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Want to Get Bigger Calves? You May Be Limited by Your Body Type

Want bigger legs? You may be stuck by genetics.

Mens fitness and health magazines and sites promise routines and diets to get bigger calf muscles. Certainly, if you've never lifted a weight or run a mile, you may be able to increase size, tone and definition. The truth is, the growth of this stubborn muscle may be limited to your body type.


Three Body Types

Psychologist W.H. Sheldon classified humans into three natural body types. Certainly, there are variations, but many people fall into one of three categories: endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs.

Endomorphic men have a naturally stocky body type. They are the least likely to worry about the size or shape of their calf muscles, because they bulk up much easier than the other two body types, in all muscle groups. The downside to endomorphs? They tend to gain weight and retain fat much easier than their counterparts, too, so their lives are not without challenge. Daniel Craig is a good example of an endomorph.

Ectomorphic men have a naturally skinny body type. They can still have too much body fat, but it is distributed differently than endomorphs. Ectomorphs are what you think of when you think of really tall, skinny men with thin arms and legs, like many pro basketball players, or Abraham Lincoln

Mesomorphs fall right in the middle.

English footballer Peter Crouch is a classic ectomorph.  Decades of soccer and pro training have still not made his calf muscles huge.

English footballer Peter Crouch is a classic ectomorph. Decades of soccer and pro training have still not made his calf muscles huge.

Who wants bigger calves?

Ectomorphs and mesomorphs often tend to wish that their calves were thicker, bigger, and more defined. There are few if any examples, however, of somebody who's a genetically tall, thin ectomorph becoming a bulky endomorph.

We can all get a little bigger, and a little more muscular and a little more defined, but we're limited within our body type. If we're tall and thin, we can be tall, thin and muscular, but we're unlikely to bulk up and look really thick like Daniel Craig.

More to the point, calves are difficult to grow in the first place, so going from long, thin legs to big, squat calves is nearly impossible without surgical implants.

English footballer Peter Crouch is a classic ectomorph. He's played soccer for over two decades and had access to professional trainers, training and diet regimens. He's muscular and defined, and a great player, but he doesn't have the calves of a mesomorphic or endomorphic soccer player.

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Maybe it's better to be real about goals.

There are few things that most men who aren't pro bodybuilders should do when wishing to improve their calves, and 90% of it is mental.

First, men should be honest with themselves as to their body type, and be okay with it. The simple truth is that not everybody can have the stocky, muscular calves they may want.

Long, thin legs, or mesomorphic legs, are okay, too. They carried sprinter Shawn Crawford to gold at the Olympics.

If appearance is the concern, set reasonable goals about what more muscular calf muscles may look like given your current genetics. Imagine your muscles more toned or defined, but not necessarily with the thickness of a different body class. Accept that the shape of your leg is the shape of your leg.

Gold-medal Olympian sprinter Shawn Crawford. Very muscular, and genetically thin legs.

Gold-medal Olympian sprinter Shawn Crawford. Very muscular, and genetically thin legs.

Change what you can.

Finally, not being able to change your body type doesn't mean that you can't change anything. Thin, toned muscles are more attractive than thin muscles with no tone, so it's of benefit to exercise calves as part of your exercise regimen.

Also, consider your dress. If you're uncomfortable in shorts because of thin lower legs, make some changes. Short shorts elongate legs, and that may run contrary to your feeling that your legs are too long and thin already. Longer shorts provide an optical illusion that make your calf muscles look less thin and lean.

Tall, chunky shoes - like cross trainers and basketball shoes - can also make your legs look thinner by elevating you an extra inch or two off the floor. Flatter shoes, like low-top Chuck Taylors have the opposite effect. Finally, no-show ankle socks are a better choice than crew socks. Having socks that look bulkier than your lower leg creates the illusion of having skinnier legs.


Curt Sembello (author) from Ha Long Bay, Vietnam on January 11, 2014:

You're correct. Thanks, Alphadogg, for your copy editing. Problem fixed.

Kevin W from Texas on January 10, 2014:

I don't normally leave comments when I disagree with something, but I feel inclined to say something. First off you are getting your body types mixed up. At the top of one paragraph you say endomorphs are naturally husky & on the bottom you say endomorphs are tall & skinny. The "ectomorphs can still have too much body fat" statement really killed me. The size of your calves and there ability to grow is more genetic. There are skinny people with big calves & husky, big people with small skinny calves. I'm not sure if it's accidental or not, but a lot if your statements are very inaccurate.

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