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Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Posted 10 Apr 08

How can I prevent my calves from getting bigger?

I've been losing weight steadily since I joined but I've recently started to notice that my calves are growing because I'm building muscle there. Although I want my legs to be stronger I don't want to have huge calves! Do you have any tips on what types of exercise to avoid in order to stop them getting bigger? I can never wear skirts or shorts and I was wondering if there is any way to reduce the muscle and fat in your calves? At the moment I mainly swim, run, walk & occasionally cycle.

Our expert says...

Hi,

The calves are one of the main working muscles in the lower leg and are often over worked through muscle imbalance and postural stress. Also, high heels and loading the front of our foot encourage calve-use. The more we weigh, the more weight, (load), we place on our calves when we go through our everyday lives and in exercise. This is why sometimes someone who is overweight has very well developed/shaped calves, (though often they aren't desired by the same individuals). Here are the best ways to reduce the ?size? of your calves:

1) Stretch them daily ? as overworked muscles, calves end up being too short and short muscle gives the impression of being bigger. When muscles are shorter they are restricted in flexibility and this can cause waste products (including water), to remain in this area, giving an almost ?swollen? appearance.

2) Sports massage ? exercise and all the already mentioned factors cause these muscles to get tight and without good flexibility training (see point 1 above!) the calves get muscle ?knots? or ?adhesions? over time. These reduce the effectiveness of static stretching and in turn require a more powerful approach which is sports massage. A half-hour session as an MOT once the calves increase flexibility is quite common practice, especially if the individual runs regularly.

3) Lose weight ? it sounds ridiculous but as you lose weight the stress on the calves reduces and this declining stress on them on a daily basis allows recovery and often a reduction in size.

4) The only exercise that will cause your calve muscles to ?grow? would be calve raises with heavy weights so just avoid these if you are concerned about the size of your calves. Other exercise like the stepper machine and running can cause calve tightness, (as already mentioned) and muscle tightness so it is merely a case of establishing a good flexibility routine and getting assistance to maintain flexibility, (I.e. massage), as needed.

5) A persons genes is a factor that will affect the calves, but obviously one that is unchanging. If you feel, however, that genetically you were gifted with an ability to develop good calves size/strength then again just make sure you concentrate on the above 4 points.

I hope this helps

Kelly