How Big Are 20 Inch Calves?

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: October 18, 2023

There has been a lot of discussion regarding large calves and whether it’s a sign of strength or a hindrance to athleticism and fitness. So, if you’re curious about whether 20-inch calves are a good thing, read on! 

In this blog post, we’ll explore calf size statistics for both men and women to shed light on what’s considered healthy and within the normal range.

20 Inch Calves

What Is Calf Size?

Based on the anthropometric reference data from the CDC, the size of one’s calves is determined by measuring the horizontal circumference around the thickest part of the lower legs.

Calf Circumference & Health

Recent studies indicate that individuals with larger calf muscles may have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses1.

This is because calf muscles play a significant role in improving circulation and reducing blood pressure. In addition, having stronger calf muscles can improve balance, agility, and athletic performance while reducing the likelihood of falls in older adults. 

Calf circumference can be a useful measure of an individual’s general health and fitness level, and well-developed calves can give the appearance of strength and athleticism. However, it is also essential to consider the muscle-to-fat ratio in larger calves, as discussed later.

15 Inch Calves Measurement

How to Measure Calf Circumference

To accurately measure the circumference of your calf, you’ll need a flexible tape measure like a tailor’s tape. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and wrap the measuring tape horizontally around your calf, moving it up and down to find the widest point.

Hold the zero end of the tape snugly, but not too tightly, around the widest part of your calf. The point where the number intersects the end of the tape is your calf circumference.

Remember to keep your calf relaxed during the measurement, and don’t try to flex the calf muscle.

15 Inch Calves Circumference

How Big Are 20 Inch Calves?

Based on body measurement data from the US Department of Health Statistics, the typical circumference of women’s calves is around 15.1 inches (38.3 cm), while the men’s average is 15.6 inches (39.5 cm).

So, 20-inch calves are roughly 5 inches, or 25% larger than the average male and female. Nonetheless, it is essential to note that calf sizes can vary widely depending on factors such as age, ethnicity, weight, and body composition.

Calf Size by Age

Age influences calf size as our bodies naturally grow and shrink over time. In most cases, people’s lower legs tend to become larger into their 30s or 40s.

However, as we get older, we may experience a decline in adipose and muscle tissue, which can reduce calf size. The table below illustrates this rise and fall in calf circumference by different age categories for men and women.

Table 1. Calf Size by Age

Age Women Men
20-29 14.9 inches (37.8 cm) 15.5 inches (39.4 cm)
30-39 15.2 inches (38.7 cm) 15.7 inches (39.8 cm)
40-49 15.4 inches (39.2 cm) 15.9 inches (40.3 cm)
50-59 15.2 inches (38.7 cm) 15.7 inches (39.8 cm)
60-69 15.2 inches (38.5 cm) 15.4 inches (39.2 cm)
70-79 14.5 inches (36.8 cm) 15.0 inches (38.0 cm)
80+ 14.0 inches (35.5 cm) 14.2 inches (36.1 cm)

In Table 1, we can see the average size of women’s calves ranges from 14.0 to 15.4 inches (35.5 to 39.2 cm), while men’s calves are slightly larger, ranging from 14.2 to 15.9 inches (36.1 to 40.3 cm).

However, it’s important to note that these figures are based on the average measurements of both males and females, including older adults who may have muscle atrophy or sarcopenia.

To get a better understanding of where 20-inch calves fall in the true range of calf sizes, it’s helpful to view the data as percentiles, specifically for adults aged 20-49.

Table 2. Calf Circumference Percentiles Age 20-49

Percentile Women Men
5th 12.7 inches (32.2 cm) 13.4 inches (34.1 cm)
10th 13.1 inches (33.3 cm) 13.8 inches (35.2 cm)
15th 13.4 inches (33.9 cm) 14.1 inches (35.9 cm)
25th 13.8 inches (35.2 cm) 14.6 inches (37.1 cm)
50th 14.9 inches (37.9 cm) 15.5 inches (39.4 cm)
75th 16.2 inches (41.2 cm) 16.6 inches (42.1 cm)
85th 17.0 inches (43.2 cm) 17.2 inches (43.7 cm)
90th 17.7 inches (44.9 cm) 17.7 inches (44.8 cm)
95th 18.6 inches (47.2 cm) 18.4 inches (46.8 cm)

Table 2 shows that 20-inch calves are well beyond the 95th percentile for both men and women. So, if you have 20-inch calves, you’re likely in the 99th percentile for calf size.

To put it in perspective, the average man and woman have 20-inch thighs. Proportionately speaking, your calves should be roughly the same circumference as your arms, and the average arm size is also around 15 inches.

Related: Greek God Body Proportions for an Aesthetic Physique

Furthermore, most professional bodybuilders don’t even have 20-inch calves despite grueling training, meticulous eating, and performance enhancement. So, the likelihood of the average Joe having 20-inch calves is super low.

The charts below show how big 20-inch calves are compared to the normal distribution.

20 Inch Calves Female
20 Inch Calves Male

20 Inch Calves by Ethnicity and Genetics

Genetics and ethnic background also significantly affect how big your calves are. For example, you probably know someone with huge calves who doesn’t even work out. Yet, other people have skinny calves despite trying to grow them in the gym.

One reason is that some people are genetically predisposed to having larger calf muscles or storing more fat and fluid in their lower legs. Calf size is also affected genetically by the insertion point of the gastrocnemius muscle, where lower insertions tend to result in larger calves.

Finally, specific populations are generally more likely to have larger or smaller calves. For instance, Asian ancestry can result in naturally larger calves in proportion to the rest of the body. While Black or Hispanic ancestry can result in smaller calves, particularly in men.

However, it should be noted that these are generalizations, and it is possible for anyone, irrespective of their race, to have either large or small calves.

20 Inch Calves Woman

20 Inch Calves by Height & Weight

The calf circumference measurement alone doesn’t always indicate whether your calves are big or small for your body. Other factors, such as height, weight, and body composition, also play a role.

Taller people generally have smaller-looking calves due to the length of their lower leg bones. But their larger overall size can lead to larger calf circumferences and a greater likelihood of having 20-inch calves.

At that same time, a shorter person’s calves may appear larger even with a smaller circumference. Yet, it’s more difficult for their smaller frame to achieve 20-inch calves.

In addition, body weight also affects how big your calves appear. For instance, the heavier you are, the more likely 20-inch calves become.

20 Inch Calves by Body Fat Percentage

Both men and women have body fat stored in their lower legs, with women having more fat in this area. Generally, the more body fat a person has, the bigger their calves will be.

Some people don’t mind whether their calves are made up of fat or muscle. But it’s worth noting that having more muscle and less fat is better for overall health and athleticism.

Furthermore, the relative size of your leg joints can also impact how big your calves look. For example, thinner ankles can make 20-inch calves appear even more prominent in proportion.

Also, reducing water retention in your lower legs can reduce your calf size, but they will generally appear more athletic and lean.

20 Inch Calves by Height Weight Body Fat

Healthy Calf Size

It’s not always true that larger calf sizes are better. One study found a connection between calf circumference and insulin resistance among overweight people3.

However, it’s more probable that the root cause is excess body fat, not calf size. Therefore, if your BMI is higher than 24, it is essential to focus on weight loss first before putting much effort into working on your calves.

For individuals with lower body fat, having larger and more muscular calves is often associated with better overall health due to a higher lean muscle mass. So, if you have skinny calves, it is beneficial for you to focus on strengthening and growing them.

Overall, 20-inch calves are generally not considered healthy for most people as they are likely the result of being overweight.

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More Body Measurements

Now that you know how 20-inch calves measure up, you might want to learn more about other body measurements. Below are some additional articles I’ve hand-picked for your interests.

Average Arm Size Measurement & Big Biceps Calculator

What Neck Size Says About Your Health

Average Male Chest Size By Height & Percentiles

Do You Have Small Wrists?

Average Waist Size for Men & Women

Average Butt Size by Gender, Age, & Ethnicity (with Charts)

Survey Reveals Average Thigh Circumference for Male & Female

With this information, you’re well on your way to building an impressive set of calves. And if you liked this article, make sure you check out some of my other helpful content below!

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By |October 18, 2023|Bodybuilding|Comments Off on See How Big 20 Inch Calves Are for Men & Women
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