Women Fear Them: Cankles!

Most women know what “cankles” are.  It is when your calves are larger and blend right into your ankle with little or no separation.  A condition not desired by women.

In my many years of training literally thousands of women, I believe I have only had one that actually wanted to train her calves, so your concern is a valid one for women.  Most women do not want their calves to turn into cows!  So let me give you the low-down on “cankles.”

Your calves are made up to two muscles, and both have a very high endurance capacity, as we are using them with every step we take.  Your calf is responsible for raising your heel off of the ground, a motion called plantarflexion, and this happens with every step walking, running, and stair climbing.  If you are on your feet, your calf never stops working, as even when you are standing stationary, your calf is helping to hold you up.

Gaining size, or hypertrophy, in muscles that have a high endurance capacity is often very difficult.  I busted my calves for years to get them as big as possible, in my quest to become Mr. Ohio. Because it was painful, I quite training them after winning the title and I only lost 1/4 inch in size.  I put in a lot of work for only 1/4 inch!  Unless, you genetically have large calves, it can take a very dedicated effort to gain size in them.

Often times, a muscle’s size can be somewhat of an illusion.  As you lose weight and start to lean out, your muscle will show more definition and this can give them the illusion of being bigger.  As you start to look leaner, your calf muscles can actually look bigger as they become more defined.

And we cannot forget the women out there that were simply born with larger calves.  Because this is probably a genetic trait, it can be difficult to reverse the spell of big calves.  The best remedy is to lean out if you carry fat in your lower body.  If you naturally have large calf muscles, I would suggest very high repetitions with your strength training or participate in endurance activities to actually break the muscle down.  This is why marathoners or other endurance athletes can look very lean and lanky, as they sometimes sacrifice muscle with their endurance events.

My best advice is to figure out what genetic disposition you have and how your body responds to training and act accordingly.  If you are holding fat there, lean out.  If you naturally have big calf muscles or gain muscle very easily, participate in endurance type activities or if you are strength training, do very high repetitions with very light weight.

As far as all of the other muscles of the legs, you should be able to train them normally without hitting your calves enough to cause a gain in muscle mass, as you must be performing an exercise in which you rise up on your toes to direct target your calves. This means you can continue to blast the muscles above the knees to sport the sexy lean legs!

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