How To Lose Muscle In Your Legs

Home / Fat Loss / How To Lose Muscle In Your Legs

I’m one of those people who can just think about his legs for a moment and they’ll grow. It’s a real pain, and something I’ve come to live with. Even if I do a single set of squats, I’ll notice muscle growth in my legs. Some people need to really work to get their legs to grow; not me. It’s an unwritten rule amongst people like myself to never, ever train your legs. The second you do, your legs explode. All of a sudden, my pants don’t fit, I look out-of-balance, and I feel more sluggish. Not to mention, you start to look horrible.

Some steroid-loving gym buffs think a huge ass and tree trunks for legs look good, well not me. I want my legs to look natural, and to look good in clothes. I think this is something that often goes unmentioned in the fitness world, but also something that a lot of people desire. It’s perfectly understandable that someone would want trim, functional, and natural look legs instead of a bulky tree trunks. Below is my recommendations on how to deal with bulky, muscular legs.

how to lose muscle in legs

Got tree trunk legs?

How To Get Smaller Legs

  • Stop Working Out Your Legs. First of all, to lose muscle in your legs, you need to completely stop any and all exercises which directly work your legs. You won’t be able to lose any significant size in your legs if you are doing direct leg work of any kind. If you’ve been doing regular leg work as part of your routine, it can be difficult to just drop it. However, you need to think about your priorities here, and if losing size in your legs is important to you, then it’s got to be done.
  • Secondly, Stop Biking. It’s a cardinal rule amongst people looking to lessen the size of their lower body to never ride a bike; whether it be outside or on a stationary bike at the gym. Bikes do a fantastic job of building muscle in your thighs and butt. This is great.. if you don’t want smaller legs. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid anything that creates a “pump” in your legs. That pump is a sign that you’ve triggered the muscle, and that’s definitely something you don’t want.
  • Start Running. The only sure-fire way to lose muscle in your legs (short of being completely sedentary) is to do something called marathon cardio. This is low intensity, continuous, steady-state cardio that is performed for a long period of time. I’m not talking about the quick around-the-block run that takes you 10 minutes. I’m talking about going out for a run that lasts 45-60 minutes. You may not be able to run for this amount of time right off the bat, especially if you’ve never really ran before. That’s ok, just start at a lesser time and work your way up over the course of a few weeks. Start with just 10-15 minute runs, 3 times a week, and work up your times and frequency from there. It’s relatively easy to improve your running endurance – so long as you actually get out there an run at least 4 days a week.

How Often Should You Run?

As much or as little as you need to in order to see results. If you’re not happy with your leg size, run more. If you get to the point where you’re pleased with your results, you can scale back the amount you run.

If you need to, run 60 minutes a day, everyday, until you see results. When you’re looking the way you want, feel free to scale back and run for 25-30 minutes, 3 times a week for maintenance. This will keep your legs at their new size, and help prevent any new muscle or fat from creeping back up. If the size in your legs is due more to fat than muscle, it may be helpful to read this article on how to lose weight in your thighs.

Join over 95,000 gang members who are receiving our newsletter. You'll also get a free email series outlining the biggest time-wasting myths in the fitness industry today.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
  • Came across this page accidentally and am so glad-found it very useful! I have muscular legs from doing a lot of doing a lot of explosive power excersises like burpees and jumping squats and will now start me some long distance running! Thanks!

    • Josh Vales

      You’re very welcome!

      • JJosh has this ever worked for anyone if so i want name(s)

        • Josh Vales

          Many of my clients in real life have benefitted from this, as well as countless others who’ve sent in their testimonials. And that’s not even including all the boxers who routinely use this method to get down to weight before a fight.


  • Hi Josh,

    I’ve got a few questions for you:

    1) I read a similar article to this one on Rusty Moore’s site where he said you should be doing 45-60 minutes of running without having eaten anything for 3-4 hours beforehand. If I try to do this, my blood sugar gets out of whack and I end up binging later on, which is obviously much less healthy. Do you think not eating for this long before cardio is truly necessary? What about no calories for an hour before running?

    2) Do you think lowering the amount of protein in one’s diet would help speed things along?

    3) What about going on these runs but taking walking breaks of 1-2 mins? Would that reduce their effectiveness?

    4) Do you think running outside on roads would be better to lose muscle in one’s legs compared to running on a treadmill? I know the thought behind the article is that the body will lighten up on it’s own to go easier on the joints, so as the road is harder on the joints than the treadmill, do you think it would work faster?



    • Josh Vales


      1. No, I do not think that not eating before cardio is necessary. I think the whole “do cardio on an empty stomach” thing is really a bit of a scientific stretch, and really doesn’t play much into the equation in the long run. It’s more about calories in vs. calories out – that is what will dictate your weight loss success. No calories for an hour before running is just fine.

      2. It may, though I wouldn’t go below 0.6g per pound of bodyweight.

      3. Take a break only if you must. It is the long, slow nature of these runs which is the key to their effectiveness.

      4. In general, running outdoors (or just off a treadmill) is better and will yield better results. Though it may not make a huge difference, I would still stick to the road.

      Thanks for the questions! Hope this helps,


  • Marja

    Great advice, probably the best I’ve seen on this topic actually. You’ve got yourself a new fit fan!


  • hey Josh,
    Please help me with this. My knees are hurt and i cannot run. I love running. Can you give me an alternative to run that makes one lose weight on thighs and gives that sleek look? can elliptical on low resistance for 60 minutes give the same effect? if yes what should be the resistance.. i have my graduation next month.. need your help. Please do answer. thanks

  • Ali

    Hey josh, I have terrible shin splints.. Just wondering if this can be done on the elliptical with the same results? Thank you:)

  • Josh,

    Which is more effective: a shorter, 25ish minute run with few to no walking breaks, or a 45ish minute run with more frequent breaks? I know the ideal is to do a 45-60 minute run with few to no breaks, but I think people who are starting out and scared of getting injured will have to pick between the two options I listed before they get to that point. Which would you say is preferable?


    • whoops. So the two options I listed above would be on an almost daily basis. Or would it be better to alternate days running w/o breaks for 45-60 mins with complete rest days?

  • HI! just a quick question , I really want to loose the muscle in my legs ; whats better to run intervals or run in a steady pace?

    • Josh Vales

      Hi Valerie,

      It’s definitely better to run at a steady pace! Intervals are generally at a higher intensity and tend to build up more muscle than running at a slower, steady pace for a longer period of time. Hope this helps!


  • Sandra beller

    Hi josh,
    I’ve been having trouble getting rid of my thighs they are SO big and muscular and I’ve been running for about two weeks and I feel as though they’re getting bigger ! And I don’t know what to to do I’m really confused. I also walk a ton and was wondering if that’s a good idea or if that’s just making my thighs grow ? Please get back to me thanks 😉

    • Josh Vales, CPT

      Hi Sandra!

      I know two weeks may seem like a long time, but generally, it takes 3 weeks for you to start seeing changes in your body. 6 weeks before clothes fit differently, and up to 3 months before other people start to take notice. Don’t give up, keep going.

      Walking won’t negatively impact your leg size, it’s good to move more in general so keep it up!

      Please let me know if you have any other questions,


  • Molly

    Hey Josh,
    I have been struggling with pumped leg muscle for a while now. I had lean legs, but too much body pump and weight trainings really bulked up my legs, especially hamstrings in 7 months. Now im trying very hard to reduce it but it seems that any leg excersize brings back the pump. I started with this regime a couple of days ago, but still not sure is it gonna work, cause i feel the bulk again. Is it possible to stop being active and wait for it to reduce, since it wasnt natural muscle for me, or that process would be longer that this one? I was wondering if you can explain me is this posssible even, cause I gathered a lot of contradicted information.
    I would be very much grateful

  • Jackie Hill

    Hey Josh, ive been running for quite a while now, and I was wondering how fast i should run on the tredmill to reduce size in my legs? Also i have flabby skin or fat within my upper inner thighs and i was wondering what i can do to remove that. I want to have thin legs and reduce muscle, so should I do pilates exercises to target the inner thigh area or will that just build muscle and make my legs look bigger?

    • Josh Vales, CPT

      Due to the failing elasticity in the skin as we age, it can take a while for it to catch up when someone undergoes significant weight loss (perhaps a year or more even). The only other option would be surgery to remove the excess flabby skin, but I don’t recommend that unless you have recently lost hundreds of pounds.

      I would skip the pilates for now and just do regular long distance running and see where that gets you. That seems to have the bets outcome in my experience.

  • Angel del Rosario

    hello josh! is this really effective?i really got issues with my legs because my calves are really big…maybe it was built when I’ve been fond of using heels since i was in my primary(elementary) days.. will this help me? im a petite woman and this calves is really turning down my self esteem.. is there any advice could you give?thanx in advance.. 😉

    • This will absolutely help you! Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

  • Ola

    Hi I’m a soccer player and I practice soccer everyday but I notice it’s making my legs more muscular! How can I lean out my muscle without stopping soccer?

  • Oday Erekat

    Hi Josh! Thanks for the lovely article. But if i stopped squatting, then how I will have a good shaped ass?

  • Robin Freeman

    Oh my god. I have been a couch potato after my spouse died 2 yrs ago and so I joined a gym and they put me on what they call a 30 minute circuit (Planet fitness) and I had slender legs and after a month of 3 times a week of the 30 min circuit I just noticed my once slim calves and thighs are huge. I actually cried when i noticed it. If I quit will they go back to where they were before? I can’t run being older and really out of shape so I am at lost. HELP,

    • Josh Vales, CPT

      Quitting will almost always result you in you returning to your previous size and shape, given enough time and a similar diet to what you were eating before.

  • Priceless Worth

    what is “running on the stop” ?