How to Measure Calves

Close-up of the legs of a young man running up stairs

Measuring your calves can help you build your body symmetrically when exercising and can motivate you to reach your fitness goals. People tend to work one leg harder than the other, just as people tend to favor one hand over the other. This can lead to one calf bulking up more, which is undesirable in the fitness and body-building world. Whether your goal is to increase the size of your calf muscles or slim your calves down to fit into knee-high boots, measuring the size of your calves lets you know their current size and how far you have to go to meet your goal.


Measuring your calf is quick and easy. Have someone measure for you so you can remain standing straight; if you twist or bend, doing so could make you flex your calf muscle and you will end up with an inaccurate measurement. Use a fabric or flexible plastic measuring tape so it wraps easily around the calf. Confirm the tape hasn't been stretched over time by comparing it to a metal measuring tape. If you plan to take a skinfold test, you'll also need calipers and a marker.

How to Stand

When you're measuring your calves, stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Distribute your weight evenly between your feet so you're not leaning more on one leg. Putting more weight on one leg can cause the calf to flex, resulting in an inaccurate reading. Relax both calves.

Where to Measure

Measuring your calf takes a bit of trial and error. The person measuring should estimate the widest area of the calf and wrap the leg with a flexible measuring tape. He should then raise the tape 1/2 inch and take a new measurement and then lower the tape 1/2 inch below the original location and take a third measurement. The longest measurement is the correct one; calf measurements should reflect the widest girth. Mark the correct height, which is the one with the widest girth, with a marker.

Skinfold Test

You can also take a skinfold test on your calf, which is used to estimate your body fat percentage. Place your leg on a riser or chair so that your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Pinch a fold of fat on the inside of the calf just above the high-girth mark. Place the calipers on the high-girth mark and measure the edges of the pinched fold. Repeat the measurement three times and use the median measurement. Most calipers measure in millimeters. For accurate body fat measurements, you must also measure other areas of the body, such as the back of your triceps and your abdomen. Provide the numbers to your personal trainer to help you calculate your body fat or use an online calculator that supports the Parilloiii Caliper Method.