Average Calf Size

Anthropometric Survey Reveals Average Calf Size for Men & Women

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: September 3, 2023

Calf size is often overlooked when it comes to assessing your fitness. However, the size of your calves can actually provide valuable insights into your overall health.

In this blog post, we will explore the average calf size for men and women and how it correlates to health. We will also delve into the factors that influence calf size, including genetics, exercise, and lifestyle habits.

Finally, I’ll give you a workout routine you can use to build bigger, stronger calves. So, whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply looking to improve your overall health, read on to discover what your calf size may be telling you about your body.

Average Calf Size

Data Collection Methods

This article refers to the calf circumference data obtained from the CDC’s National Health Statistics Reports. Specifically, the data is taken from the Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults in the United States, recorded between 2003 and 2006.

With my engineering and statistical analysis background, I have compiled the data into tables and charts that are easier to understand. Furthermore, as a certified fitness coach, I explain how these measurements relate to your overall health and fitness.

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

Studies have shown that individuals with larger calf muscles tend to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses1. This is because calf muscles help improve circulation and lower blood pressure.

Furthermore, having stronger calf muscles can enhance balance, agility, and athletic ability. It may also reduce the likelihood of falls in older adults.

Overall, calf circumference can be a useful measure of an individual’s overall health and fitness level. And well-developed calves provide the appearance of strength and athleticism.

Average Calf Circumference 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.

Average Calf Circumference Measurement

What Is An Average Calf Size?

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 men’s average 15.6 inches (39.5 cm).

Nonetheless, it is essential to note that having a larger or smaller calf size than these averages can also be considered normal. This is because typical calf sizes vary depending on factors such as age, ethnicity, weight, and body composition.

Average Calf Size by Age

Age influences one’s calves, 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 lead to a reduction in calf size. The table below illustrates this rise and fall in calf circumference by different age categories for men and women.

Table 1. Average Calf Size by Age & Gender

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, ranging 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 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 presents a comprehensive list of calf circumferences that can help you determine whether your calf size falls under the category of small or large for your gender. It’s interesting to note that women tend to exhibit more variability in calf size compared to men.

The data indicates that it’s highly improbable for a woman to have calves smaller than 12.7 inches or larger than 18.6 inches. Similarly, for men, it’s uncommon to have calves smaller than 13.4 inches or larger than 18.4 inches.

Average Calf Size Female

Average Calf Size by Ethnicity

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted a study on body measurements that included data on calf circumferences for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Mexican-American individuals2.

Table 3 compares calf size among women and men of different races. However, it should be noted that these are general averages and do not necessarily apply to every individual. It is possible for anyone, irrespective of their ethnic background, to have either large or small calves.

Table 3. Average Calf Size by Ethnicity

  Women Men
White 15.1 inches (38.4 cm) 15.7 inches (39.8 cm)
African American 15.6 inches (39.6 cm) 15.6  inches (39.7 cm)
Mexican American 14.7 inches (37.3 cm) 14.9 inches (37.9 cm)
Average Calf Size by Ethnicity

Average Calf Size by Height & Weight

The 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 larger frames that can support more body mass, which may result in larger leg and calf circumferences. However, a shorter person’s calves may appear larger even with a smaller circumference. 

In addition, body weight also affects the size of your calves. The heavier you are, the larger your calf size typically becomes, but they may not look as big in proportion to your body.

Average Calf Size by Body Fat Percentage

Both men and women have body fat stored in their calves, 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 your calves appear more prominent in proportion.

Average Calf Size Health

Healthy Calf Size

It’s not always true that larger calf sizes are better. In fact, one study found that there is a connection between calf circumference and insulin resistance among overweight people3.

However, it’s more probable that the root cause is excess body fat and not the size of the calves themselves. Therefore, if your BMI is higher than 24, it is important 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 amount of lean muscle mass. Consequently, if you have skinny calves, it is beneficial for you to focus on strengthening and growing them.

How To Increase Calf Size

Calves are a notoriously stubborn muscle group to build. In part because our calves are designed to stand up to strenuous activity as we walk, run, and squat in our daily lives.

Therefore, growing bigger calves takes time and consistent effort in the right places. And you will progress faster with a well-rounded plan, including specific workouts and a well-balanced diet.

Workouts

To build bigger calves, various calf raise exercises work great for overall muscular development. And different exercises can target different parts of your calves.

For example, standing calf raises primarily work the gastrocnemius or the larger part of the upper calf. At the same time, seated calf raises work more of the soleus muscle, which runs the length of your lower leg.

When training for calf growth, it’s also beneficial to techniques that make the exercises more challenging for your calves. These include heavier weights, higher reps, or more frequent training.

See All 7 Techniques for Better Calves

Calf Size Exercises

Diet

Believe it or not, how you eat is just as important as how you lift when building muscle. You won’t progress in the gym if you don’t give your body what it needs to grow.

First, creating a calorie surplus is essential to gaining muscle and building your calves. That means you eat more calories than you burn each day.

Next, you must eat enough protein to give your calves the building blocks to grow new muscle tissue. And don’t listen to that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight bro science!

Your lean mass, activity level, and fitness goal dictate how much protein you need.

Calculate Your Grams of Protein Per Day

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Supplements

It’s important to note that relying solely on supplements won’t magically give you big calves. And beware of the many overpriced and ineffective supplements out there.

Instead, supplements should only be used in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise routine to potentially enhance your results. Here are some muscle-building supplements that could assist in developing rock-hard calves.

Related: Top 12 Protein Bars for Weight Gain

More Body Measurements

You now have knowledge of the average calf size for both men and women of different ages and ethnicities. Additionally, you have gained an understanding of how various factors can influence the size of your calves and what is considered healthy.

If you found this article to be informative or interesting, you may also find value in exploring my other body measurement guides.

Average Thigh Circumference for Males & Females

Average Butt Size by Gender & Ethnicity

How Big Are 16-Inch Arms?

What Neck Size Says About Your Health

Average Male Chest Size by Height

Do You Have Small Wrists?

Average Waist Size for Men & Women

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

Simple 3 Minute Proats Recipe

Protein oatmeal (aka proats) makes your breakfast better. This simple proats recipe gives you a complete meal with loads of flavor.

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By |September 3, 2023|Bodybuilding|Comments Off on Average Calf Size for Men & Women – How Big Is Healthy?
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