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 lose calf fat, and especially how to slim calf muscles.
If you’re wondering how to lose weight in calves and what the best slim calves workout is, then this blog post is for you.
Let’s start by understanding the reasons why you may have big calves in the first place.
WHY ARE MY CALVES SO BIG?
Genetics, a big factor when it comes to calf size, is why this is a hard topic. 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 big calves.
But keep in mind that legs are the hardest place to lose fat from 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.
ARE MY CALVES MADE OF MUSCLE OR FAT?
It’s important to note 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.
WHY DID MY CALVES GET BIGGER FROM WORKING OUT?
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 CALVES
There are 3 things you need to do:
- 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.
- Do more low-intensity cardio
This will also help you lose excess fat on your lower half without building extra muscle.
- 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
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 the step machine.
Lots of women ask me if skipping is good for slimming down legs. The answer is no, not really.
To slim big calves and legs, 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
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 should be a part of your slim calves workout.
Try power walking, steady–state running (both on a flat surface) or swimming for 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
When you lose weight, you will lose both fat and muscle, so that automatically means you might slim big calves too.
That said, you cannot spot reduce fat, so it all really depends on where you tend to store fat and where you lose fat from 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 TO SLIM CALVES (AND YOUR ENTIRE BODY)
As I mentioned, you cannot spot reduce fat, even if it would be great to know the exact calf slimming exercises.
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 help you lose calf fat, 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 they 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.
It will help you get slim and it will give you leaner legs without causing bulkiness – calves included. :)
By now, you’ve learned how to lose calf fat and muscle so you know that the biggest focus should be on the diet and the right type of workouts.
My program includes cardio, a complete 8-week meal plan and the exact style of resistance training that I mentioned in this blog post. These calf slimming exercises will help you overcome that problem area.
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!