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how to slim calves

Last Updated on November19, 2019, 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.

I do get a lot of questions about how to make your calves smaller, and especially how to slim calf muscles.

That seems to be a common concern with girls, so I thought I would do a blog post about it for you.

Let’s start by understanding the reasons why you may have big calves in the first place.

WHAT CAUSES BIGGER 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 parent’s, or your sibling’s, calves – 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 losing weight overall 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.

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 your calf muscles to increase and which 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 exercise is making your calves bigger. 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.

If you’re working out in the gym, 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 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 genetic predisposition.

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 I would avoid overdoing it on 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 legs.

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 are 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 knowing your body type and how well you respond to certain diet and exercise regimes.

Remember – diet is the key to losing weight; 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. 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 your 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. :)

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.

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.

78 comments on “How To Slim Calves”

    Lexie says:

    Hello Rachel
    I’ve been running for the past two days( I ran one day, the following I rested and the next one I ran again) and I noticed my calves a little bit bigger. I had taken your your body test in the past and it says that I’m a mesomorph, but if my calves got bigger ( I think my thighs did too but I’m not quite sure)does that mean I’m actually an endomorph? And if I am, what cardio can I do to slim down the muscle and fat in my legs? Does running will build more muscle instead of slimming it?

    Anita Chung says:

    I live on a hill and walking for sure will involve going up or down some hills. I am very concerned about building up my already-muscular calve muscle. Should I avoid walking in my neighborhood?

    Thx!
    AC

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      If this is your only option then I would keep walking. We usually recommend walking on a flat surface, but if you’re unable to go to the gym or don’t have access to a treadmill, any kind of walking will be good! xx

      Love,
      Diana

    ennievic says:

    I will be so glad if advice work

    Grace Kang says:

    Hello, I’ve been wanting to incorporate weighted squats (goblet squats, in particular, to help with my form) hip thrusts, and lunges into my workouts. Will that grow my calves? What about elevated glute bridges?

    Thank you!

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      Yes, squats and lunges will make your calves bigger, whether you use extra weights or not. Glute bridges won’t make you bulky, just make sure you’re activating your glutes while performing the exercise (not your quads). xx

      Love,
      Diana

    Nicola says:

    Hi Racheal, I’ve just started your program today and I’m wondering if kickboxing workouts are ok to throw in?

    Thanks, Nicola.

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      Yes, you can give kickboxing a go, it’s a great cardio workout! :) xx

      Love,
      Diana

    H. says:

    I had long and lean legs before I started exercising. Due to specific exercises, my calves got bigger so I’ve quit working out. That was two years ago and I still have a big piece of muscle there.
    My bodyweight is okay. 178 cm/ 65 kg.
    Your test says I’m ectomorph but I would’t get muscular calves if I was?
    I’ve tried to workout sometimes but I quit because I can’t be doing all at once – losing my calves and building a great body (example great gluteus). I feel like I’m in a magic circle. I don’t want to sacrifise my whole figure but still afraid to run or do any lower legs exercise. Should I make some periods of getting rid of calves/slim down and then building my body?
    Thank you <3

      Diana - Lean Legs Support says:

      Hi lovely,
      If you gain muscle in calves easily, you could be between the ectomorph and mesomorph body type. This could also be genetic, so you can only slim them down to a certain degree.
      I would recommend doing glute focused workouts that target your glutes without making your legs bigger. It’s also important to maintain the mind-muscle connection while doing these so you can make your glutes do the work instead of thighs or calves. I would also avoid doing too many jumping exercises as they can make your calves more muscular.

      Our program has been designed to include the perfect type of resistance training and cardio to give you a lean and toned look, without making you bulky.
      It’s an 8 week workout and nutrition plan that will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body). There are also extra booty workouts for a rounder, perkier butt.

      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe ebook and demonstration videos.

      If this is what you’re looking for, I would definitely recommend giving our program a go. You can find out more about it here:

      Lean Legs Program

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

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