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Nothing can wreak havoc on a woman's confidence quite like saddlebags. For many women, making them disappear is a life-long challenge. And to make matters worse, saddlebags' presence only increases as overall body fat grows, which means you'll need to bring in the big guns, both diet and exercise, when tackling outer thigh fat.
One of the best tools to use when reducing saddlebags is following the right workout plan packed with the most effective exercises.
This article will go over all of the information you need, including:
If you want to lose saddlebags, this post is for you.
Saddlebags occur when weight gain occurs, and it is one of the least liked effects of gaining body fat for many women.
"Saddlebags" is the term that has been allocated to refer to the buildup of fat cells seen on the outer thighs. When discussing ideal thigh sizes for men and women, saddlebags are more often seen on a woman's body. And unfortunately, trying to reduce saddlebags can be very difficult, making it one of many women's biggest problem areas.
There are two parts to this.
We'll talk more about diet later. First, let's discuss genetics real quick.
The simple answer to why fat is stored on females comes down to genetics. Think about it like this: When you accumulate fat, do you ever get to choose where it goes?
Of course, you don't. Your genetics and body type choose where you gain weight, and sometimes genetics can be downright cruel. This explains why gaining weight for one woman happens shockingly fast while her friend eats what she pleases and never seems to gain a pound, or why one woman has noticeable hip dips while another doesn't.
With that in mind, be careful when assuming a fitness influencer has solved the saddlebag problem just because they don't have fat in that area. It could just be attributed to their genetics and not their lifestyle choices.
Now answer this: If you've recently experienced weight gain (and we're not referring to the type of gain associated with building muscle), did you notice where you first started storing the extra body fat? If you're a woman, you most likely said that you first noticed excess fat develop on the outer thigh.
This is due to estrogen. Higher estrogen levels can trigger the thighs to store more fat cells than normal. Again, there is really not a ton you can do about this. It's what women's bodies are genetically wired to do.
As mentioned, your genetics play a role in where your fat is stored, including the upper thighs. However, we want to emphasize the word where.
While you may not have much control over where you store fat, you can control how much fat is stored. Even if you have the worst genetics concerning fat storage, your upper thighs will only collect fat if your total body fat is in excess.
Therefore, while there are circumstances that can make maintaining a healthy body weight more difficult, you'll still need to make total weight loss the main variable. Both dieting, such as following calorie cycling in the Metabolic Confusion Diet, and exercise play a role in weight loss.
Many people look at weights with a completely wrong mindset. No specific exercise will burn fat on any body part because that's not what they do. In fact, they do the opposite.
While they don't burn fat in a specific area, they do build muscle. Therefore, when you do outer thigh exercises to train the thigh muscles, you are supporting muscle hypertrophy. You are not specifically burning thigh fat.
Another great strategy for building muscle and toning is using ankle weights when performing lower body exercises. Ankle weights benefits are endless, and it's a great way to burn some additional calories!
In my opinion, the best strategy is to start doing 1-2 leg workouts for women weekly to build some serious lower body muscle.
Didn't we just say weight training builds muscle, not burns fat? Yes, we did. However, there's nuance.
While weights don't get rid of body fat directly, they can still help the body burn fat indirectly as well as improve body composition. That's good news for any body recomposition plans you may have. This occurs through several mechanisms, including:
A benefit you may achieve from developing more muscle in the outer thigh region is better shape. Not only could larger muscle minimize the amount of "jiggle," but it can also prevent excess fat from falling off to the side (this is what causes the saddlebag shape).
Your thigh refers to the area of your upper leg between your knees and hips and consists of the strongest leg muscles. When speaking of saddlebags, the primary muscles we're concerned with are the following.
Your glute muscles, or butt muscles, are composed of three different muscles:
All of these are crucial for optimal performance and function. Plus, having developed glutes is pretty popular. Out of all these, gluteus medius strengthening exercises are the most important when it comes to the outer thigh.
The gluteus medius sits on the lateral side of the hips, basically under the saddlebags. It's responsible for things like leg abduction and balance.
The quadriceps sit on the entire front of the leg. Further, the muscle is found on the inner thighs and outer thighs, making them pretty important to train to help with saddlebag fat. Vastus lateralis exercises will also go a long way in eliminating saddlebags, as the thigh goes all the way up to the hip on the front side.
The hamstrings sit below the glutes, so they may not affect the appearance of saddlebags, or your inner and outer thighs, as much. However, they still play a huge role in the total size of the thigh. Further, it’s basically impossible to not train them when you train your glutes as they’re both involved in hip extension. And you'll want to include hamstring exercises simply to ensure your lower leg muscles are fully developed.
We understand the hypocrisy here. Yes, we just went over the fact that exercises can't help spot reduce fat. However, there are some exercises better suited for fat loss, and that's what we're going to cover today.
Further, there are exercise methods that can help lose weight. Plus, it's still good to increase your muscle mass as a method for speeding up your metabolism.
Here are the best moves to add to your exercise routine to accelerate weight loss.
Hip thrusts are the best exercise to strengthen your glutes and hips. It's a simple hip extension that packs a lot of power. Beginners can simply use their bodyweight for this, and then as you advance, we suggest adding a barbell or resistance band to continue progressing. You'll need a sturdy bench (or something similar) for this move.
How to do the Hip Thrust:
How to do the Glute Bridge:
The barbell squat is the king of lower body exercises, regardless of whether you're doing a front squat vs. back squat. It's a huge exercise that's a must for improving the musculature of your thighs, meaning it needs to take center stage in your new exercise program.
And because it uses so much muscle mass, it requires more calories, which in turn will help you lose body fat. An additional benefit is the barbell back squat will strengthen your core muscles.
How to do a Barbell Squat:
Lunges are a great exercise to hit every muscle in the lower body. This includes the traditional forward lunge, reverse lunge, lateral lunge, and curtsy lunge. Further, they can be performed with just your body weight or loaded with dumbbells.
How to do a Forward Lunge:
The reverse lunge is performed similarly to the above but you will step backward.
The curtsy lunge is a great exercise to put more emphasis on the outer and inner thighs. It’s similar to the reverse lunge except you step the leg to the other side of the body.
Bodyweight leg exercises are great as you can pretty much do them anytime, anywhere! Enter: Step-ups. To perform this bodyweight move, you'll need some sort of stable box or bench that can support your body.
Ladies, this is an excellent glute exercise for women!
How to do Step Ups:
You can also perform a lateral step up to activate the outer thighs even more.
The leg press is an extremely versatile machine. By altering your leg press foot placements, you can effectively target different muscles on the same machine. Plus, it works great with some of the training methods we'll get into below because you're laying down.
How to do a Leg Press:
Romanian deadlifts are awesome for strengthening your glute muscles. And this single-leg hip extension will cause even more activation in the medial glutes as they work extra hard to keep you balanced.
You can use weight plates, dumbbells, kettlebells, or dumbbells for this movement, but don't be afraid to get creative if you don't have any of those and want to add weight to the exercise. Books, bottles of water, and bricks are just a few examples of ways to add weight using items from your house.
How to do a Single Leg Romanian Deadlift:
The last set of exercises is hip abduction and hip adduction. While hip abduction will target the outer thigh, you still need inner thigh exercises as well, making hip adduction important. Use high reps (12-15+) when performing them.
How to do Cable Hip Abduction/Adduction:
Remember, when we say training methods, this doesn't refer to a single exercise, but rather, how you perform them. These are great ways to get a great workout and burn calories and fat at the same time.
We like to throw one or two of the following in at the end of a training session. And, you can learn more about a specific training method, cardio, and its role in fat loss in our article: What Is The Best Cardio To Burn Fat?
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is highly effective in improving the cardiovascular system and burning extra calories at the same time. It involves performing a cardio exercise in bursts of maximal intensity, followed by a short period of rest.
If you’re a beginner, start with a work-rest ratio of 10 seconds of work followed by 50 seconds of rest. From here you can move up to 20:40 and then 30:30.
These intervals are done anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the goal and total amount of work.
EMOM stands for Every Minute On the Minute. It's a high-intensity interval training style that has you perform a specified number of reps every minute for a given time.
To clarify "every minute," let's pretend you want to perform 10 reps for 5 minutes. You set a timer, start it, and then begin.
Pretend you do your first 10 reps in 20 seconds. You would then wait and rest for 40 seconds. Then "on the minute," you do another 10 reps, but this time it takes 22 seconds. You then have 38 seconds of rest.
These are tough but can be very effective. You can use upper body exercises or lower body with these. We like using the leg press as you're sitting down and stopping is both easier and safer, if it's needed.
We love barbell leg exercises and don't think barbell complexes get enough attention. A barbell complex is a giant set of 4-5 exercises in which you don't drop the barbell until all the reps are completed.
Therefore, if you were to choose 4 exercises with 10 reps an exercise, one set would have 40 reps.
These are great for full-body workouts as you can include multiple barbell movements. However, you can perform them whenever.
An example barbell complex would include 10 reps of each exercise.
The only requirement is that you can only really utilize exercises that can be done in the standing position.
If you continue eating extra calories, there's really nothing you can do about having saddlebags. Therefore, your first step to getting rid of saddlebags is to get into a caloric deficit. You can do this through following a cutting workout and diet plan, or try the strategies below.
Nutrition tips for reducing saddlebags are similar to tackling other problem spots, like back fat, or following any other diet plan. The primary goal is to get into a caloric deficit by eating the proper foods and reducing your caloric intake. This includes eating healthy carbs and lean meats and avoiding too many processed foods.
We generally don't hold to any specific diet as we firmly believe in the "what works for you approach." However, we do recommend a high-protein diet.
High protein diets are often found to be beneficial in weight loss for a few reasons:
As far as how much protein per day to build muscle, aim to eat 1.8-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight daily spread evenly throughout the day.
There's one very easy strategy that will help you lose weight. We cannot stress the importance of getting sleep and how essential it is to maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing muscle growth, and feeling and looking your best.
And no, this is not an exaggeration. Sleep is a basic component of healthy living. It is when our batteries recharge. It's also a time hormones are secreted, muscles are healed, and energy is restored.
Lack of sleep can cause poor food choices, less movement throughout the day, and overeating. None of these will help reduce saddlebags.
For example, this study, titled “Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity” focused on the effects of only receiving 5.5 hours of sleep compared to 8.5 hours2. The study found that getting 5.5 hours of sleep decreases fat loss by 55% and increases loss of muscle by 60%.
If you're serious about losing weight and getting rid of your saddlebags, please get some sleep!
After reading this article, you probably realize that trying to lose saddlebags is similar to shedding pounds in other places you carry weight, like losing fat in the lower abdomen. The primary goal will always be geared toward reducing your total overall body fat.
If you can follow sound nutritional practices and create a calorie deficit, throw in some of the exercises above in your workout routine, and get enough sleep, you'll be golden.
Have other fatty areas you want to target? Check out our guides on:
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