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Are you someone with skinny legs with a big belly who is unhappy with how you look?

You may be uncomfortable with your appearance and feel that you need to change, but maybe you’re unsure of where to start. 

Don’t worry, many of us have been there. This is an issue I have helped many of my clients with over the last 13 years as a trainer.

Today, let’s discuss skinny legs with a big belly.

Keep reading to learn the health risks, causes, and pro tips to help you get bigger legs and reduce your belly size, revealing a stronger, fitter you.

Let’s dive in. 

Why do I have skinny legs with big belly?

Related: Why Are My Legs So Skinny?

Skinny legs with big belly can be the result of elevated cortisol levels, and over a period of time, hypercortisolism. This can lead to fatigue, depression, anxiety, decreased libido and back pain.

This, in combination with other factors including poor nutrition, lack of sleep, increased stress, and lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and impair your ability to build muscle.

What are the dangers of having skinny legs with a big belly?

Related: Skinny Fat Workout Plan

skinny legs with big belly dangers

Having skinny legs with a big stomach isn’t all about looks, it can lead to (or be a consequence of) a range of health complications.

Below is a list of dangers for having skinny legs with some extra weight around your midsection. 


Having skinny legs with a big stomach can in fact increase your risk of injuries.

Research indicates that increased body weight can result in greater pressure on joints and an increased risk of osteoarthritis. Meanwhile, additional weight around the midsection may result in excessive lordosis (arching) of the lower back.

This results in poor posture, leading to headaches, back pain, and mobility-related issues. 

Further studies identify spinal health-related risks such as disc degeneration, disc herniation, osteoarthritis, and increased disc compression. 

Poor Function

Poor function can be the result of having a decreased level of muscle mass while carrying additional weight.

When our body does not have the muscle mass to support our joints, our ability to perform basic tasks becomes difficult. Getting up, sitting down, and lifting objects can put a great deal of stress on the muscles and joints.

This, combined with previously mentioned disc and joint-related issues, can be immobilizing.

Increased Health Risks

The increased health risks surrounding belly fat and obesity are well-documented.

Research suggests that additional fat around our vital organs is associated with increased risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Further research confirms the risk of cancer, asthma, disability, and the abovementioned musculoskeletal problems. 

Mental Health 

Carrying extra weight frequently puts a strain on our mental health.

Obesity can contribute to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and stress. It’s not just about carrying the weight; this can be perpetuated by feelings of discrimination, stigma, and ridicule.

Combine this with poor function or injury and it’s no wonder you may have difficulty stepping out, exercising, and pursuing healthier habits. 

What are the reasons for having skinny legs with a big belly?

Related: 10 Best Leg Machines At The Gym

reasons for having skinny legs with a big belly

When we think about skinny legs with a big stomach, we single out the obvious reasons, such as poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

However, there additional factors should be identified to help you make a lasting impact on your health.

Below is a list of all the areas that may result in you having skinny legs with a big belly.   

Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition is one of the main reasons we carry additional weight on our body.

Scientific literature indicates that consuming poor-quality food high in saturated and trans fats to be linked to weight gain and abdominal fat deposits.  

When we consume poor-quality food, it can blow out our daily recommended intake for calories and macronutrients.

While there can be high levels of protein, poor food will often have high fat content to match. 

By making alterations to your food choices and selecting nutrient-dense foods, plus hitting your macronutrient target, you can assume a more balanced diet and reduce body fat.

This, combined with a caloric deficit, will help you reduce body fat and improve overall health.  

Not Enough Resistance Training

Skipping out on resistance training not only affects the thickness of our legs, but negatively affects our weight.

When we resistance train, we can actively promote muscle hypertrophy to all parts of the body.

Combine this with the energy that is expended during the average weight training session, and we can improve our overall physique. 

However, when we don’t exercise, our muscles may atrophy and any excess calories can result in weight gain.

To reduce the chances of unwanted weight gain and skinny legs, it is recommended that you resistance train or exercise two to three times per week. 

This helps increase muscle mass and keep the weight off. 

Increased Sugar Intake

Increased sugar intake has been linked to the increase over obesity.

Sugar has been listed as medium to high GI (glycemic index) food, meaning that there is a spike in energy that decreases relatively quickly. This decreases the feeling of satiety, leading you to search for more food options. 

Research discusses how there’s been a decrease in fat consumption over the past 30 years, but obesity levels continue to rise. 

The speculation is that this may be the result of increased sugar intake, with the U.S. population consuming 300% of its daily recommended amount of sugar.

The study confirms that a reduction in sugar helps to slow down the annual increase in obesity.

While a food’s GI rating does not illustrate poor nutrient density, the energy spike may result in snacking and the selection of poor food choices that may result in potential weight gain. 

Not Enough Protein 

Not eating enough protein is a detriment to both your lean muscle mass and your ability to regulate your appetite.

When we eat protein-rich foods, it can help us feel fuller for longer.

This reduces cravings and the risk of making poor food choices throughout the day. Protein is also vital for building and maintaining muscle mass.

All of this means that the absence of protein in our diet not only increases the risk of weight gain but can reduce the lean muscle mass of our legs. 

To ensure you’re meeting your requirement, studies recommended consuming 1.6g-2.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

This will help you maintain and build lean muscle mass as well as keep the cravings away. 

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Poor sleep can have a big effect on our weight.

Research suggests that lack of sleep can result in increased secretion of hunger hormone ghrelin. When this happens, we may find ourselves hungrier throughout the day.

Further studies show that poor sleep can increase stress, which also leads to making poor food choices.

To remedy this, start by setting a sleep routine and bedtime each night, and limit screen time prior to going to bed.

This will help you get in routine and improve the quality of your sleep.

Increased Stress

Increased levels of stress have been linked to weight gain.

When we become stressed, many of us lean on food as a comfort. Research shows that increases in the stress hormone cortisol was linked to increased weight gain. 

With an always online culture and longer working hours, many of us are enduring greater levels of stress and lack of sleep.

This alters our moods, further increasing feelings of stress, and ends up leading us to making poor food choices, which again, leads to further weight gain.

To improve stress levels, consider scheduling in your exercise session by working with a trainer, in a class, or with a friend.

By prioritizing your training, you will hopefully be able to remove yourself from stressful situations and get fitter in the process. Including someone else in your plan can be very helpful with motivation and accountability.

How To Get Bigger Legs

Related: How To Get Big Legs?

how to get bigger legs

We’re not going to lie, getting bigger legs takes time and a lot of consistent effort.

However, if you follow these tips below, you will be well on your way to being rid of your skinny legs. 

Eat a Calorie Surplus

Increasing lean muscle mass requires additional calories to build muscle and fuel the body for the intense training session. 

The recommended calorie intake is 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women.

To get rid of those skinny legs you may require an increase of about 500 calories.

However, if you want to find out your exact calorie intake based on your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, try our advanced calorie calculator.

Once you have your daily calorie intake, use an exercise and nutrition app.

Here, you will be able to input your target calories and the application will break down your calories per meal and macros.

If you need to either increase or decrease your calories, you can simply change them in the app and it will automatically update your macros.

Increase Protein Intake

To get bigger legs, you will need to be hitting your protein targets to build lean muscle and aid in recovery.

Research recommends consuming 1.6g-2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This can be with a combination of protein rich foods such as lean means, nuts, and seed, and through protein supplements such as shakes and protein bars. 

Lift Weights

Now it’s time to increase muscle mass. This can be done by lifting weights two to three times per week

Studies suggest performing sets of three sets of 8-12 repetitions at 60%-80% of your one repetition maximum to promote muscle hypertrophy.

This will help you build strong, muscular legs. 

Progressively Overload

When building bigger legs, it is recommended that you progressively overload the muscle with each session.

This can be done with small increases to weight, reps, and sets, helping you create a stimulus on your legs and promoting continuous growth. 

Increase Training Volume

Once you’ve been training your legs for some time and want to take it to the next level, consider increasing the training volume.

Science indicates that increasing training volume can promote greater muscle hypertrophy. This can be done by performing multiple leg sessions through the week to stimulate greater growth. 

The Best Exercises To Get Rid of Skinny Legs

Related: 15 Best Leg Workouts With Dumbbells

Getting rid of skinny legs takes an overhaul of your nutrition and a range of exercise to stimulate muscle growth.

Here are the most effective exercises to build bigger legs and improve your physique. 

1. Back Squats

The back squat is the king of all lower-body exercise as it targets the legs and glutes while engaging the upper body.  

The ability to load up the weight with the barbell makes it great for increasing mass and developing strength. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Barbell
  • Weight plates
  • Squat rack

How To Perform Back Squats

  • Set the barbell up in the squat rack around collarbone height.
  • Step under the barbell and position it on the belly of your traps, across the top of your shoulder blades.
  • Grab the barbell with both hands just wider than your shoulders.
  • Push up with your legs to take the weight of the barbell to unrack.
  • Take two steps back away from the rack.
  • Begin by leading back with your hips and slowly lower yourself toward the floor.
  • Lower until your hips and knees are bent 90 degrees.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat.


  • Improves strength
  • Builds mass

Pro Tips

  • Before each repetition, inhale and engage core and exhale as you push back up. This will help keep your torso rigid for the entire lift.
  • When pushing back up, focus on pushing evenly with both feet and contracting your quadriceps and glutes.   

2. Front Squats

The front squat is a brilliant exercise for building lower body muscle mass as well as teaching correct squatting technique.

As the bar is held in the front rack position, it reduces spinal compression and acts as a counterweight to the hips moving back, allowing for greater balance.

Equipment Requirements

  • Barbell
  • Weight plates
  • Squat rack

How To Perform Front Squats

  • Set up the barbell on a squat rack, just higher than your collarbone.
  • Step up to the barbell and position it on the front of your shoulders, in line with your collarbone.
  • Lift your elbows up until they are parallel with the floor.
  • Cross your arms across your chest so that your hands are crossed below the chin.
  • Grip the bar to get additional support.
  • Push up with your legs to take the weight of the barbell.
  • Take two steps back.
  • Start by leading back with the hips and bending the knees.
  • Lower yourself down until your hips are parallel with the floor.
  • Once at the bottom, push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat.


  • Increase strength and mass
  • Reduces compression of the spine

Pro Tips

  • Prior to each rep, inhale and contract abdominals. This will create a barrel of tension that will help your body remain stable for the entire lift.
  • Keep your elbows up and parallel for the duration of the lift. This will stop the barbell rolling forward when you perform the squat.

3. Goblet Squats

The goblet squat is a great exercise for introducing resistance to your squats and teaching correct technique.

Equipment Requirements

  • Dumbbell/Kettlebell 

How To Perform Goblet Squats

  • Standing upright, hold the dumbbell by its end directly under your chin with your elbows up.
  • Lean back with your hips and slowly lower yourself toward the ground.
  • Lower until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat. 


  • Introduces weight to squats
  • Increases muscle mass

Pro Tips

  • Keep elbows up for the duration of the set. This will stop the weight tipping forward when you perform the squat.
  • When you are performing the goblet squat, focus on muscle contraction and pushing evenly with both legs. This will help you hit your target muscles. 

4. Dumbbell Walking Lunges

Dumbbell walking lunges are great at targeting the muscles of the lower body in a functional movement pattern.

This is ideal for increasing muscle mass for the hips, quads, and hamstrings. Plus, the use of dumbbells means you can increase weight to suit your needs.

Equipment Requirements

  • Dumbbells

How To Perform Dumbbell Walking Lunges

  • Stand while holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.
  • Take a step forward with one foot into a split stance.
  • Lower the back knee directly down to the floor until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Once at the bottom, push up with both legs until you reach the top.
  • Have the rear leg step forward to meet the lead leg.
  • Alternate legs with the same technique for the remainder of the set. 


  • Builds mass
  • Improves unilateral strength and function

Pro Tips

  • Beginners can start with shallow lunges. This will help you get used to the technique and sensation of the muscle contraction.
  • If you are struggling with balance, have your feet meet between each lunge. This will help you reset and regain control. 

5. Reverse Hack Squat

The reverse hack squat utilizes a rail or hinge-based system that guides you through the movement. 

This allows you to focus on pushing and activating muscle, which is perfect for growing lean muscle.

Equipment Requirements

  • Hack squat
  • Weight plates

How To Perform the Reverse Hack Squat 

  • Step into the hack squat and place your shoulders against shoulder pads facing the machine.
  • Position your feet in the middle of the platform, shoulder-width apart.
  • Push up with your legs to take the weight of the carriage and unlock the safety mechanism.
  • Begin by leading back with hips and lowering your hips down toward the platform.
  • Lower until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push back up to the starting position. Repeat. 


  • Increase muscle mass
  • Carriage offers safe and guided movement

Pro Tips

  • Beginners should consider starting with a lighter weight and focus on technique. The hack squat isn’t particularly difficult, but it can be a strange feeling for the first few sets.
  • Place feet in the middle of the platform. This will allow you to get the correct depth while providing your with the proper knee and hip angle to generate force and push the carriage back up.

6. Belt Squat

The belt squat is a great machine that allows you to load up the legs without loading the spine. 

By tying a weight belt and resistance to your waist, you can increase load without adding compressive force directly to your back.

Equipment Requirements

  • Belt squat
  • Weight plates

How To Perform the Belt Squat

  • Step up onto the belt squat platform and position feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Wrap weight belt around waist and hook it onto the belt squat machine.
  • Push up with legs to take the weight of the machine and unlock safety bars.
  • Start by leading back with your hips and  bending your knees.
  • Lower yourself down until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Push yourself back up to the beginning position and repeat.  


  • Decreases spinal compression
  • Build muscle mass for quads and glutes

Pro Tips

  • When performing the belt squat for the first time, complete a set with just the carriage first. This will help you understand the mechanics of the machine.
  • When we are performing your working sets, consider having your hand close to or on the safety lock. This will allow you to lock off the safety mechanism should you hit failure or need to stop.  

7. Leg Press

The leg press offers a safe way to target the legs using a rail-based system.

There’s also a safety lockout mechanism that can easily be flipped over should you find the weight is too heavy for you. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Leg press
  • Weight plates

How To Perform the Leg Press

  • Sit down on  the leg press.
  • Place your feet up in the middle of the platform, shoulder-width apart.
  • Push with your legs to take the weight of the carriage and unlock the safety lock.
  • Start by bending the knees and lowering the carriage down toward your body.
  • Lower until your knees are bent at 90 degrees.
  • Then push the carriage back up until your legs are straight. Repeat.


  • Great for building mass
  • Safety locks and carriage are great for safety

Pro Tips

  • Place feet in the middle of the platform. This will help you get enough depth and will give you the correct knee and hip angle to push the platform back up.
  • Focus on breathing, inhaling as you lower the platform and exhaling as you push it back up.  

8. Lying Leg Curl

The lying leg curl is designed to isolate the hamstrings, and is great for increasing the overall girth of your leg, making them appear thicker from all angles. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Lying leg curl

How To Perform a Lying Leg Curl

  • Lie face down on the leg curl.
  • Position your ankles under the ankle pad and grasp the handles under the bench.
  • Begin by lifting your heels up and curling them toward your glutes.
  • Once your knees are flexed at 30 degrees, gradually lower your leg until it reaches the start position. Repeat.  


  • Isolates hamstrings
  • Increases upper leg girth

Pro Tips

  • Start with a lighter weight and perform a warm-up set. Focus on curling with each hamstring equally.
  • Avoid using momentum and swinging. Focus on the quality of contraction rather than quantity for the best results.

9. Standing Machine Calf Raises

The machine calf raise is perfect for targeting the calves, as it allows you to load up the shoulders, creating a vertical resistance that directly hits the calves. 

Equipment Requirements

  • Machine calf raise

How To Perform Standing Machine Calf Raises

  • Step up to the standing machine calf raise and position your shoulders under shoulder pads. 
  • Place the balls of your feet on the platform below.
  • Push up to take the weight of the carriage.
  • Begin by pushing the weight up with your ankles until you’re on your toes.
  • Once at the top, lower down until your calf is at a full stretch. Repeat.


  • Targets gastrocs, the large muscle that makes up the top of the calf
  • Increase muscle mass

Pro Tips

  • Start with a lighter weight and focus on squeezing the calf muscle at the top of the movement. This will improve results.
  • Focus on breathing and contracting each calf equally. 

10. Seated Calf Raises

The seated calf raise targets the soleus, which is the largest calf muscle. This increases overall mass and width of the calves.

Equipment Requirements

  • Seated calf raise
  • Weight plates

How To Perform Seated Calf Raises

  • Sit down on the seated calf raise.
  • Position your knees underneath knee pads and place toes on the platform below.
  • Push up with your ankles and remove the safety lock.
  • Lower your heels toward the floor until they are at a full stretch.
  • Push balls of feet down and lift heels up to the top position. 
  • Lower back down to the starting position and repeat. 


  • Increases muscle mass
  • Targets soleus and creates width

Pro Tips

  • Start with a lighter weight and focus on muscle contraction. 
  • When performing the calf raise, pause at the top to focus on squeezing the soleus. This will ensure you are hitting these fibers with every rep. 

Pro Tips for Losing Your Belly Fat Safely

Related: 5 Must-Try Leg Press Exercises To Target And Tone Your Glutes

tips for skinny with belly fat

When we set out to lose belly fat, it can be tempting to go cold turkey and cut calorie intake. While this may get a job done, it is far from sustainable.

Here are some pro tips to help you get rid of that belly fat safely.

Caloric Deficit

When we want to lose belly fat we need to be in a caloric deficit, meaning that we’re burning more calories than we’re eating. 

You can use our advanced macronutrient and calorie calculator to formulate your desired weight loss goal.

We recommended a deficit of 250-500 calories, with the aim of slow weight loss.

This will be easier to adhere to and help you maintain for a longer duration, which will help you achieve greater long-term results. 

Increase Protein Intake

Increasing your protein intake can make all the difference when it comes to losing belly fat.

Not only will more protein help you build and maintain muscle but it will keep you full, stopping those cravings.

To ensure you are getting enough protein, aim to eat 1.6g-2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This can be done by having some protein with each meal, and through the use of protein powder supplements

Take It Slow

When we set out to lose weight, it can be tempting to want to go all out and drop the weight as fast as possible.

However, this is often a disaster as restrictive diets tend to backfire with binge eating.

Understanding that losing belly fat is something you want to maintain long term is the key. Framing it as a lifestyle change will help you get fitter and healthier over time, so you maintain your weight loss for years to come.  


Walking is one the best ways to increase your energy expenditure and increase your fitness.

While it may be difficult to head out after a long day, it can be great for decompressing and getting the blood pumping.

By scheduling a walk two to three times per week, you can effortlessly begin burning those calories and reducing your stress.  

Follow a Program

Following a program is one the best ways to ensure the success of your weight loss journey.

Like traveling with a map or a clear goal in mind, it can be hard to continue and keep motivated through the process.

However, a program with weekly tasks and short and long-term goals will help you clearly see your destination as you reflect on how far you’ve come.

This can be great for added motivation as you keep making progress.

Final Thoughts

Having skinny legs with a big belly can not only be uncomfortable but come with a long list of health risks.

However, all hope is not lost. 

You are only just a few simple steps away from decreasing that excess weight and increasing the size of those legs.

Just be sure to improve your nutrition, eat more protein, hit the gym, and get more sleep, and you will be on your way to a healthier version of you.

So, are you currently suffering from skinny legs with a big stomach?

What changes do you think you can make to kick start your weight loss journey?

Let us know in the comments. 

Why does all my fat go to my stomach?

Fat is stored on the belly due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. When there is a calorie surplus and our body does not burn calories, our body stores them as adipose tissue (fat tissue) around main areas of body mass. 

Why are my legs and arms toned but not my stomach?

Your arms tend to have greater lean body mass, and when we lose weight we will tend to lean out around our arms and legs.

Our stomach, on the other hand, is larger overall in body weight and tissue size, and the fat stores around this area can be great.

This often means that a greater level of fat loss is required to reveal toned abdominals. 

What causes very thin legs?

Thin legs are caused by decreased muscle mass. This can be due to lack of resistance training, inadequate calorie consumption, or poor nutrition.

How to make your legs bigger?

To make your legs bigger you need to resistance train two to three times per week, eat a calorie surplus, and increase your protein intake. 

This will help you promote muscle hypertrophy, increasing your lean body mass.