Nope, we’re not here to discuss an unquestionably delicious and potentially healthy treat for Sunday dinner. This is about your legs. People with chicken legs are also sometimes compared to an upside-down triangle, or told that they’re top heavy, if they’ve focused all their energy at the gym on their upper half.
The result — thin, underdeveloped, bony, legs that are much less chiseled than the rest of their bodies — isn’t pretty. Chicken legs are bad enough in couch-sitters, but in folks who actually do work out, there’s just no excuse for this phenomenon.
How do you know whether you’ve got a pair of chicken legs? Don’t wait for friends to start making fun of you. Take charge today.
Why Are Chicken Legs Bad News?
While a variety of factors contribute to the hated phenomenon more commonly known as chicken legs, in gym goers, the underlying reason is almost always the same — over-training easily visible muscle groups, like the arms/biceps and the torso, while neglecting the leg work.
You get a slightly odd aesthetic if you do this, yes, but that’s far from the only reason why chicken legs are bad news.
Even if you’re a sedentary kind of person, and you have a few more pounds than the old BMI scale shows to be optimal, the placement of your body fat matters a great deal, research has shown.
Fat that’s distributed around the waist, medically known as central obesity, leads to a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease and “metabolic diseases” (including type 2 diabetes) than seen in people whose body fat accumulates mainly in their legs.
In fact, leg fat and larger legs could have some protective benefits, by reducing the odds of these bad outcomes not just compared to people with central obesity, but also to those with extremely thin lower extremities (AKA chicken legs).
Having a higher muscle mass in your legs also, meanwhile, simply makes you stronger and more well-balanced, which can slash your odds of injury and increase your metabolism.
TL;DR: STOP SKIPPING LEG DAY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!
What Is the Average Thigh Circumference for Men & Women?
All over the internet, folks are asking these exact questions. A lot of people, from budding bodybuilders to insecure teenager girls, want to know how their thighs compare to the average. (Questions about calf circumference aren’t as common, but they’re out there.)
It’s surprisingly hard to find actual scientific data about this. We say surprising, because just about everything is studied and published in peer-reviewed journals these days. There are plenty of threads on fitness forums where a bunch of people list their thigh and calf circumference, but the only reliable data applies to pro sports players. Let’s get real and admit that that’s got little to do with the general population.
In other words, the average thigh circumference and calf circumference remain unclear, both on a global level and in the United States.
What About Average Calf Circumference?
Even if you were to have that information, though, it wouldn’t tell you what’s ideal for your particular body type. Thighs and calves of all sizes might be muscle-heavy or fat-heavy, or contain a healthy mix of both, after all, and a person’s height, general body type, and even ethnicity also play a role here.
If you think you’ve got chicken legs and you want that to stop, you don’t want to compare yourself to other people. You instead want to compare your calves and thighs to the rest of your body and decide on an action plan that will balance your physique out.
In January 2013, data published in Harvard Men’s Health Watch did note that a thigh circumference of 62 centimeters (24.4 inches) was ideal in terms of heart health. Anything more, and no additional health benefits were found.
What Is YOUR Ideal Thigh Circumference? What Calf Circumference Should You Aim For?
One metric you could use to determine how large your thighs and calves should be is the John McCallum formula, designed for athletes and bodybuilders and published in Stuart McRobert’s book Brawn. Using this formula, you come up with a goal to shoot for on the basis of measuring your wrist and chest circumferences.
Here’s how it works:
- Your ideal thigh circumference is 0.53 times your chest circumference.
- Your optimal calf circumference is 0.34 times your chest circumference.
Others have said that your ideal thigh circumference is 61.8 percent of your hip circumference.
Whichever metric you use, it’s bound to give you a goal to work toward. Even if you’re not there yet, by working your legs as often as you focus on your arms and chest, you’ll find yourself squarely out of “chicken leg” territory fast enough.
How To Transform Chicken Legs Into Tyrannosaurus Rex Legs
To rid yourself of the dreaded chicken legs, you’ll want to work your legs two to three times a week (a schedule that gives your muscles time to recover from the pain you inflict on them). Do things like squats or leg presses, walking lunges, and barbell calf raises, and don’t be afraid to ask for some advice if you need it.
If you don’t have a gym membership or you do but your legs are so under-developed you don’t want to jump right into the power rack and squat an empty bar, there are leg pressing alternatives you can do at home to build a base first.
As you do your leg workouts, make sure to maintain proper form and do full reps. Half of the time, folks who have chicken legs even though they’re actually working their legs can find the culprit in their own (lack of) motivation. If you’re not sure, ask a friend to spot for you.
If you are one of the people who “can’t squat” we recommend getting some form review and advice from an actual bodybuilder or powerlifter. Many chain fitness centers don’t necessarily have the most knowledgeable of staff and getting an appraisal of your form might actually help you realize that it’s not you, it’s your form and the pain can go away with some simple mental corrections. There are also essential tools like belts and knee wraps that can make squatting a hell of a lot easier.
Hell, even incorporating a more cardio-centric exercise like cycling would be a great way to stay healthy while at the same time building your leg strength and size. Have you ever seen a professional cyclists thighs? Good lord..
Meanwhile, it’s also possible that your circadian rhythm is so weird that your body isn’t making enough of the grown hormones you need to maximize your gains. Are you chronically sleep deprived or do you sleep at strange hours? That could certainly contribute to the whole chicken leg phenomenon, so dialing in your sleep routine, even if it includes adding nighttime sleep aid recovery supplements, might be worth considering.
Skinny Yoked Summary
If you’re committed to getting rid of your chicken legs, the golden rules are to track your progress by measuring your calves and thighs regularly, to work your legs hard and properly, and to ask for advice if you get stuck. It will take a while, but you’re not doomed to having chicken legs forever.
We’ve found, personally, that as long as you regularly skip leg days they will perpetually suck. The reason is quite obvious, any muscle group you neglect for more than a week or so will naturally atrophy and so the next time you try to exercise it the weight will always feel heavy.
Once you get in a routine where you force yourself to not only do leg day, but embrace it and hit them as frequently as you do arms, shoulders, back etc you will be surprised at how fast they grow and how much more tolerable leg days become. Yes, you read that right, the bigger you grow your wheels the more pleasant leg days become!
We’re not going to pretend they’ll ever become your favorite muscle group to work out BUT well build quads, glutes and hamstrings really add to a solid X-frame look and communicate to all the serious lifters in the gym that you don’t fuck around.
Embrace the pain, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and build yourself some robust wheels that will allow you to continue being mobile and strong as you age gracefully through life jacked AF.