Answered by Nicci Micco on Monday, June 1, 2009
Making your muscles bigger is one thing, but trimming them down is a different story. "Generally, when someone has large, well-defined muscles—and they haven't consciously gone after them —it's due to genetics," says exercise physiologist C.C. Cunningham, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "Therefore, any kind of exercise will stimulate muscle building." If you've been strength training with weights, there's no need to stop—just lighten up a bit. "Do thirty repetitions or more of a leg extension, for example, with very light weight," recommends Declan Connolly, Ph.D., director of the University of Vermont Human Performance Laboratory. "This will maintain the strength in your legs without developing bulk." On the other hand, if some of your leg mass is fat rather than muscle, you can reduce total body fat with the help of cardiovascular training. Connolly advises choosing aerobic activities that are not calf-specific—in other words, stay away from stairclimbing and biking. "Taking the cardiovascular route might enable you to reduce the size of your legs somewhat," agrees Cunningham. But, she warns, "just bear in mind that you can't spot reduce. If you're genetically primed to carry weight in your legs, it will be the last place you'll lose it."