Who doesn't want a sculpted lower body to power them through their workouts? You dedicate plenty of attention to your butt and quads, and now they're starting to look way leaner than your calves, which remain weak and flabby. So you're left wondering — is there an easy way to lose calf fat?
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While there's no way to spot-reduce fat from any area of the body, there are a few exercises you can do to attain strong, toned calves.
Leg Fat and Spot Reduction
Before you go learning as many calf exercises as you can, bear in mind that getting stronger muscles in your calves won't burn away excess fat from just this area of your body. As the American Council on Exercise explains, targeting specific body parts with isolated exercises instead of a total body workout has never been effective, despite the widespread misconception of spot reduction.
In fact, in a small study published in August 2013 by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a resistance training program involving leg press exercises was able to effectively reduce fat mass in the seven men and four women participating, but that fat didn't come exclusively off their legs.
The only way to lose fat on your calves is by losing fat all over your body — and the only way to do that is by creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. And while you might be sensitive about the way your calves look, you can take some solace in the thought that there are worse parts of the body for carrying excess weight, at least from a health perspective: According to an April 2013 study published in Obesity, leg fat is not associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
Aiming to Lose Calf Fat
As already established, to lose calf fat, you must lose overall fat through a caloric deficit, but you can improve the look of your calves by toning up the muscles. The American Council on Exercise explains that calf muscles encompass the posterior of the lower leg, and they're important for walking, running and jumping. To work the calf muscles, you must raise your heels against resistance, usually your body weight.
Here are a few calf exercises adapted from the American Council on Exercise:
Calf Flex with Exercise Band (10-15 reps, 1 set)
- Sit down on a mat with your back straight and legs out in front of you. Sit on a bench or yoga block if necessary.
- Put an elastic resistance band around the balls of your feet.
- Point your toes and flex your foot forward. Keep your knees straight.
- Now bring your feet back, keeping your knees straight as you do, as if you're pointing your toes back toward your body.
- Keep the resistance band tight for the duration of the exercise.
Standing Heel Raise (10-15 reps, 1 set left leg, 1 set right leg)
- Using a step stool or stair, stand on one foot with your toes and ball of your foot on the step and your heel extending over the edge.
- Lower the heel of your standing foot below the step. Hold, then raise your heel back up as if you're going up on your toe. Keep your legs straight as you go.
- Repeat 10-15 times. Switch to your other leg.
- For a variation, try this exercise with both legs at the same time.
Sitting Heel Raise (10-15 reps, 1 set)
- Seat yourself on a chair with both feet on a step stool in front of you. Keep your toes and the balls of your feet on the step stool with your heels sticking out over the edge.
- Put a dumbbell or weight on your thighs for added resistance.
- Slowly lower your heels, then raise them (as you did in the previous exercise when you were standing).
Read more: A 10-Minute Plyo Box Leg-Day Workout
- Obesity: “Associations of Leg Fat Accumulation with Adiposity-Related Biological Factors and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome”
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: “Regional Fat Changes Induced by Localized Muscle Endurance Resistance Training”
- American Council on Exercise: “Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn”
- American Council on Exercise: “Get Stronger Calves with These 5 Exercises”