Getting Rid Of Your "Feminine Legs"

We're back with another bullshit bust, today looking at the legs and, more specifically, the differences in training the lower body pre vs. on testosterone. How do you get less feminine legs? How do you make your glutes smaller? These are all questions that get asked a lot and, if I'm being completely honest, I've messed up on myself. I remember posting videos on YouTube years ago detailing specific ftm leg days, changing the foot placement on the leg press for "less glute", thinking that was going to make a substantial difference to my physique (spoiler: it's not). Let's dive into this some more!

Sam Barnes Lifestyle ftm online coach leg day

Anatomy

Just like the first post in this series, The Only Chest Guide You Need As A Trans Person, we first have to understand exactly what it is we're talking about when we say "the legs". This is obviously a far broader topic than when we spoke about the chest but, to summarise, we're generally looking at 5 main areas of the lower body. These include:


• The Quadriceps - Further broken down into 4 individual muscles (hence the use of the word "quad"), these 4 run down the front of your thigh.

• The Hamstrings - Made up of three muscles, these run down the back of your thigh.

• The Glutes - There are 3 of these in total, all covering your butt.

• The Adductors - Often forgotten about, the adductors run down the insides of your thighs.

• The Calves - Making up the back of the lower leg, the calves are made up of two individual muscles, although one of these muscles (the Gastrocnemius) has two heads.

Sam Barnes Lifestyle ftm online coach leg day

Over the course of a week, a hypertrophy based training program is going to target these areas at least once, although for most it will be more than this. Resistance training is not black and white, and no one muscle will ever be trained solely on it's own, it's very important to understand this. We can bias certain areas of our bodies, but we can never solely train one muscle on it's own. Hence why, at the beginning of this post, I laughed at old videos I used to make where I said if you change your foot positioning on a leg press, you can make it only work your quads. We can bias certain muscles, but we cannot isolate. If you leg press, you work your glutes, end of story.


Muscle Vs. Body Fat

My latest YouTube video, Making Your Hips Smaller As A Trans Guy, dived into this topic a little bit, but it's really important we make the distinction here on our own bodies. A lot of the time the fear of training our lower bodies pre-t comes from the misunderstanding of where our feminine shape is coming from. There is no difference in female and male lower body muscles, we all have the same. The difference is in our fat distribution.


Training your lower body will not make it appear more feminine, the only way this could possibly happen is if you trained your glutes so much they grew to be much bigger than the average males (whatever the average males glute size is, anyway. I'm yet to conduct a public study on this). This is why a lot of female fitness models have bigger glutes. Not because they've got lower testosterone and have trained their glutes once, but because they've dedicated a large amount of training time to them. The hormones haven't made a scrap of difference. The only other thing that will also play a big role here is genetics.


What if you're holding a lot of body fat on your lower body? This can be removed using the usual nutritional method of a calorie deficit but, just like I mentioned in my latest YouTube video, if you're not on testosterone, getting your body fat very low on those body parts won't be sustainable in the long run for most people. Females are designed to hold body fat on those areas more so than others, to change this would be to change evolution. Does this mean you can't get rid of it? Not at all. Again, everybody has the ability to lower their levels of body fat but, distribution is still based on sex hormones and genetics.


Will glute bridges and hip thrusts get rid of body fat? No. No exercise has the ability to spot burn fat. Exercises, combined with the correct nutrition, only have the ability to build muscle.


Testosterone

There's this weird mindset we take when we're not on testosterone. We accept that, if we train our arms, we're not going to naturally grow 16" guns. Yet, when we think about leg training, we automatically believe our legs are going to get wide over night. Again, there's no difference here in upper vs. lower body muscle, even without testosterone. Am I saying you won't grow without testosterone? Absolutely not. As long as there isn't another issue at play, everybody can grow muscle. But those on testosterone will always be able to grow more muscle than those not on testosterone. Testosterone is anabolic.


What Happens If I Choose Not To Train My Glutes?

This is where it's really important we understand that exercise is not black and white. Skipping the abductor and hip thrusts doesn't mean you aren't training your glutes. Regardless of your foot placement on a leg press, your glutes are still working. That heavy deadlift you just did for your back? Yeah, that hit your glutes really, really fucking hard.


The truth is, if your glutes are never appropriately challenged, not only do you risk imbalances, but you also risk your glutes becoming weak. This is a problem I deal with a hell of a lot. Clients will come in with lower back pain, only for us to go on and find out it's because their glutes are weak. Clients will struggle with knee pain, for us to then go on to find out it's because they aren't correctly getting their glutes to work. Hypertrophy is great, but if we can't function without pain, there is no use in looking good.


So... Should I Directly Train My Glutes?

Not necessarily, no. Let's use me as an example here. I can't remember the last time I did any kind of direct glute work, like a barbell hip thrust for example. However, my plan is full of leg pressing, split squatting and deadlifting. All of which cause my glutes to be challenged and grow.


If you want your glutes to really grow, and this is an area you want to place emphasis on, a slightly more direct approach will be needed. If not, training like me with deadlifts and squat variations is probably enough. This won't leave you looking like the next Kim K, it will just leave you well proportioned and, more importantly, strong.


Setting Up My Own Leg Day

So, you're ready to start working on your lower body? Let's get to it. As someone who advocates for nothing but personalisation when it comes to training programs, these kind of segments aren't easy for me to write. However, as a general guide, I'm going to come up with a plan of action for everyone (regardless of testosterone or not) to start with on a leg day:


A) Hamstring Curl

Your decision here is going to be based around what equipment you have access to. Some gyms will only have one type of hamstring curl, others will have multiple. Simply put, it's either going to be seated, standing, or lying. For beginners, my first choice will always be seated (even in advanced clients, I still love a seated one to be fair). The level of stability it offers us is awesome, so it makes for a great challenge to the hamstrings. After this, my second choice would be lying, lastly followed by standing.


B) Leg Extension

Nice and simple, a leg extension is going to be seated regardless of brand. Does this mean they're all made evenly? Absolutely not. However, to keep things nice and simple, get used to the one you have access to and don't worry about the finer details for the time being.


C) Squat Based Pattern

C'mon, you wanted me to give you all the answers? Any squat based pattern you pick (barbell squat, leg press, split squat, etc.) is going to be complex. There's no such thing as a "basic squat". When we look at the beginner lifter, it's not a one size fits all approach, and there's definitely more and less appropriate options based on skill level. If we're going to try to make this as easy as possible for ourselves, a beginner is going to need something that offers them a huge amount of stability. Initially, this is probably going to be some kind of leg press or a squat machine (a hack squat, for example), so they're forced into a fixed path and don't have to stabilise themselves too much.


As someone progresses, something like a barbell back squat or a split squat might be used, but these are in no way "better" than the above options. I don't barbell back squat, and I haven't for years.


D) Adductor

Remember, this is the adductor, not abductor, so you'll be bringing your knees in, not out. This will place the majority of the focus on the insides of the thighs.


E) Calf Raise

Multiple possibilities here, but we're most likely going to want to train the calves when seated and also when standing. Seated will focus more on the calf muscle known as the Soleus, standing will be more focussed on the Gastrocnemius.


So, what about reps and sets?

Whenever starting a new program, it's really important we take things nice and slowly. This goes for everyone, but especially those who have never trained before. We don't need to take things to failure and do 4 sets on everything if we've never even stepped foot in a gym before. I would start all of the exercises above with two sets of 12 reps. This will allow you to focus on improving your form, controlling your tempo, and work on feeling everything in the correct place.


After doing this for a while, you'll be able to assess your recovery and progress. The sets and reps might need to change for one person, but stay the same for another. Don't compare your progress to someone else's.


So, to round up, training your lower body (especially your glutes) will not automatically create a more feminine shape. Female and male muscles are exactly the same. The only thing that differs is body fat distribution. If muscle size is your concern, simply start with a low volume approach to leg day training, and decrease your volume further if you become unhappy with your rate of growth.


Excess body fat can be lost with improved nutritional habits, but bringing your body fat levels down on your glutes and thighs to a really low point might not be sustainable for a long period of time if you're not on testosterone.


Don't want your glutes to grow excessively? Don't over train them. "Over training" is going to differ person to person, based on how well you respond to training, and how well you recover. Start out low on volume (like the 2 sets mentioned above), no direct glute work such as barbell hip thrusts and abductions, and assess from there.


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