my top list.
My advice is to include these exercises, by doing 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Do you think I am done? No!
If you think that your legs are huge, the problem is not in the squats, lunges or Bulgarian squats. The problem is in your nutrition. I have never met a woman, who is lean and unhappy with her muscles. Usually, the unwanted volume of the legs, is due to the fact that you have more fat, on top of the muscles.
That’s why, besides taking the time to train, focus on your nutrition.
My philosophy is that you train for performance, but you eat for weight loss. At the beginning they go hand in hand, but the end of the day, how much and what we eat takes the lead!