WebMD BlogsFood and Fitness

Shed Your Saddlebags

By Pamela Peeke, MD, FACP, MPHJanuary 25, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

One moment we’re just boys and girls romping in a play yard. Skinny, straight-up-and-down androgynous bodies rolling and jumping in pure glee. And in a flash, that kid becomes an adolescent. While the boys usually morph into taller, leaner, muscular warriors complete with six pack abs, girls transform from tomboy toothpicks to curvy young women. Fat deposits gift each woman with breasts, as well as hips, thighs and buttocks. These bountiful curves arm women with precious fat supplies to support reproduction.

As is always the case, some women are well-endowed upstairs with bodacious bosoms, while others are piling extra fat on their outer thighs. Instead of looking like an hour glass, these women take on the appearance of a pear, with a disproportionate amount of fat on the lower part of the body. Staring in the mirror, these pockets of fat look like the bags that hang off a horse’s saddle or dangle off the sides of a motorcycle. Thus the term “saddlebags” to describe this extra abundance of outer thigh fat.

Saddlebags can turn fitting into a pair of jeans mission impossible. Thank heavens for the new stretchy pants fabrics. Is it possible to completely remove your saddlebag fat? Some women can whittle most of it away, while others will minimize but not completely remove these pockets of fat. Genetics plays a powerful role here. Look at the other women in your family tree. Who do you look like? If she’s got saddlebags, you’ve got the genes. Regardless, everyone needs to do the work to trim those thighs. Here’s what to do.

Saddlebag Slimming Secrets:

1)    What You Overeat, You Carry in the Saddlebag: If you’ve got saddlebags, it’s clear your body has very active fat storage enzymes in your thighs. Those extra calories are headed right to your thighs, so let’s put a halt to your overeating right now. Click onto WebMD’s wonderful Food and Fitness Planner and map out a strategy for reining in calories while eating tasty and satisfying foods you love.

2)    Carve Your Curves with Cardio: If you want to shake up that saddlebag fat, you need to get up and get your cardio going. Infuse it with intervals of intensity to show your thigh fat who’s boss. You’re not going to get those fat cells to cough up their fat fuel by walking like a zombie on a treadmill. Crank up the music and dance all over the house, take a Zumba class and stomp out those saddlebags with Latin music and lots of swaying hips. Or, pick up the fat-burning pace and do some walk-jogging. Biking and indoor cycling classes nail your bottom half. That elliptical is just waiting for you to hop on and take a ride. Five times a week burning 400 calories each session is your goal. If you’re a novice, no problem. Just pop a patience pill and build up gradually.

3)    Move’em and Lose’em: Mobilizing Your Saddlebag Fat: It’s time to trim your thighs with some simple exercises you can do at home or in the gym. Before doing any of these exercises, get a clearance from your doctor if you have any disabilities, pains or instability in your lower body.

a)    Step-Ups: You can use a workout bench, or stack 2 or 3 steps (you can buy at a fitness store). Get behind the bench or stack. Grab a set of single arm dumbbells (you can start with 3-5 pounds up to 10 or 15 pounds for the more advanced) and with your arms down at your sides step up onto the bench/stack with your right foot, then your left foot. Step down with your right foot then left foot. Repeat this 10 to 12 times. Then, reverse your lead foot and repeat again 10 to 12 times. Your goal is to do 3-4 sets with each lead foot.

b)   Side Leg Raises: You can purchase ankle weights at most fitness equipment stores. For this exercise, you’ll hold onto a wall or some stable object for balance. Fasten the ankle weights to your lower legs, and then lift your right leg off the floor and in front of your body. Keeping your leg straight, extend it up to your right side as far as you can, then slowly lower it back down. Do 10 to 12 reps and switch sides. Perform three to four sets with each leg.

c)    Lying Leg Lift: Lie on your right side with your hips stacked and your legs fully extended. It’s fun to do this in front of a mirror so that you can watch your form. Support your upper body with your right elbow. Tense your ab so that you’re working your core while you do this exercise. Slowly raise your left leg up as high as you comfortably can without rotating your hips. Controlling the movement, gradually lower your leg down. Complete 10 repetitions and then switch sides. Perform three sets per side. For you more advanced folks, increase the workload by using resistance tubing or bands or ankle weights.

d)   Hitting All Fours: Get onto the floor on all fours. Place your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Suck in your ab and keep it tensed to work it while you’re performing the exercise. Keeping your knee bent, raise your right leg out to the side as high as you comfortably can without rotating your hips. Hold the position for a count of two and then slowly lower your leg back down. Perform 10 repetitions and then switch legs. Complete three sets of the exercise on each leg.

e)    The Saddlebag Squat: It’s great to do this exercise in front of a mirror so that you can check your posture and form. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, and grab a 3-5 pound (10-15 pound for the more advanced) single arm dumbbell in each hand and secure them at shoulder-level with your elbows bent and pointing to the front. Suck in that ab again so that you have a strong core and back to help stabilize you. Slowly bend at the hips and the knees to lower down into a squat. Continue down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Never round your your  back, as that will cause injury. Immediately push through your heels to return to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Music to Shed Your Saddlebags

  • ZZTop:  Legs from “Eliminator”
  • Dennis Bolten: Thigh High from “Silk’s Groove
  • Keke Palmer: Bottom’s Up from ” So Uncool”
  • Royksopp: Curves from “Curves-Single”
WebMD Blog
© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:

More from the Food and Fitness Blog

  • photo of almonds

    Grab and Go Snacks for Type 2

    You’ve likely been there – heading out the door, knowing that you should grab a snack on your way out because you’re not sure what food options will be available at your destination. Whatever the ...

  • photo of gina leg exercises

    How to Get Strong, Toned Legs Without Squats or Lunges

    Squats and lunges are the go-to exercises for strengthening the lower body, but they're not the only options.

View all posts on Food and Fitness

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More