Skinny Calves: Are They Truly Set In Your Genes Or Can You Make Them Bigger?

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Written By Charlotte Miller

While it’s true that genetics holds a heavy influence on the way that your muscles develop, does this automatically mean that those with small calves are forever stuck with this? This is a common problem that a significant number of weightlifters and bodybuilders face, and there are many gym goers who are embarrassed by how small their calves are.

The gastrocnemii are the most difficult muscle group to develop, which is also why there are many people who tend to forgo extensive training that targets these muscles. This makes only perfect sense considering the fact that there are plenty of other muscle groups that can be developed, but the fact that there are also a good number of people who have overcome their genetic limitations should also be considered.

Why Do Some People Have Small Calves?

A person’s genetic contain the gene code used by the body to determine the manner in which it will grow. A person is deemed to be genetically predisposed to have small calves when their genes tell their body to place the insertion of their gastrocnemii much higher on their leg, thus creating the appearance that you have small calves, even if you train them regularly.


Other factors that could influence the size of your calves are age and body weight. Muscles naturally atrophy as we age, and this also diminishes the degree of physicality that we can exert. The less we can train, the more likely that the rate of atrophy will reach a point where muscles no longer develop and that they start going on a downtrend.

Your body weight will also significantly affect the size of your calves because your calves are constantly working to keep your body upright when you’re standing or walking.  The less body weight you have, the less tension your gastrocnemii handle.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger


Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prime example of someone who successfully broke through his genetic limitations. In his early twenties, Arnold would hide his calves during photoshoots because they were disproportionately small compared to the rest of his body. He eventually overcame the limitations of his genes through extensive training that constantly varied volume, intensity, and frequency. 

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Difficult, But Not Impossible

While it is widely accepted that your genetics play a significant role in the way that your calves grow, there are many ways that you can facilitate their growth. The trick to triggering the growth of your calves is to adopt the right type of training. 

Generally, your training regimen needs to include exercises that place maximum tension on your calf muscles in order to offset the fact that they are accustomed to being under constant tension when we stand, walk, and run.

This entails a mix of workouts that place a heavy emphasis on volume, intensity, and frequency. Leg workouts, like the ones found here, will not only help strengthen and grow your calves, but they will also develop your supporting and surrounding leg muscles for a more holistic approach that will also help you build your other muscle groups.

While our genetics definitely hard-code the manner in which our body develops, they are not impossible to override. The basics of getting proper rest and nutrition, as well as perfecting the execution of your techniques also apply here.