does running make your calves bigger

Does Running Make Your Calves Bigger? Learn the Shocking Truth!

Everyone has their own ideas about what makes the perfect body, right? Some want big boobs, others want small boobs, some men want big biceps and others want big… well, OK all men want that, but you get the idea.

What about your calves? Are you looking for bigger, more muscular-looking calf muscles? Do you think your calves are too big and you aren’t happy about it?

Hi there! My name is Kathleen, and today, we are talking about those calf muscles that most people never think twice about.

Whether you’re looking for bigger calves or you want to reduce your calves, this article is for you!

Grab a cup and take a couple of minutes to read this – you’re going to be shocked at what I have to tell you!

Does Running Make Your Calves Bigger?

The short answer here is yes, running makes calves bigger.

Of course, this answer also depends on what you think “big” is!

Monster calf muscles, like the ones you see on bodybuilders, didn’t get that big simply from running. As you might have imagined, they gained all that muscle growth from lifting weights and doing certain calf exercises while doing that.

man running

Just about everything you do involves your leg muscles, including the calves. Standing, walking, getting up from a sitting position, and walking up or down stairs all involve the legs so you are constantly getting exercise in this area.

However, running uses your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calf muscles to the extreme. While you may have thought that running would give you thin, stringy type muscles, the truth is that working muscles usually means you’ll get muscle growth.

Long-distance runners or marathon runners often have smaller calves than say those who enjoy sprinting. Sprinting or jumping while running will definitely give you bigger calves than long-distance runners.

How Can I Run Without Getting Bigger Calves?

tips for running without getting bigger calves

There are three rules to follow if you want to run but avoid getting bigger leg muscles:

  1. Run slower. I know the word “slower” is relative here but avoid anything over 6MPH.
  2. Run longer rather than faster. If you’re into racing, you should just accept your bigger calves, but if you’re into running for health, run slower but run for longer periods of time.
  3. Avoid resistance. This means running on a treadmill or on flat ground. Ever notice how incline running builds your booty? It will build your calf muscles too!

Running is a great way to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy those feel-good endorphins, but running too fast and running on an incline will build those calf muscles like crazy.

Won’t Running Make Me Lose Weight in My Legs?

lady measuring thighs after running

Yes, to a point, it will, but it will replace your fat with muscle.

Aerobic exercise, like running, is one of the best ways to lose excess fat. However, since you are also working those leg muscles, expect them to get harder and bigger.

If you want bigger leg muscles, you can run faster and do frequent incline running. If you don’t want bigger leg muscles, do a longer but slower running routine on flat ground or on a treadmill.

Replacing fat with muscle sounds like a good option to me!

How Can I Reduce the Size of My Calves?

If your calves have gotten larger due to your running routine, or you’ve been sprinting or weight lifting, you’ll need to do 3 things to cut back on the size of your calves.

reducing the size of your calves

  1. Stop running/sprinting/weight lifting. I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but the fact is that if one of the above has given you big calves, you’ll need to stop doing those things.
  2. Do low-intensity workouts. Basically, this means doing less high-intensity workouts, such as running and consider doing more walking, rowing, power walking, yoga, etc. You might also want to stop doing any resistance training that involves the calf muscles.
  3. Lose weight. If you’re overweight, your body may have put some fat over your calf muscles. I know your first thought would be to go for a run, but remember that most running builds calf muscle fibers. Go for a slow jog or a long walk. Rowing is another great choice for losing weight without making your calves bigger.

You can lose weight without doing a lot of lower body exercises that tend to build muscle.

Can Skipping Help Reduce My Calf Size?

a man skipping rope

No, it won’t. In fact, skipping will actually build calf muscles!

I don’t know where this “skipping” thing started, but I’ve heard several people mention that skipping will reduce your entire leg size. This isn’t true!

Skip very slowly and feel which muscles you’re engaging. You’ll quickly realize that you are using the same muscles as sprinting, and despite not jumping as high as some sprinters do, you are still working those calf muscles!

However, skipping is fun! It makes you feel like a girl again.

Why Do Most Athletes Have Small Calves?

If you’re looking at some professional athletes (such as soccer players), and you’re wondering why some of them have small calf muscles, there are a couple of reasons for this.

Athletes Have Small Calves

  1. It Boils Down to Genetics. Sometimes, it’s all about the genes we get when we are born, and that’s just the way it is. If your genes say that you’re going to have skinny calves, there isn’t a lot you can do about it. You CAN work on your calves and make them as big as possible, but your genes control the muscle cells. If they don’t want to grow bigger, they just won’t! Genetics sucks sometimes, but that’s the roll of the dice.
  2. The Length of the Achilles Tendon Matters. It’s common for athletes who have a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers also have a very long Achilles tendon. Tendons act like rubber bands, which means the tendon does most of the work, not the muscle fibers. The good news here is that a long Achilles tendon usually means you’re really good at running fast and jumping higher than other people.
  3. Smaller Calves Usually Mean Larger Leg Muscles. If you are doing a lot of running or jumping, your quads, glutes, and hamstrings are the ones doing all the work. So while you might bemoan that you’ve got skinny calves, I bet you’ve got some terrific legs with major muscle power!

Are Small Calves Better for Athletes?

a person holding his foot to stretch calf muscles

That would depend on what you want to accomplish.

If you are into long-distance running, no, small calves won’t hurt your performance. Long-distance runners and endurance athletes usually have legs with high concentrations of slow-twitch muscles, which are smaller in size than fast-twitch muscle fibers.

However, if you want to do sprints, short races, or jumping of any type, you’ll want to build those calves and do leg exercises that will give you muscular legs, including fully developed fast-twitch muscle fibers in your calves.

Are Calf Muscles the Hardest Muscle to Grow?

Yes, they typically are, unless you’ve got the right genes.

It seems as if you can gain muscle anywhere in the entire body except the calves! You do need to make a special effort to work on the calves if you want to make them larger.

We use about 80 percent of our calf muscles just by walking around, so if you want to gain that extra 20 percent, you’ll need to make a special effort to build those calf muscle fibers. You can try walking on an incline, adding weights to your walking or long-distance running routine, and doing some HIIT running/sprinting workouts.

Will Big Calves Make Me Faster?

lower body of a man running

You bet your sweet Aunt LuLu they will!

It’s your calf muscles that propel you forward with each step. They absorb impact and support the weight of your body. When calves are bigger, your legs are stronger and you can run faster.

When you increase the size of your calf muscles, you will automatically be faster, run for longer periods of time, jump higher, and keep a more consistent pace when running.

At the End of the Day

I realize that not everyone wants bigger legs or bigger calf muscles, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, some people would love to increase the size of their calves.

Strength training that focuses on your calves will give you the strongest muscles, but it does take time and conscious effort.

For smaller calves, try losing weight if you need to, avoid exercises or sprints that make legs bigger, and think about running slower but for longer distances.

Strong calf muscles are vital for generating power for jumping (such as volleyball) and running (even if you only plan on playing sports like basketball or soccer).

By the way, did you know that a recent study showed that men with bigger calves have a lower stroke risk? There’s a good reason to build those muscles!

Wishing you the perfect calf size!