I have a client who desperately wants to decrease the size of her calves and get rid of excess fat that lies on the inside of the knees. The latter is really noticeable when her leg is extended. As for the large calves, what I can gather from a pinch test is that she does carry some excess fat on the muscle. About eight years ago, she quit karate. When she started, she was slightly overweight, and it seemed to bulk her up, which is when she started to notice her calves. Since then, she hasn't done much until now. For the last eight months or so, she has been doing high intensity cardio for about 30 to 40 minutes four to five times a week, which has helped her get close to her goal weight. She has tried mixed weight training ideas to fix the above-mentioned problems - trying with calf exercises (the first three months) and without (the last five months), and she has not had success. She has now come to me for advice, and I'm not quite sure what else she could actually try. I believe she could be on the right track with a superset regime, twice a week. Could you help me with some ideas please?
Unfortunately, it is physiologically impossible to spot reduce (remove body fat from an isolated area) adipose tissue without surgical intervention. Therefore, you need to address body fat reduction from a global perspective, not from an isolated perspective. I would continue addressing the “big picture” and consider the following:
You may want to assess her diet and provide her with guidance if necessary. If you have not done so, make her keep a nutrition journal for three to five days. Make sure she is honest in the journal and that she does not simply alter her eating when filling it out. It needs to be an accurate assessment of what she has been eating up to this point. Ultimately, make sure she is eating a balanced diet, yet is in a caloric deficit.
Even though there is a layer of fat, is the bulk of her mass actually caused by muscle hypertrophy? If so, you may need to discontinue exercises geared toward these muscles that could promote that hypertrophy. You may also want to assess how she walks. Does she tend to walk more on the balls of her feet rather than the roll through of a normal gait? This may cause over activity and subsequent hypertrophy of the calf muscles.
I would suggest she continue her current level of aerobic activity, but you may want to assess what she is doing. Is she performing a lot of activities where she has to "toe off" repeatedly? If so, under her body weight, this activity may be serving as a catalyst to that hypertrophy by acting similar to a loaded standing calf raise. Cardio activities that might cause this are running, walking hills, stairs and stair climbers. You might find some enjoyable activities that she can do that involve less planter flexion.
I would not prescribe any planter flexion based strength exercises, but if that muscle is tight, you may want to show her how to stretch both the soleus and gastroc. If the muscle has found homeostasis in a shortened position, some of the bulk (if caused by muscle mass) may be alleviated by getting the muscle to relax, thus lengthening its resting length and decreasing its resting circumference.