Hi Aaron,

Love reading your blog posts. I have a question for you that you may or may not be able to answer?

I have maaaasssssiiivvvve calves and would like to make them smaller – can I do this? I am a classic pear shape so my stomach is flat but my thighs, butt and calves are big. I have read a lot on the internet and some say best not to do exercises specific for calves as this will just make them bigger, but then others say to do specific exercises concentrating on this area. Is it possible to spot reduce or lengthen muscles so they don’t look too bulky?

 

What’s your opinion on all of this?

Big calves.. I know the feeling. My calves measure 42cms!! In the gym there is a common saying, well with men anyway – “when you have them you don’t want the and when you don’t have them you want them!” For most women on the other hand I think I would be right in saying that none of you want big bulky legs.

 

In my experience, the size of your calves are determined by a few things:

1. Genetics. Sadly there is nothing we can do about our genetic make up. The size of your muscles just means you have more nerve supply to that region, so other factors listed below will make them grow. The distance between your ankle joint and your Achilles tendon is also a genetic factor; shorter heals are associated with larger calf muscles and greater calf muscle usage.

2. The size of your calves reflects the size of your body; if you put on weight then your calves will grow to support and hold this weight, and you may even store excess fat there too. If you become lighter then so do your calves. I also have noticed a correlation with people being overweight as a child/teen and having big calves as at the peak of muscle development, their legs had to support the excess weight they were carrying.

3. It also has something to do with your gait (the way you walk). I toe push off and almost lift up when I walk (I was teased as a ‘skippity hopper’ at school!) and this definitely works my calves more.

 

So, how to combat this?

1. General weight loss: I’m sad to say that spot reduction is a myth, so working on your calves specifically won’t reduce the fat you store there. I have always had big calves, thighs and butt and I have done many things over the years to reduce their size, but they were the smallest when my body weight and fat % was at it’s lowest. The less body fat you have the leaner you will look. And fat loss is predominantly a shift in diet. But annoyingly where we want it off usually is the last place for it to come off.

2. Do 30 mins of cardiovascular exercise 2-3 times per week. Long distance walking probably isn’t going to help your calves (especially if you walk with a toe push off like me). Running and cycling are excellent choices. But be careful not to over train (60mins +) as this will then put your metabolism into overdrive and will increase your appetite.

3. Do calve exercises (eg: calve raises) with high repetitions (20-30+) just using your body weight. This will lengthen and tone your muscles. Avoid using heavy weights.

4. Stay out of high heals as much as you can. Being in a constant position of heal lift (Achilles shortening) can lead to bulkier calves.

5. Stretch your calve muscles for at least 5 mins after exercise. Give your muscles length to create that leaner longer look.

 

I hope all of the above helps. But remember, if you suffer from big bulky legs then you are not alone!

Please send through any feedback or questions you may have: [email protected] – don’t be afraid, no question is too hard!

Train hard and eat clean, and we’ll chat soon.

– Aaron.