How to Reduce Large Calf Muscles With Pilates

Pilates legs exercises produce a long, lean look.

Pilates legs exercises produce a long, lean look.

Slipping on a pair of stilettos and short mini and then being caught off guard by bulky "runner calves" leaves some shapely women longing for full-length pants. If this scenario sounds familiar, don't blame your body. It may just be your activity of choice that's creating that sinewy look. Sports like running, skiing and rock climbing require strength and power from your muscles, tending to bulk them up. However, Pilates exercises, which focus on both strengthening and lengthening, yield a long, lean look. If your current workout trend produces calves the size of apples, use Pilates to tame that pesky bulk.

Pilates Sidekicks

Stand on your mat with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core by pulling up and in with your lower abs.

Balance on one leg. Kick the other leg out and to the side, with your toes slightly pointed.

Repeat the exercise for six to 10 repetitions, inhaling as you lift your leg and exhaling as your leg descends. Repeat on the other side.

Elephant Exercise Using the Reformer

Come into a Downward Dog-like position on your reformer by leaning over to grasp the bar and planting your feet on the sliding carriage with your bottom in the air. Rest the back of your ankles on the shoulder pads and bring your feet hip-width apart.

Line up your middle toe with the center of your heel to assure that your feet are not turned in or out. Lift up through the inner arch of your foot.

Reach your sitz bones, or sitting bones, up and back. Tuck in your stomach to achieve length up the back of your calves and hamstrings.

Bring your arms slightly wider than your shoulders on the bar. Breathe into and expand your upper back.

Breathe in and press the carriage back with your feet about 4 inches. Exhale and tuck your belly button to your spine as you pull the carriage forward to neutral.

Repeat the exercise for six to 10 repetitions, moving with your breath.

Items you will need

  • Yoga mat
  • Pilates reformer
  • Resistance band (optional)


  • Perform Pilates sidekicks while lying on your side with your hips and shoulders stacked or standing with a resistance band around your ankles.
  • When using the reformer, ensure that the back of your legs and core are doing the work. Don't lazily shift your body weight to your arms.


  • Performing these exercises with improper alignment could cause injury. Always consult a certified Pilates instructor before practicing to assure proper form.

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About the Author

Christina Shepherd McGuire writes articles about adventure sports, fashion, mothering and natural living. Since 2003, her work has appeared in "Action Outdoor and Bike Magazine," "Teton Family Magazine," "The Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine" and several online publications. McGuire holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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