Last Updated on June 1st, 2020 16:59 pm
That is because it is quite a challenging topic. It all comes down to whether your calf size is due to muscle or fat.
I do get a lot of questions about how to make your calves smaller, and especially how to slim calf muscles.
If you’re wondering how to lose calf fat or how to get rid of the calf muscle, then this blog post is for you.
Let’s start by understanding the reasons why you may have big calves in the first place.
This is why this a hard topic. A big factor with calf size is genetics. Take a look at your parents or your sibling’s calf muscle – do they seem the same size as yours?
If you were born this way and haven’t done much exercise that could change the shape of your calves, chances are that you won’t be able to make significant changes. But, minor changes might be possible.
If your calf size is due to fat, then your response on how to lose calf fat is the same as losing weight overall.
Losing weight will definitely help slim your calves.
But keep in mind that legs are the hardest place to lose fat and tend to be the last place for women, so it will take more time to see the results.
If you’ve done a lot of workouts that target your calves, especially heavy ones, then it is very possible your calves have increased in size due to muscle (especially if you have a genetic predisposition for more muscular calves).
In that case, you can avoid certain exercises to prevent your calf muscles from getting bigger. By doing this, you might also see a minor decrease in their size, especially if your calves have been ”pumped up’’ from workouts.
It’s important noting that it’s very hard to really build up calf muscles unless you have a genetic predisposition.
If you’re not sure if your calves appear bigger from fat or muscle, you can check your BMI (body mass index) – that will give you some idea.
For pro athlete women, 14% to 20% is the average body fat, whereas for someone who works out regularly – a few times a week – that range is 21-24%.
I also have an easy test applicable for calves: flex your calves.
The hard bit is muscle. The soft stuff over it is fat. That should be your starting point.
You see, there are 3 body types and they all lose weight and build muscle differently, and 2 out of 3 body types can bulk up easily.
If you don’t know your body type, I have created a special quiz that will help you learn your body type in just 2 minutes.
You will get also get tips on how to eat and train according to your type to get the best possible results. And it’s completely free! :)
I will discuss in detail the type of exercises that may cause muscular calves and which workouts you should avoid.
If your calves were previously slim and exercise was the reason they bulked up, then you can definitely get them back to the way they were before!
There are 3 things you need to do:
All the exercises below are great for overall fitness and fat loss, but if your main goal is to slim your calves, then you should definitely avoid:
Running does actually build some muscles in your calves, but running is so good for you, and good for slimming down your legs in general, that I would be hesitant to stop running.
That said, if it seems like your calves bulk up easily, I would make sure that you are always running on a flat surface – an incline will increase your calf size.
To get rid of the calf muscle size (if you bulked it up), avoid Stairmaster and running with an incline on a treadmill.
Also, running for a long-duration (steady-state cardio) will not generally build a lot of muscle as much as sprinting does, so I’d stick to that.
If you really don’t want to run, then walking is great – it will slim your legs overall and won’t increase your calf size. Just make sure it’s on a flat surface!
Just like cardio at an incline, anything that involves walking or running uphill will build muscle in your calves.
This includes hill sprints but also things such as hiking often (unfortunately) and step machine.
Lots of women ask me if skipping is good for slimming down legs. The answer is no, not really.
To make your legs and calves thinner, you really need to be walking and/or running.
Skipping uses mostly your calves, so it will bulk them up quickly if you have a genetic predisposition for muscular calves.
It is a great exercise, though, so if you don’t care about calf size – go for it! If you do, better avoid it.
As with skipping, lots of jumping exercises use your calf muscles and can make them bigger.
If you love HIIT, then you don’t necessarily need to stop if your focus is on making your calves smaller.
You can do some HIIT exercises, but if you want to slim down muscular calves don’t overdo lower body plyometric exercises, such as jump squats, jump lunges and burpees, and anything that results in you landing heavily on your feet.
I talk a lot about the benefits of cardio for fat loss and lean legs, and in this case, more importantly, reducing the muscle from your calves and legs in general.
Low-intensity cardio burns fat (and in some cases, even muscle) and will decrease your overall body mass, so it will help make your calves smaller.
Try power walking, steady
I know a lot of women notice that their calves get smaller when they run on a treadmill.
The only thing I can attribute this to is the fact that the treadmill moves underneath you, so you probably don’t need to engage your calf muscles as much as running outside, when you need to push off the ground harder.
For me, I don’t experience any physical difference between running /walking outside or on a treadmill. But it’s really up to the individual.
Avoid running on your toes, as you will use your calves more this way. Run with a heel-to-toe strike motion and use supportive shoes.
Bonus tip: Try fasted cardio for quicker results.
When you lose weight, you will lose both fat and muscle, so that automatically means your calves may look a lot thinner.
That said, you cannot spot reduce fat, so it all really depends where you tend to store fat and lose fat first.
For example, I lose weight from my upper body faster than my lower body.
It helps to know your body type and how well you respond to certain diet and exercise regimes.
Remember – diet is the key to slimming down calves and losing weight overall; exercise comes second.
So, focus on eating fewer calories than you burn doing the day.
You can download my 7-day meal plan for free. It’s designed to help you get leaner.
As I mentioned, you cannot spot reduce fat. Instead, you should do more workouts that will keep you lean and toned without adding too much bulk in the process.
Here are some tips:
If you’re used to doing much heavier workouts for your lower body, you can often ”shorten’’ your muscles due to repeated stress.
Don’t get me wrong – stretching won’t necessarily make your calves smaller, but it will help you loosen tight muscles and get you more flexible.
If you’ve done a lot of workouts that were targeting your legs, it might be that your muscles feel tight.
As a side effect, you can feel like your thighs and calf muscles are a bit loser and it might even appear slightly thinner.
Yoga and pilates-like workouts will keep you in shape without adding too much muscle in the process.
They particularly focus on having a strong core – which will improve your overall posture and keep you toned and in shape.
I should also mention my 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program that is designed to help you get a lean and toned body.
It is particularly focused on getting leaner legs, so it will help you slim down calves.
It will help you get slim and it will give you leaner legs without causing bulkiness – calves included. :)
By now, you’ve learned that for getting rid of calf fat and muscle you need to focus on diet and the right type of workouts.
My program includes cardio, a complete 8-week meal plan and the style of resistance training that I mentioned in this blog post.
Also, the resistance training part of my program now has FULL-LENGTH videos that you can follow from warm-up to cool down.
This is the example full length and full-body workout from my Program you can do at home at any time. All workouts are designed to make you slim, not bulky!
To find out more about my 3 Steps to Lean Legs program, click on this link.
And as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!