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Can You Do Home Exercises to Slim the Knees?

by 
author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Can You Do Home Exercises to Slim the Knees?
Can You Do Home Exercises to Slim the Knees? Photo Credit: DragonImages/iStock/GettyImages

Any extra skin and pockets of fat above your knees makes you self conscious to bare your legs in shorts or a swimsuit. Even if you're thin elsewhere, this fat persists—and all you want is to cinch it up and have tight, lovely legs.

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While exercise can't target knee fat directly, it can tighten your quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh, which lifts sagging skin and tone your leg's whole appearance. When you strength train regularly and eat right, you inevitably lean out—leaving less fat on your body overall, including your knees.

Spot Training Isn't Possible

Most everyone has areas that store a little excess fat that won't budge. You may even be of a healthy weight, but these pockets just won't slim. In women, and some men, the knees are the problem area. It's a place where cellulite often forms. Cellulite is the orange-peel looking fat that's slightly dimpled and sits just below the skin's surface. It's notoriously hard to get rid of—in fact, even the skinniest women tend to have a little.

Read more: Knee Stabilizing Exercises

So, when it comes to spot-reducing fat from an area, it's just not possible. Fat loss doesn't work like that. Just like you didn't choose to gain weight around your knees, you can't choose to lose it there either. Your body has a set pattern for weight loss and while you can slim your whole body and watch your knee area shrink somewhat, you can't specifically make your knee fat go away.

What you can do, though, is tighten and tone the muscles in your body to create a leaner, tauter appearance. Muscle is a denser, tighter tissue than fat and doesn't sag or pooch like fat does. This helps lift the appearance of your upper thighs and makes them appear more svelte. You may not actually get thinner knees, but they'll look better.

Build Your Quads

Your quadriceps are the set of four muscles that sit above your knee at the front of your thigh. They extend the knee joint and are instrumental in walking, squatting, running and jumping.

Strong quads also give shape to your upper thigh and help resist gravity—so instead of saggy flesh, you have a lifted look. The following exercises help build up your quads and reduce the appearance of fat knees.

1. Squat

Squats can be done in a variety of ways, including front-loaded, split, holding dumbbells, single-leg or bodyweight, and all put emphasis on your quads. The basic squat with a bar across the back of your shoulders—known as back loaded—is a good option to master.

HOW TO DO IT: Approach a squat rack and stand under the bar with it just behind your shoulders. Unrack the bar and stand with your feet a little wider than your hips. Bend your knees and hips, keeping your chest mostly upright, until your thighs are close to, or slightly below, parallel to the floor. Pause momentarily and rise back up to a stand, keeping your heels grounded, to complete one rep.

Read more: Damaging Effects of Tight Quadriceps

2. Walking Lunge

Walking lunges require you to use both legs equally and hone your balance. They also build the quad muscles that helps lift sagging knees.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold a barbell across the back of your shoulders or a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging alongside your torso. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and take a step with your right leg 3 to 4 feet forward. Bend the right knee so your thigh is parallel to the floor, and immediately step forward with the other leg to perform another lunge.

The leg extension isolates the quads.
The leg extension isolates the quads. Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/GettyImages

3. Leg Extension

Leg extensions are usually performed on a the weight machine of the same name. Leg extensions are one of the few exercises that completely isolate your quads. Keep the weight at a manageable level so you don't strain the knee joint.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the machine's padded seat and support your torso against the back rest. Hook the fronts of your ankles under the lever and raise it up until your knees are extended—but not locked. Slowly lower the weight back down to complete one rep.

Workout Plan

Do these moves two times per week on non consecutive days. Start with a manageable weight that allows you to do between eight and 12 repetitions for one set. Over several weeks, increase the number of sets you do to three. And, as the weight you've chosen feels manageable, increase it so that you feel fatigued in fewer than 12 reps.

On days you're not strength-training, fit in moderate-intensity cardio for about 30 minutes (or longer) to help burn calories and encourage total body fat loss. Good quad-building cardio includes hiking up and incline, jogging and cycling. But, ultimately, find a workout that you enjoy, so you stick with it for the long-term.

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