The reason you've got skinny legs and how to fix them

If there is one thing that separates the gym men from the gym boys, it's leg development. Big biceps, thick triceps and deep chests are pretty common but well-develop legs? They are much rarer.

If you are worried about how you’ll look in shorts this summer or have resigned yourself to always wearing long trousers, it’s time to stop ignoring the reasons your leg development is lacking and start adding some size to your wheels.

Reason 1 – you aren’t prioritizing leg training

Monday is National Chest Day all around the world and no gym bro worth his protein powder ever skips chest day! However, leg day is usually reserved for later in the week and it’s all too easy to find excuses for not doing your planned lower body workout. Needless to say, not doing your leg workout is a great way to keep your legs skinny!

Fix: Prioritize leg day by making it the first workout of the week. That way you’ll have lots of energy to train hard and are also much less likely to skip out on this all-important workout.

Reason 2 – you aren’t squatting

Leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, lunges, hack squats, Bulgarian split squats – all good exercises but none of them can compare to the leg-building power of the mighty squat. It’s amazing how many exercises people will do in an effort to avoid squats when they’d get much better results from dedicating some time and effort to what is rightly called the King of Exercises.

Squats work every muscle in your lower body and many upper body muscles too. They are hard, which is why they are unpopular, but it’s the difficulty of squats that makes them so productive. There are plenty of squat variations to try so you should be able to find one that suits your needs but the truth is, if you want bigger legs, you have got to squat.

Fix: Make squats your first leg exercise. Do five sets of five, three sets of eight, three sets of three, one set of twenty – pick a set and rep scheme and work it hard.

Reason 3 – you are doing too much cardio

Look at the leg development of the average long-distance runner – pretty skinny, right? There is a reason for that; long distance running promotes muscle breakdown. The less muscle you have, the faster and further you’ll be able to run as you’ll be carrying less “dead weight”. Your body knows this and so, if you are a regular runner, your body will take steps to rid itself of excess baggage – say goodbye quads!

Now, check out the leg development of a sprinter; many of those guys have legs that would make a bodybuilder envious! Sprint training is short, sharp, and intense – the opposite of distance running.

If you don’t want marathon runner legs, you need to stop doing so much chronic cardio and think more like a sprinter.

Fix: Instead of endless steady-state cardio, do HIIT sprint intervals, circuit training, or metabolic resistance training instead. If you do want to do steady-state cardio, limit yourself to two or three 20-minute sessions per week.

Reason 4 – you are not doing enough leg training volume

For reason that are unclear, many guys train muscles like their chest, back, or biceps with a high volume of exercise but their legs with a low volume of exercise. Chest might get 20 or more sets per week but legs? They might only get six or so. It’s no wonder that skinny legs are all too common.

Fix: Make sure you do at least the same volume of exercise for your legs as you do for your upper body. If you do ten sits of biceps per week, you really should do ten sets of hamstrings too – they are the biceps of your legs after all.

To accommodate this extra volume, you may need to do two leg workouts per week – one that is quad-dominant (squats and leg extensions) and one that is hamstring-dominant (deadlifts and leg curls).

5 – you aren’t eating enough

Training and building bigger legs requires a lot of energy and that energy comes from the food you eat. If you aren’t eating big, you won’t get big – period!

If you are serious about adding size to your lower body, you MUST start eating more. More protein, more carbohydrate, more healthy fats, more calories – especially after leg workouts. Yes, you may gain a little fat along with the extra muscle but that’s easily shed later. However, you will not be able to build meaningful amounts of muscle if you don’t eat enough.

Fix: You cannot build a house without bricks and you cannot build bigger legs without food. Make sure you plan your meals with as much attention to detail as you do your workouts. Eat big but eat clean to ensure your body has all it needs to fuel your workouts and build muscle afterward.

Building bigger legs is not easy but that’s what makes it so rewarding. Strong-looking legs will earn you kudos from your fellow gym bros and also mean that, come summer, you won’t be the guy wearing jeans at the beach!