Tired of doing countless leg exercises to get rid of back thigh fat? Unfortunately, it's not possible to lose fat from specific areas of your body. The only way to slim down your legs is to get leaner overall through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Doing lots of hamstring curls and other single-joint exercises is unlikely to reduce back thigh fat. Instead, use a mix of compound movements, full-body workouts and high-intensity interval training to get leaner overall.
The Truth About Spot Reduction
Back thigh fat can ruin your confidence and keep you from wearing short dresses or skinny jeans. Perhaps you hit the gym religiously and eat pretty clean but still don't have shapely legs. Your hamstrings, or the back of your thighs, are thick and covered with cellulite.
From full-body workouts and weight training to HIIT, there are ways to get rid of back thigh fat. Doing dozens of squats isn't one of them, though.
As the American Council on Exercise notes, spot reduction is just a myth. No matter how hard you try, you can't lose fat only from your abs, hamstrings, calves or other specific areas by training that muscle alone. If you do lots of hamstring curls you'll build muscle in the back of your thigh, but you won't necessarily lose fat.
Read more: The Truth About Targeted Weight Loss
Most exercises that target specific areas have a negligible impact on overall fitness and calorie burn. According to the American Council on Exercise, it's your overall fitness that influences your body's ability to burn fat.
Women are genetically prone to store fat in the lower body, especially in the hips and thighs, states a review published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences in May 2012. Therefore, they may find it more difficult to lose back thigh fat compared with their male counterparts. However, this fat distribution pattern has its advantages, such as a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders.
Exercises for Back Thigh Fat
If you're struggling with back thigh fat, you might be tempted to do a lot of cardio and exercises that target the hamstrings, like hip thrusts, hamstring curls and glute ham raises. That's fine as long as you don't neglect other muscle groups. To put it simply, it's necessary to train your whole body, not just your hamstrings.
Squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, lunges and other compound movements are more effective for burning calories and improving body composition than isolation work. These exercises hit nearly every muscle, providing a full-body workout. Barbell straight leg deadlifts, for example, engage the hamstrings as well as the back, traps, glutes and core muscles. The barbell back squat targets your quads but it also works your hamstrings, glutes, back and abs.
Read more: How to Get Lean, Sexy Legs With 12 Moves
Still not convinced? A small study published in Frontiers in Physiology in December 2017 compared the effects of single-joint (isolation) vs. multi-joint (compound) exercises on body composition, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Subjects who performed compound movements experienced greater improvements in muscle strength and oxygen consumption compared with those doing isolation work. Furthermore, body fat levels decreased by 11.3 percent in those who did compound exercises and by 6.5 percent in those performing isolation movements. These results occurred in as little as eight weeks.
Crank Up the Intensity
One way to maximize your workouts is to add HIIT to the mix. Over time, compound exercises and full-body workouts may get leaner and fitter, but you can get better results in less time. What you need to do is to alternate between high-intensity exercise and less vigorous exercise or rest. That's what high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is all about.
This training method is more time-efficient than steady-state cardio, reports a January 2019 meta-analysis featured in PLOS One. Additionally, it appears to be more effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness.
Another review, which was published in the February 2018 edition of Sports Medicine, shows that HIIT may help reduce total fat mass, abdominal fat and visceral fat. The latter is a type of adipose tissue linked to heart disease, diabetes and other cardiometabolic disorders.
HIIT can be used for both cardiovascular and strength training. If, let's say, you prefer to use the stationary bike for aerobic training, increase the speed for 30 seconds and then reduce it for another 30 seconds. Repeat for about 15 or 20 minutes.
As your endurance improves, you may try Tabata, a more advanced form of HIIT, to get leaner and lose back thigh fat. Increase the speed on the stationary bike or treadmill for 20 seconds, slow down or rest for 10 seconds and repeat. Do it for four minutes. This training protocol can boost your metabolism for up to 48 hours post-workout, so it's worth trying it out.
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Biology of Sex Differences: "Sex Differences in Human Adipose Tissues – the Biology of Pear Shape"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Back Squat"
- Frontiers in Physiology: "Resistance Training With Single vs. Multi-Joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength"
- PLOS One: "Effects of HIIT and MICT on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Adults With Overweight and / or Obesity: A Meta-Analysis"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- American Council on Exercise: "Everything You Need to Know About Tabata Training"