How to Tone Calves Without Making Them Bigger

Shape your calves and strut your stuff.

Shape your calves and strut your stuff.

Slender, trim calf muscles make your legs pop in a pair of heels and boost your confidence when you put on shorts or a dress. As a woman, you'll want to tone your calves but avoid getting bulky, large muscles that make you look like a man from the knees down. If you combine the right exercises with the right techniques you can shape your calves without making them larger.

Train with low weights and high repetitions for any weight bearing exercises you do, like calf raises. Use a weight that you can do 12 to 15 reps with before your calves get tired. Heavy weights will increase your muscular mass, but lighter weights build endurance and tone the muscle. To do a calf raise with weights, stand upright while holding a weight in each hand. Keep your legs straight, press up onto the balls of your feet and allow your heels to leave the ground. Pause at the top of this movement briefly, lower back down and repeat.

Use plyometric or "jump-training" exercises during your workouts. These exercises build explosive power in your calves, tone the muscle and help you perform better during athletic movements like running, jumping or pedaling. Examples include mimicking shooting a basketball, jump squats and jumping while bringing your knees to your chest.

Exercise with daily cardio exercise to strengthen the calves. Healthy adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio, this means your heart rate should be elevated and you should be sweating but you should still be able to carry a conversation. Focus on activities that target the lower leg like cycling, swimming, walking, the elliptical and jumping rope.

Remember to stretch. Stretching improves the flexibility and resiliency of muscles while also soothing your body after a workout. To perform the sit-and-reach stretch for the lower legs, sit on the ground with both legs in front of your body. Keep your legs straight, bend at the waist and reach as far forward as you can. Reach until you feel some tension in your calves, hold for 20 seconds and then release.

Items you will need

  • Weights

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About the Author

Ashley Farley has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. She is also a writer specializing in healthy living, fitness and nutrition topics. Farley has an Associate of Science in mental health services from the Community College of the Air Force and is pursuing her B.A. in English at Wright State University.

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