Home / / How To Slim Calves

How To Slim Calves

By Rachael Attard, Updated Sep 16, 2020
how to slim calves

Last Updated on June 1st, 2020 16:59 pm

I know I have a lot of information on my blog regarding how to get lean legs and slim down your muscular thighs, but I haven’t talked too much about calves.

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.

WHAT CAUSES BIG CALVES?

how to slim calves - what causes big calves

1. GENETICS 

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.

2. FAT 

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.

3. MUSCLE 

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.

ARE MY CALVES MADE OF MUSCLE OR FAT? 

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 poiny

WHY DID MY CALVES GET BIGGER FROM WORKING OUT?

how to slim muscular calves - learn your body type

You could have caused your calves to increase in size due to the type of exercise that you have been doing, especially if you are a mesomorph or endomorph.

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!

HOW TO SLIM DOWN MUSCULAR CALVES 

There are 3 things you need to do:

  1. Stop doing whatever exercises that made your calves muscular in the first place.
    The main way to reduce your calf muscles is by using them as little as possible and giving your muscles a chance to reduce on their own.
  2. Do more low-intensity cardio
    This will also help you lose excess fat on your lower half without building extra muscle.
  3. Focus on losing weight overall
    This will help you lose excess fat on your lower half (but remember, it will take a while). To do this, you need a good diet and consistent exercise.

STEP 1: STOP DOING EXERCISES THAT WILL PUMP UP YOUR CALVES

avoid workout that will make you calves bigger

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: 

1. CARDIO AT INCLINE 

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!

2. HILL SPRINTS OR ANY UPHILL EXERCISES 

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.

3. SKIPPING 

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.

4. PLYOMETRIC / HIIT EXERCISES 

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.

STEP 2: DO MORE LOW-INTENSITY CARDIO 

do more cardio for slimmer calves

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, steadystate running (both on a flat surface) or swimming –a great cardio workout.

USE THE TREADMILL 

 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.

ADJUST YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE 

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.

STEP 3: FOCUS ON LOSING WEIGHT OVERALL 

overall weight loss for slimmer calves

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.

BEST EXERCISES FOR SLIMMING DOWN YOUR BODY 

best workouts for slim calves

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:

1. DO MORE STRETCHING & FOAM ROLLING 

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.

2. TRY YOGA AND PILATES

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.

3. 3 STEPS TO LEAN LEGS PROGRAM FOR SLIMMING DOWN MUSCULAR LEGS

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.

There are three versions of the program, one for each of the 3 body types: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph.

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!


Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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112 comments on “How To Slim Calves”

    Kenny says:

    Hi team Rachael,i’m a mesomorph,18 y/o… I’m trying to loose weight over all,so I followed Rachael’s advice for mesomorphs but i’ve got no opportunity to go out and run/ walk or even to the gym so this is what I do for my cardio; my sitting room floor is squared patterned so I walk or run(moderately to get me puffed) following the pattern,i’m afraid I might bulk up in the calves from turning on the edges so much tell me if I’m at risk of bulkiness,if so how can I get my cardio on track without getting bulky? Here’s the good news; following Rachael’s advice,my upper body is fitting! But pls help me with my legs😭

      Sara - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely <3,

      Thanks for reaching out!:)

      Here’s something Rachael wrote for all of you lovelies who can’t do their cardio outside. <3

      Hope this helps!:)

      Love,
      Sara

    Dee says:

    Hi,
    Thank you so much for the article it was so helpful. I am 25 years old and I have very bulky muscular calves, my mother and sister has big claves as well but mine seems like I did the wrong exercise and caused muscles instead of slimming it down. I have tried multiple programs but nothing as helped me till now. I have slim upper body I never gain weight in my upper body but my legs are very thick and calves muscular, it has been bothering me ever since I was 12 and now its effecting my self esteem.
    Please help me.

      Sandra - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hey lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out <3

      Slimming down calves is tricky because it depends a lot on genetics, but I recommend determining if your calves size is due to muscle or fat. If it’s fat, then you should be mindful of your diet and eat at a calorie deficit (unfortunately, there is no special diet just for calves), and if it's muscle, you should start whatever exercises you are doing and focus more on low-intensity cardio like power walking. Just be sure to do it on a flat surface as walking on an incline can cause your calves to bulk up.

      I hope this helped. Let me know if you have any more questions :)

      Love,
      Sandra

    Kristy says:

    I love exercise. Not just for my fitness but it’s been great for my mental wellbeing and stress levels. However, I’ve noticed myself getting bigger and my gym clothes starting to get tighter. I need to slim down as I’m starting to feel less feminine but I want to keep the cardio up . Will I be able to still sweat and feel like I’ve had a good workout?

      Ana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hey lovely,

      Rachael’s idea of slimming down includes constant cardio, a healthy diet, and practicing resistance training.
      If you have any additional questions I suggest that you contact info@rachaelattard.com so we can help more in detail. :)

      Love,
      Ana

    Balikis says:

    Hello,
    Am at a healthy weight range. Will I get skinny legs from walking 10,000 & exercising when my consumed calories are for my current weight?

      Ana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hey lovely,

      Since you are happy with your weight and don’t need a calorie deficit, if you practice the right workouts for slimming down legs (you can find plenty of them in Rachael’s blog) and walk 10 000 steps daily on a flat surface you will get great results! :)

      Love,
      Ana

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