Does it seem like no matter what you do, your calves will never be up to speed with your massive thighs? Then you’ve either lost the genetic lottery or you don’t know much about building impressive wheels.
And, since altering DNA is expensive, let’s review what your other options are!
Let’s Talk About Big Thighs and Small Calves
The dreaded combo: Big thighs and small calves.
You wonder how you managed to build up your lower body enough to squat 300 pounds while also looking like you’ve never worked out a day in your life.
But, building up your lower body is about a lot more than filling out your sweatpants.
Stronger lower body muscles can also:
- Boost your squat and deadlift PRs
- Improve your metabolism and burn some body fat
- Reduce your risk of hip, knee, and ankle injuries
- Improve your athletic performance as a whole
Most importantly, you can look bulky all-around, not just on your upper body. The guys at the gym will know you mean business.
So what’s the solution? Before we reveal the fix for your small calves, let’s discuss why you have them in the first place.
Why do You Have Big Thighs and Small Calves?
Below are the most common factors thought to be responsible for small calves (but this list isn’t conclusive):
People often attribute small calves to bad genetics, but the evidence is lacking in most areas. Some people report having large calves in their family even though they aren’t actively training their legs.
Low body weight
One plausible reason that might contribute to having small calves is low body weight. The idea is simple – as your weight increases, your legs have to adapt to carry more load, which might eventually lead to bigger calves even without calf-strengthening exercise.
A 2013 study shows that people aged 50 and beyond will likely lose about 1-2 percent of lean mass around their legs yearly.
The other reasons behind small calves include:
- Not enough or too much exercise
- Poor nutrition that leads to poor calf gains
- Following a low-quality training routine program
- Diseases that cause muscle wasting (like cancer and muscle dystrophy)
You see, various reasons may be behind your small calves, but most people suffer from poor nutrition and lack of proper leg training. The next sections discuss how to avoid these pitfalls and build bigger calves.
But first, we interrupt you with something interesting below….
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1 Surprising Pro of Small Calves
Better distance running
One small 2008 study on elite distance runners suggests that slim calves can improve runners’ ability to run long distances because slender legs overall require less force to move, thus less effort is required to cover greater distances.
While the claim may be correct, it’s important to note that many other factors affect distance running, which include leg length, overall body composition, and respiratory endurance.
Now, unless you want the possible running benefit (runners maybe) of small calves, I suggest you take a look below at some drawbacks of having big thigh small calves.
3 Clear Cons of Small Calves
Lesser leg power
Leg power is essential in sports activities that involve constant sprinting, jumping, and kicking. According to Healthline, a larger calf size is associated with greater leg power, which can improve performance in these areas mentioned.
Higher risk of falls and injury
The human calf muscles support the foot and ankle joints and are important for stability, balance, and posture. So as bigger calves are almost always stronger, their added strength can lower the chances of falls and injuries (especially as you grow older).
Higher risk of mobility issues
If the reasons above didn’t scare you, how about the chances of developing problems with moving (walking and running) due to scrawny calves?
Having relatively low body mass around your calves can speed up sarcopenia, which may increase the risk of disability, poor mobility, and functional impairment.
By now, if those chicken legs aren’t itching to bust a calf raise, then maybe a meme of you floating around on leg day will do the trick.
How To Solve the Big Thigh Small Calves Problem?
Eat to Grow
It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the gym if you’re not fueling your body for gains.
So, just how much protein do you need?
Aim for up to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight for optimal muscle mass.
At first, it’ll feel like you’re eating protein literally all day every day.
Supplementing with whey protein shakes throughout the day can keep your protein levels high without revolving your entire day around your eating schedule.
Be Willing to Commit
Your thighs and calves will never grow if your workout routine is inconsistent.
You need to be willing to commit time in the gym to see gains before deciding that, genetically, you’re just not capable of bulking up.
So, what’s the recommendation?
If you really want to center in on leg mass, then you’ll want to work directly on your leg muscles at least 2 or 3 times per week. Also, give your muscles 2 to 3 days of rest in-between.
Don’t expect to see inches added to your thighs or calves in just a few short weeks.
It might take 6 weeks to 6 months to see any noticeable results in the mirror. You’re still building up strength if your 1RM is improving, so give your muscles some time to catch up!
5 Quick Tips to Balance Out Your Legs
1. Keep Hitting the Squat Rack
You might be thinking to yourself, “Maybe if I just let my quads and hamstrings detrain a little, my calves will naturally look a little bigger.”
That’s good logic, but a poor solution.
Squats are actually an integral part of any lower body workout routine where muscle mass is your goal. There’s no better way to build massive thighs and glutes than with squat variations.
But, squats also have the potential to hit your calves, specifically the gastrocnemius muscle. Building up this muscle can help you to add some noticeable lower leg mass and bulk.
So, work on squats several times per week to continue building thigh mass while also hitting those pesky calf muscles.
And after you’ve built a solid strength foundation with your barbell squats, you might want to consider putting on a weightlifting belt like this to keep your gains moving up!
2. Go For a Run….On the Beach?
You’re going to hate us for this….but cardio might be in your future.
Now, we’re not telling you to lace up for a 3-mile run through the suburbs or a 5-mile hike up in the mountains. Leave the running shoes at home and head to the closest beach (or shoreline).
The sandier, the better.
The more your thighs, lower legs, and feet have to work to push up off the sand, the more your calves are directly targeted during your jog.
It’s like doing 100 or more calf raises every minute without stepping foot into the gym.
Good luck walking the few days following this run….your legs will thank you later.
3. Bring Your Journeys Uphill
Let’s be honest: Walking on the flat ground has never done a single good thing for your calves past the age of 12. So, it’s time to add a little elevation to your normal routine.
We’re talking about hiking.
When you’re hiking on trails that bring you up and down steep hills, your leg muscles are pushed into overdrive. It takes a lot more strength and effort from your lower legs to handle elevation.
Take the hills quickly to really push your leg muscles to their limits.
Even better is that you have a little scenery to enjoy. Can you really hate leg day with the view of a mountain or river in the distance?
4. Work Your Calves Constantly
Since you’re on your feet literally all day, both your thighs and your lower legs can handle quite a bit. So, don’t feel like you can only work your calves once or twice a week.
In some cases, 3 to 4 calf workouts per week with 2 days of rest in between is solid.
But, perhaps what’s even more important is how many reps you’re doing.
The calves seem to respond best to higher rep ranges. So, shoot for 10 to 20 reps per set instead of the usual 8 to 12 reps for hypertrophy.
Add a little variety here and there to work on power (5 to 8 reps) and endurance (25+ reps) and you’ll be good to go.
5. Do Seated & Standing Calf Raises Right
There are two key muscles in the calves: The soleus and the gastrocnemius.
And, targeting both individually is a great way to really maximize calf growth from top to bottom so that your calves match your thighs.
That means doing both seated and standing calf raises.
To get the most out of them, you need to increase your range of motion.
Instead of just doing standing calf raises starting with your feet flat on the floor, you could begin with your toes on a raised plank of wood (or a step) and your heels hanging off.
This forces your calf muscles to work harder and makes more mass a reality.
Exercises To Get Rid of Small Calves
If you were just about to Google “Best exercises to get bigger calves,” don’t bother. Here’s an inconclusive list of exercises to get rid of small calves without much equipment:
- Resistance band calf flex
- Standing calf raise
- Plie squat with heel raise
- Uphill walking/running
- Jump rope
- Jump squats
Some other effective equipment-based calf exercises include:
- Seated calf raise (with leg press machine)
- Calf press
- Standing barbell calf raise
- Dumbbell calf raise
What Should You Do If You Have Big Thighs and Small Calves?
Your goal should be to keep your thighs big and give your calves the time to match them.
To do that, you’ll want to continue hitting those thigh muscles through exercises like squats. You’ll also want to add hiking or beach running to your routine to really put your thighs and calves to the test.
Make sure you’re eating more than enough protein, spending enough time in the gym (2 to 3 days for legs), and committing to a routine.
Big Thighs Small Calves FAQs
Why do I have big thighs and small calves?
The exact cause of your big-thighs-small-calves problem may concern genetics, age, nutrition, workout routine, body weight, or underlying medical conditions. But for most people, proper nutrition and training are all they need to develop bigger calves.
Is it better to have big or small calves?
One study suggests that smaller calves are better for long-distance running due to their lesser mass, which requires less effort to propel. On the other hand, bigger calves reduce the chances of injury and mobility issues, plus greater leg power increases your running sprint, which is essential in various athletic sports.
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