Can Too Many Squats Make a Woman's Thighs Too Big?

Leg presses will allow for more repetitions at a lower weight
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If you've been doing squats to firm your thighs and feel like they're getting bigger instead of slimmer, it's not necessarily all in your head. However, whether your thighs are "too big" is a matter of perception. How an individual woman's body responds to exercise will vary, but if you're unhappy with the results of your thigh workout, you can consider some changes.

Body Types

Many women tend to accumulate fat around the hips and thighs, but not all. If you're one of them, and you replace the fat with lean tissue through a combination of fat-burning activity and resistance training -- like squats that work both the hamstrings and the quads -- your thighs could slim down. On the other hand, if you have a body type that tends toward building big muscles -- technically termed "mesomorph" -- your thighs could get bigger doing squats, especially if you're doing powerlifting with barbells.

Cutting Back

If your thighs are bulking up, you might consider lightening up on your squats -- literally. According to exercise site ExRx, bulking up can be temporary for new exercisers as they build muscle but don't yet have the strength for longer cardio sessions that will burn fat. If you're adding weight to your squats with a Smith machine, dumbbells or a barbell, try going with a lower weight and more repetitions until you build your endurance level. If you're not adding extra weight, try reducing your range of motion, stopping short of getting your thighs parallel to the ground. This lessens the effort needed to press your body up and is similar to reducing weight. Reducing your range of motion may be easier if you do your squats with a stability ball placed between your back and a wall.

Thigh Exercise Options

Squats are hardly the only exercise for your thighs. In fact, even powerlifters do more than just squats to ready themselves for competition. Using machines allows you to regulate the weight better than free squats that include your body weight in addition to any resistance you might add. To illustrate, going by a chart available on the ExRx website, doing squats with no additional weight means pressing approximately 60 percent of your total body weight. So, if you weigh 120 pounds, that's like leg pressing 72 pounds. Setting the leg press machine at 60 pounds and doing more repetitions might keep your thighs from bulking up as much.

Hitting the Major Muscles

While you can decide to pass on the squats, you shouldn't pass on working all the same muscles in a different way. You may get enough quad work from your cardio workout, especially if you're a mesomorph. If not, include some leg extensions in your routine and make sure to work your hamstrings with leg curls or cable exercises, your glutes with bridges or hip abductions -- which also work your outer thighs -- and your calves with calf raises or by placing just the ball of your foot on the bottom of the leg press plate and pushing away.

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