“How do I decrease muscle size so I look proportionate?”
Q: I am a female. I have a lot of muscle in my lower body. How do I decrease the size of the muscles so I look proportionate? I would like a solid answer because I have searched for one and I get different answers. – Amanda
We’ve see a lot of strange info out there about decreasing muscle mass, too, so we know how you feel. While there’s plenty of advice on reducing lean muscle mass, you’re probably wary of the “quick fixes”—and you should be. They’re rarely safe or effective long-term.
It’s also important to remember that when it comes to fitness, every body is unique, so no single answer is going to be right for everyone. There are tons of factors that determine our physiques— some we can control (activities, habits, diet), and some we can’t (genetics).
So, while I’m not dumb enough to try to tell you what will definitely decrease your muscle size, I can give you some techniques that work for others (and me). For best results, I’d suggest you combine all of these approaches, be diligent, and above all, be realistic.
DECREASE EXISTING MUSCLE MASS
You’d think that losing muscle would be easier than gaining it, right? But if you’re an athlete and you love your sport, it’ll be hard to downsize those leg muscles. And if beefy glutes are in your genes, that’ll be tough to change, too. Plus, you won’t want to lose all of that muscle. If you do, get ready to start finding fat in its place, because muscle helps your body burn calories. Lean muscle mass is also critical for overall health.
That being said, you can take away some of the bulk. Start by scaling back any resistance exercises you’re doing—squats, lunges, pliés, stair-climbing, or gear-mashing on your bike. These activities exercise your legs using the weight of your whole body. That means your glutes, thighs, quads, hamstrings, and calves are going to get bigger.
Also look at what you’re eating. Try to lower the fat content in your diet, and make sure you aren’t eating more than your RDI of protein (about 50 grams per day for the average female.)
EXERCISE WITHOUT BULKING UP
Is it possible to maintain strength and tone in your lower body, minus the gladiator quads? Yes. Sculpting exercises that are high repetition and low stress work your legs, hips, and glutes without the resistance of your whole body. Leg lifts and bicycle maneuvers are good examples. Yoga and pilates are two more ways to lengthen and define your muscles without bulking up. Body bars are awesome for sculpting legs with just the right amount of weight.
For cardio, shift from high intensity exercise to low-resistance, medium-intensity cardio. Fast walking, steady cycling, and elliptical machines at the gym are fair ways to stay in shape without building muscle bulk.
Muscle is critical to long-term health and strength, so it’s not worth sacrificing that for proportion. As you work to decrease muscle mass, don’t stop exercising and don’t under-nourish your body. Make sure you are working to perfect your ideal shape, not someone else’s.
Here’s something else to keep in mind: 95% of women do not have stick-straight figures. This is something the fashion world is starting to acknowledge; Check it out.
Finally, as we mentioned before, decreased muscle mass will probably slow your metabolism. Your body will start to burn fat less efficiently and you may wind up needing to work out double-time at the gym to maintain your shape.
In the end, you may decide that you like that extra muscle, after all.
Got any additional tips for keeping a slender look through strength training? Put ’em here!