Adding muscle to calves? What leg workouts should I do? Do I workout at gyms?

by Denise
(Ann Arbor, MI)

I am not a thin person but my legs have been skinny all my life.

I am wondering whether is it possible for me to improve my calves and legs, to give them more muscular tone. For example, should I use the calf machines at a gym where you target the muscles in the leg areas to help them become more prominent?

Azri's reply

Hello Denise, thank you for stopping by and sharing with me your question. It sounds really interesting. What I gather is that your body weight is of an acceptable range, but you find that your legs are too skinny in comparison with the rest of your body, and you would like to know what can be done to improve this situation. What I would suggest is a combination of compound strength exercises as well as high intensity cardio workouts. You also need to keep in mind that this workout only works if (and I'm assuming that) you are not overweight.

Since you want to work on your building up your leg area, that's fine. Muscles are a little different than fat. For example, an individual cannot eliminate fat from one area, he needs to do a lot of cardio and eat well and burn fat from his entire body. Muscles don't work that way. You can train one area specifically and allow that area to grow. This is the reason why sometimes you see teenage males (this problem is more predominant with the males) who have huge arms, but a rather small chest. Another case is whereby they have a large upper torso but skinny legs. Take a look around (now that Christmas Holidays is here), you'll notice a lot of them are guilty of this problem.

Okay, I'm digressing, I apologize. You were asking if doing exercises at a calf machine would help. Yes, and no. Yes because the machine will strengthen the muscles and give you a workout, but if you want some gains to help improve the looks of your legs, you need to do compound exercises. Compound exercises are basically exercises which don't just target one muscle group - they target a whole lot of muscles in your body, which means you get more punch from a workout. Plus, I've always been daunted by gyms, and therefore don't really talk much about them, or recommend my readers on this website to go to one. However, it is your call.

Compound exercises that I would suggest would be squats and lunges. They are (scientifically proven) the best type of lower body exercises that you can do at home, and you don't even require any equipment or need a lot of space. Just put on comfortable shoes, blast your favorite songs on your computer and start working out. You don't even have to do a lot of repetitions, contrary to popular belief. Aim for 2 sets of 8 repetitions. If you find that it's too hard, stop. Keep working towards this aim. Afterwards, when you're a lot more comfortable completing this amount of repetitions, you can aim to increase it to 2 sets of 10 repetitions, maybe even more. Listen to your body.

Another thing I would recommend is cardio training, specifically interval training. The reason why this is the best form of training for cardiovascular endurance is simply due to the fact that it really trains your body to work at peak efficiency and boost your stamina without requiring you to use too much time. Of course, some people aren't fans, but you should give it a go, and see how you enjoy it.

To do this workout, choose a jogging route and start a warm up. Once you're ready, jog at a pace that's comfortable for you. Jog for about 20 seconds. You should be able to hold a conversation with a friend at this particular pace. Once 20 seconds is up, sprint, for 10 seconds. During this time, you should not be able to talk, you should feel a little discomfort, and that is how much you have to push yourself during the sprint. On top of that, remember to not push yourself too hard or else you might run the risk of injury. Complete about 3 cycles of this. If you are not able to, remember to work up towards this aim. Pretty soon, your stamina will improve to a point where you're able to complete even more cycles.

This training will not just help you improve your stamina but also help shape those legs. Running places a great impact on your legs, especially your thigh and calf area. Don't believe me? Take a look at images of runners, you'll notice that they have very toned legs, and a lot of that is from hitting the track and doing various trainings, like intervals, fartleks and so on.

You must also keep in mind to have a proper diet. Eat everything in moderation. Remember your plate is like a canvas and your foods are the paints - okay I'm not really good at poetry, but you get my drift. Eat more greens, have fruits, get enough carbs and proteins. Try to cut down on sugar, salt, unnecessary condiments and oily foods and opt for healthier cooking options like grilling, steaming and sauteing.

Bottomline, if you keep to this plan carefully and just remember never to give up, you will see results. Make changes slowly, too many people try to change their lifestyle and eating habits overnight but that will not get them anywhere. You need to be consistent and focused. Good luck and an early Merry Christmas to you!

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