How Do I Tone Up My Big Fat Calves and Make Them Smaller?


question-icon-newI’m going to be in a wedding in a few months and I need to do something because my calves are really big and fat. It’s very embarrassing and I’m really concerned with slimming them down along with the rest of me. Please help!

answer-icon-newThere are three major reasons behind having big fat calves and these include genetics, lack of proper nutrition and a lack of exercise. Many women strive for toned and sexy calf muscles. This is because fat calves prevent you from wearing certain types of clothes, and who doesn’t like wearing a sexy pair of shorts or a cute skirt? However, it is important to understand something called “spot reduction” which is a common myth that many people believe. An example of this is a person who is overweight and does 500 situps a day thinking they will get six pack abs. It’s just not going to happen. Fat is burned (actually shrunk) from all over the body as you lose weight. The best thing for toning up is to take a “whole body” approach. Fat comes off from all over the body and not one specific area.

The fat present in your calves will get reduced along with the fat from other parts of your body, once you start taking steps towards getting slimmer and sleeker calves. And by using the following tips, you can reduce the size of your fat calves without losing the toned appearance! Here are a few tried and tested tips for getting rid of big fat calves:

Tip #1 – Change Your Lifestyle Habits
Avoid wearing shoes that don’t support your calf muscles and avoid wearing heels at all costs! Walking on uneven ground can lay unnecessary stress on your ankle and calves, so make sure to limit this. Make sure you don’t put too much stress on your calf muscles during the day with any activity that may lead to building up your calves versus making them leaner and slimmer. This involves exercises with heavy weights and low reps which will end up packing on muscle to your already thick calves.

Tip #2 – Perform Cardio Exercises
tone-tighten-calvesDo 30-60 minutes of mild cardio exercise daily. Exercises that will help you burn fat and slim down include walking, swimming, cycling and aerobics which should all be done at a moderate pace. Make sure you limit rigorous and high intensity cardio exercises like sprinting and stair running since they tend to build up muscle mass around the calf area, which may backfire your plans of achieving smaller calves. Always make sure to wear quality shoes with proper foot support while exercising so that you don’t end up injuring yourself.

You can start on your journey to slimmer calves for your upcoming wedding with one great exercise. Its called walking. You will burn calories and work your calves all in one. So while you’re burning calories, you will be targeting your calves. Even better is walking uphill and even jogging if you can. Jogging is a great exercise for burning a lot of calories. I recommend walking 45-60 minutes in the morning on an empty stomach which allows you to tap directly into your fat stores. Better yet, add a little caffeine or green tea to the mix for even better results!

Tip #3 – Perform Calf Exercises
Although we covered the myth of “spot reduction”, its important to note that you can always perform a certain type of exercise to tone and tighten up the muscles of a specific body part and strengthen them for a leaner appearance. Calf raises, squats, standing calf stretch, “Kiss the Wall” calf stretch and the leg press machine are great exercises that will tone up your calves without adding bulk. Always use higher repetitions (18-20 reps per set) and light weight for any type of calf exercise you choose. Also, don’t forget to warm up before doing any kind of exercise because your body needs to prepare itself for any activity.

Tip #4 – Watch Your Diet
Your body is a reflection of what you eat, so if you continue eating fatty foods then don’t expect slender calves. Think about it for a moment. It makes no sense to exercise, sweat it out and eat anything and everything under the sun. Avoid the obvious fattening foods such as salted snacks, cakes, cookies, ice cream, sugary snacks and calorie loaded drinks. Eat healthy foods that are high in protein, rich in fiber, minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible. Always make sure to drink plenty of water during the day in order to stay hydrated.

People often get very excited and in the excitement of starting something new they don’t pay attention to taking precautions and end up inuring themselves, which is obviously counterproductive to their plans. For the safe and gradual reduction in the size of your calves, take it slow and steady. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry! Use the above mentioned tips for getting rid of big fat calves and soon you will notice changes, be happy with the results and ready for your wedding!

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    I think this idea is amazing but I want to remove the fat from my calves but at the same time I don’t want my butt to get slimmer! What should I do?

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    Anything to do with calf raises, walking uphill, ect will only make your calves bulkier, even if you lose fat from them. The muscle you build will replace the fat and you’ll have big calves still, except it will be composed of mostly muscle, not fat. Bottom line, do not do calf raises, do not walk uphill, do not to step exercises. I NEVER walk inclined on the treadmill, only level (flat). I used to have to walk uphill from a parking lot to car to get to the condo I used to live at and my calves were so big and bulky. Once I moved and didn’t need to walk so much uphill, they settled back to what they were before I used to have to walk upwards.

    • shapefit

      Sophie – That’s great that it worked for you, but in general, doing specific exercises for the calves will not build lots of muscle and bulk up this muscle group. Remember that women simply don’t have the levels of muscle building hormones (testosterone) needed to build significant amounts of lean muscle tissue so doing calf raises is not going to add slabs of new muscle to a woman’s calves. A lot of guys who have very high levels of testosterone still have an extremely hard time adding muscle mass and size to their calves. It’s just a difficult muscle group to add size to. That’s why it’s important to remove all of the excess fat from all over the body by eating a clean diet and doing lots of cardio while toning the calf muscles with high repetition exercises.

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    My sister suggested I do jumping rope exercises daily to lose weight. But I am so worried it will only make my calves even bigger! I measured them just now, and they’re 17 inches! Any suggestions?

    • shapefit

      Hi Kleigh – Try jumping rope for a few weeks and see how it affects your calves. You can also try walking which is an excellent exercise for toning your calves.

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    I have big fat calves and I was wondering if genetics has everything to do with their size? If I put all my time and energy into making them small would they still be big just from genetics? Or, do genetics just affect how quickly you can lose fat?

    • shapefit

      Hi Lillian – Your specific genetics will have an impact on the overall shape and size of your calves along with other muscles and your overall body structure like your height, the size of your nose and many other elements. If your parents and other family members have naturally large calf muscles then you are most likely destined to have a more pronounced shape and structure in this muscle group. However, you should be able to define your calf muscles by reducing your overall body fat percentage. The leaner you get, the smaller they will look. If you are carrying too much body fat, try adding cardio exercise into your fitness plan and also clean up your diet since the foods you eat will be the most critical component when you’re trying to lose fat and lean down.

    • shapefit

      Hi Komal – You should train your calves once per week and you can include them on leg day along with your quadriceps and hamstrings.

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    I am very happy with the size and shape of my calves. They measure about 13 inches and I very much want to keep them that size but I want to take up trampolining and I’m very concerned if this would add bulk to my calf muscles and make my legs any bigger which I really don’t want.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Ann – Trampolining should not increase the size of your calves. If anything, it will help to tone them up. In order to bulk up your calves, you would need to add more resistance with weight training exercises.

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    I have seen many articles that say calf raises will help your calves get slimmer or smaller? Is this true? I am somehow confused on Sophie’s comment? Thanks!

    • ShapeFit

      Hi EHm – It really depends on the amount of weight being used. If you go heavy with calf raises and do low repetitions, then it will build up your calves. However, if you use light weight and high reps, then it should help to tone up your calves. If you’re currently overweight, then calf raises will do very little for toning up the area (spot reduction). You will need to take a holistic approach and train your entire body with cardio and weight training along with a clean diet in order to lose body fat so you can get toned and tighten up your entire physique.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Ana – Your best option to slim down your calves is to focus on your diet and increase your cardio workouts in order to burn body fat. If you don’t reduce overall body fat levels then it doesn’t’ really matter which exercises you perform for calves since it will just add additional size to them.

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    I have a slim body but naturally huge calves (17 inches) and “cankles” too! It doesn’t help that I have such short legs, as compared to my torso and overall body proportions. I’m well aware that genetic factors could be in play. However, I’m still wondering whether there is something that I could do since surgery is my last resort before totally giving up hope.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Luna – Are your calves fat or just big and muscular? You noted that you have “cankles”, so this would indicate more body fat versus lean muscle.

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        They have always been big and muscular, like a man’s calves 🙁 I have been trying to figure out the right workout and when I attempted ankle slimming exercises, they often strained my calves which made them harder and more muscular.

        • ShapeFit

          Hi Luna – It sounds like genetics are playing the biggest part. Some people naturally have larger muscle groups (legs, arms, chest, etc.) based on their family genes and most people dream about having naturally muscular calves since they are usually very difficult to enable growth. You can either embrace your larger calf muscles or stop all exercises that stimulate this muscle group which is not recommended since even walking on the treadmill can stimulate them. Obviously, you want to limit your weight training calf exercises to avoid having them become even larger and more muscular.

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    I’ve been on a clean diet and I have not lost any weight from my calves even though I’ve been walking every day. What exercises do you recommend?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Maddy – Are you sure you’re in a calorie deficit each day? If your numbers are off then this is a result of your diet (too many calories) or your exercise plan (not burning enough calories). You can either cut your calories or increase your exercise intensity (jogging instead of walking). As you lose weight, body fat will slowly be reduced from all over your physique, including your calves.

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    I currently weigh 101 pounds and I have lost a lot of weight. I am still trying to lose more. I am in a calorie deficit and workout enough, but the fat around my calves is very stubborn and I just can’t seem to lose fat from that area. I have tried jogging but that hasn’t helped at all and although I am losing fat from other parts of my body with a visible difference, the fat around my calves won’t go away. My ankles are slim. It’s just the fat around the back of my legs that makes them look big and out of proportion with the rest of my body which is quite lean. Please tell me what exercises I should do and if I should add a small amount of resistance to them.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Nuri – It sounds like you are very lean so are you sure it’s fat around your calves and not muscle? Does your family members have naturally large calves (mom, dad, siblings)? If you’re genetically predisposed to larger calves then it might be hard to decrease the size of them. Adding specific calf exercises with resistance might actually make them bigger.

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    I’m very lean but my calves are large (15 inches). I’m not sure if it’s fat or muscle. My legs are pretty long but my calves still look huge! I’ve been jogging for one month, but there has been zero change. I’m also eating in a calorie deficit. How do I know if my calves are muscle or fat? I don’t see any muscle definition really.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Akshara – If you’re already lean then your calves are most likely muscle, not fat. If big calves run in your family (parents, siblings) then you’re genetically gifted to easily build muscle in this area. If you currently perform any type of strength training exercises for your calves, you might want to stop doing these movements since the slightest resistance will cause growth.

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    I’m 16 years old and I have quite suddenly realized that I have put some weight on. My calves are one of my main problems and I too have “cankles”. I know I don’t do enough exercise and my diet isn’t the best. What is the best way for me to lose all of the fat on my legs (especially calves) without losing my butt. My calves need to lose the fat but they also need to be toned. What’s the best thing?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Molly – Honestly, the best thing to focus on in order to tighten and tone up your calves are the two areas where you are lacking, and that includes your diet and fitness plan. Without improving the foods you eat and including exercise into your daily routine, it will be very difficult to reduce body fat. Try your best to include some basic walking each day for 30-45 minutes when first starting out so you can get into the routine of moving your body on a daily basis. For your diet, check out our Nutrition 101 article to learn about which foods to include in your diet to fuel your body optimally.

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    Sounds like lipedema to me. I’ve seen women who look anorexic on the top half of their body and then have a huge lower body.

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    I’m 5’9 and 140 pounds. I don’t exercise at all currently. Before I had my baby 3 years ago, I ran 5 times a week and did squats and lunges. I had slim, toned legs with slightly thicker calves than I’d like, but overall, I felt like my legs were tone and slim. Now 3 years later, I feel like my calves are too thick. My mom has naturally thicker calves so I know some of it is genetic, but I know with a healthy diet and regular cardio my legs do slim down quite a bit. I’ve seen it happen before. Hopefully, “post-baby” my body will respond like it did before. My question is if I do calf raises on my front porch steps, will that tone some of the fat from my calves or add to the thickness? When I have done a few calf raises they feel like they’re getting a good stretch. Hopefully that will lengthen the muscle. I’d appreciate your input 🙂

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Raquel – High repetition body weight calf raises using the steps on your porch should work really well for toning up your calves. Just avoid doing any resistance type of movements with heavy weight (machine calf raises, etc) since that will tend to build up the size of your muscles. Cardio exercise and your overall diet will be the biggest factors for slimming and toning up your calves though, so focus on those two areas the most.

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    My calves measure at 24 inches and I have never been able to wear boots or slim fitting jeans due to my calves. I’m hoping that more walking and getting a treadmill will help. I already own a recumbent bike and elliptical machine, but I’m guessing the elliptical will bulk me instead of help me. Is that correct?

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Amanda – The elliptical machine should not bulk up your calves and add size to them so you should be fine doing that cardio machine.

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