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Problem corner – ‘My calves are getting big when I train.

Problem corner – ‘My calves are getting big when I train. What can I do to prevent this?’

By July 15, 2013Uncategorized

What science says;

To elicit a hypertrophic response (increase in muscle size) you need to overload the muscle repeatedly. This requires multiple sets of 8-12 repetitions to be completed, 3/4 times a week for a period of up to 6 weeks. Combine this with optimal nutrition and ‘muscle bulk’ will be seen.

Flip the question – Are you training your calves to this level?

Fact – When a guy wants the classic ‘beach body’ bulk it can take him months and even years of regular, heavy training and optimal nutrition to achieve. Yet a female thinks she can run once a week for 6 weeks and suddenly get ‘muscly’.

The reality;

Science isn’t everything. Whilst all of the above principles are grounded in exercise science, it is true that there are situations that defy science and some females find a certain body part that just seems to overdevelop even with minimal loading.


Some women naturally may have larger calf muscles as a result of their genetic predisposition and body type. Whilst some people may be training their calves very hard for size with no gains, others may find their calves do in fact increase in size to any kind of training stimulus and this is completely genetic.

Wearing Heels;

Yes I’m afraid this could well be a contributing factor to this calf muscle debate. Elevating the heel for 6-8 hours a day and placing the muscle in a shortened and continually contracted state may cause the calf to increase its size.

Stuff to avoid;

  • Sprinting over short distances – 100/200/400m events are power based sports and some size might be seen due to the high amounts of muscle loading.

  • Heavy weight training (8-12 reps)

  • Plyometric (jumping) training and sprint drills.

  • Stair climbing

Stuff to do;

  • Running 3/5/10km distances (endurance)

  • Lessen the height of the heels you are wearing and try to wear them less in the day

  • Stretch and foam roller leg muscles and particularly calves.

  • Weight training with lighter weights and higher repetitions (20 repetitions + ), few sets (1-3) and longer rest periods.

  • Cycling, walking, long distance running, cross training, rowing and swimming;