A lot of women want the "long leg", "slim
hip" look of fitness competitors and Miss American contestants,
rather than the bodybuilder legs/hips. Their two favorites from
what I've read are squats, and lunges. So my question is, how
do you create the illusion of the slim butt, long leg look using
a minimal training
program, if that is possible? In my experience lunges do
create the long-line effect better than squats. What about foot
stance for squats if a narrow effect is what is wanted. What
about front squats and hack squats in achieving this. What exactly
is being done to achieve this look? Developing rectus femoris?
Would it be better to include 2-3 sets for Quad/Glute and reduce
exercises somewhere else?
First, I must point out that
achieving the bodybuilding look does not happen by accident.
You don't wake up one day, look in the mirror and say, "Oh
my word, I have the legs of a bodybuilder, I must have overdone
it on the squats!"
It does not even come easy for those that have a tendency
to put on muscle mass easily unless their legs are already muscular
to begin with. Achieving legs approaching that of a Miss America
or a fitness contestant is much more in line with the potential
of most women, as opposed to achieving the much more developed
musculature of a bodybuilder.
The differences between a Miss America contestant, a fitness
competitor, and a female bodybuilder are essentially varying
degrees of body composition. In order of body fat levels, the
Miss America contestant would have the most and the bodybuilder
would have the least. The opposite would generally hold true
for muscle mass, with the top level bodybuilders either possessing
an unusual predisposition to gain muscle mass or have typically
steroids at some point in their careers. In other words,
most women do not have to worry about building muscles approaching
that of female bodybuilders.
Weight training will be essential to achieving the look of
a fitness competitor, however, appropriate dietary practices
will play the largest role. This being understood, attaining
this look is theoretically possible with a minimal training program,
particularly since proper dietary practices are the largest piece
of this puzzle.
Although most all fitness competitors typically employ more
exercises on a split weight training program, a low
volume program, including only one basic exercise per major
muscle group would be sufficient to restore and maintain muscle
mass while making the necessary dietary modifications to lose
sufficient body fat necessary to achieve these looks. Also see
One's potential will be dependent on certain genetic predispositions.
Each individual's shape and proportions should be analyzed to
determine a suitable program strategy. Women with both mesomorph
and ectomorph body characteristics
are already predisposed to a fitness competitor type figure,
so this effect may be relatively easy to achieve with minimal
training. Those endomorphic
qualities will need to concentrate on fat loss, whereas, those
more ectomorph may want to concentrate on muscular development
in effort to accentuate the curves of the developed muscles.
It's interesting to note, however, that many ectomorphs may already
have the appearance of long legs due to combination of a smaller
musculature and low body fat.
Although we cannot shape our bones and are somewhat limited
in actually shaping our muscles, we can however, significantly
change the way our bodies look by decreasing body fat while selectively
emphasis and de-emphasis of the development of particular muscle
groups as we monitor the resulting aesthetic changes.
A few different 'illusions' can contribute to the appearance
of longer legs and narrowed hips in fitness competitors. Having
low body fat levels, which reveal the underlining contours of
the body is generally the most important factor in achieving
this appearance. The vertical lines of the lower body can be
accentuated with greater muscular definition. The shape of the
developed lean muscles, strategic positioning of the body, and
even the cut of the completion bikini, can all contribute to
this look. Contestants of both the Miss America and fitness competitions
wear high heels in at least one round which can also accentuate
the length of the legs.
Exercises for quadriceps
and hamstrings can normalize
hip and thigh proportions. The accentuated curve of the hamstrings
and glute along with fat loss on and below the glute area can
decrease the sharp angle of the glute-ham fold. Fat loss around
the hip and inner thigh with restoration of quadriceps fullness
will normalize lower body shape and proportions. Development
of the glutes with simultaneous fat loss on and below this area
will lift and tighten this area. All of these improvements can
accentuate the vertical lines of the lower body creating the
illusion of longer legs.
The illusion of small hip can be accentuated with a slight
muscular fullness in obliques
and quadriceps, particularly
the Vastus Lateralis when viewed from the front and the Rectus
Femoris and the underlying Vastus Intermedius when viewed from
more to the side.
The full body workout I had outlined is most appropriate for
beginners. It could also be performed periodically months at
a time by more advanced individuals. When you get to the point
you want to add auxiliary exercises or additional sets to your
program, a split workout
would be more appropriate. This is where you work a part of the
body one day and the other parts on another day.
For beginners, however, I would recommend to first build their
base using basic
exercises for the first few years, then specialize on refining
their muscle development later as they become more familiar with
how their body responds to training.
You could eventually perform an additional set on quads/glutes
if you wish, just realize the first workout set will deliver
most of the benefits (See low
volume training). For this reason, I would suggest you add
an additional exercise for your largest muscle groups before
you add too many sets.
are considered basic exercises that can be used as your only
exercise on a full body workout or as your first exercise on
a split workouts. Lunges
typically considered an auxiliary
movement and are traditionally performed after your basic exercise
on a split workout. However, as a beginner within the context
of a full body workout with minimum equipment, you may choose
either as basic exercise since there are relatively fewer exercises
in which to choose, particularly if you are exercising at home
and switch up your
Lunges do tend to emphasize the adductor
magnus (front leg) and rectus
femoris (rear leg), in comparison, bilateral basic movements
like the squat and leg
press. On quad and glute exercises, variations in foot placement
will emphasize certain muscles, but that has no effect in reducing
fat in these specific areas unlike some may be inclined to believe.
Reduction Myth. Placing the feet wider will emphasize the
hip adductors. Placing the feet higher on a hack squat or a leg
press will emphasize the glutes and de-emphasize quadriceps.
Front Squats and half squats will emphasize the quadriceps over
the glutes. Also see Squat
For those with higher levels of body fat, diet modifications
(see Dietary Development)
will play the most significant role in creating leaner and longer
looking legs. Fat loss around the thighs and hips is critical
in normalizing proportion and complementing vertical lines throughout
the legs, however, a degree of muscular development is necessary
to create this desired aesthetic appearance. Also see The
Also see other Question
and Answers for the women performing the minimal
I need to loose some weight and understand that lifting
weights will help burn fat and tone my muscles when I am making
changes to my diet. My legs were always strong and develop quickly
when I lifted in college. I am concerned they are already too
big compared to my upper body. Will I get the same fat burning
effect working out only my upper body or should I include some
lower body exercises with light weights?
Although very few men
and even fewer women can develop big muscles even if they wanted,
there are some individuals that have certain muscle groups that
develop more easily than most. There is somewhat of a dilemma
since these large muscle groups (glutes, quads, and hamstrings)
have the greatest potential of increasing the metabolism, yet,
you don't want your muscles to get any more developed. The ideal
scenario would be to lose enough fat to compensate for the slight
increases of muscle mass you may initially experience.
A proper dietary regimen is typically enough to counter any
increases of muscular development in all, except the extreme
cases. Many people think of a starvation diet when they think
of a proper dietary regimen, but this does not mean starving
yourself, and actually the contrary. I am speaking about learning
how and what to eat so you can lose body fat, while providing
adequate energy for your workouts while you monitor your macronutrients
(see Dietary Development).
It needs to be a way of eating that you can live with, on a long
term basis (most important) to lose adequate body fat while providing
you energy to become more active. It only takes some effort initially
when you are making the necessary changes learning what, how
and when to eat. Then only after a few weeks when you begin to
see the results, it starts to become a habit and eventually a
The thighs and hips are commonly an area on women that appears
to get lean after all other body parts. However, the muscles
typically develop the fastest when you first initiate weight
training, particularly if your muscles had already been developed
some time in your past, even decades earlier, due to muscle memory.
You could consider not including certain exercises in your
workout that work muscles groups you believe are already overdeveloped.
Small muscle groups such as the calves could be omitted or discontinued
later, that muscle if you believe they are unproportionally too
large. Keep in mind, they will be conditioned indirectly during
other leg exercises. In contrast, muscle groups like the glutes,
quads and possibly the hamstrings are muscle groups that will
allow you to rev up your metabolism. Not including these largest
muscle groups in your program in some way could compromise your
ability to increase your metabolism.
I would suggest only eliminating exercises for those larger
muscle groups if you believe or find that you are not loosing
fat rapidly enough to counter the initial slight increase of
muscle mass. Although a well proportioned figure might be considered
ideal, keep in mind that great leg development can look quite
attractive and even sexy, particularly when body fat levels are
reduced to a certain level.
If this becomes an issue, you could try using lighter weight
with more repetitions before you consider giving up your quad,
glute, and hamstring exercises. Keep in mind you'll experience
more of a burning
sensation training with higher reps. The burning sensation
associated with high repetition training may deter some people
in pushing themselves as hard as what they could do when handling
normally recommended workloads. It is the progression of intensity
over time that will allow you to more greatly increase your metabolism
even for hours after your workouts. Adaptations to higher rep
training will eventually allow for greater tolerance over time,
but many may still find it more challenging to perform high repetitions
on your leg exercises even after doing it on a regular basis.
An alternative training method you might consider is HIIT.
It's a modified form of sprint training which can be performed
on a stationary cycle, outside on level ground or on stadium
steps. Sprint swimming can be performed, but it may not adequately
involve the lower body muscles as they would
be with traditional HIIT. But before you start sprinting, I would
suggest a general condition where you prepare yourself for the
specific type of sprints you plan on implementing. This will
allow you to gradually build up the muscular endurance and intensity
required for HIIT training. Even the anaerobic group in the HIIT
scientific study had a 5 week conditioning period of traditional
style cardio training on the cycle they later began using for
sprints. Incidentally, unlike the original study, which implemented
a passive recovery between sets (ie: just sitting there), I would
recommend an active recovery (cycle on level one for about 4
minutes) between sprints. This should hasten recovery between
sprint bouts allowing for greater intensity on each bout. Since
cycling is fast and repetitive, it is recommended to position
the seat so you have a small bend in the knees. If the seat is
too low, or too close to the pedals, you may experience greater
muscular fatigue due to this mechanical disadvantage and consequently
lower your intensity.
Give these recommendations a try and make the recommended
Also see Reducing Large Glutes.