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large calves


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From years of playing soccer and running track (and plain genetics), I have some pretty large calf muscles. Though they are great for jumping, my teacher has recently been noticing that my heels rarely touch in first position. She suggested slightly bending the knee (as one might do if they were hyperextended) as one way to correct it. Is it absolutely crucial for the heels to touch in first? And, if so, how would I go about correcting this?


Thanks for any suggestions you may have!

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  • Administrators

It's more important for the legs to be straight, IMO. A tiny space is not a crime. Keep it minimal. :thumbsup:

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It may not be a crime, but it could be damaging. I have large calves but a weak left FHL (a calf muscle that helps you point your foot and relever). relying on your calves for your landing from a jump can be dangerous.

You should be able to put some weight on your heels after every landing.

stretch your calves before and after class. deep demi-plies help too.



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MJ, I believe that she was talking about first position, in terms of the space, not jumping and certainly nothing about not putting the heels down! :wub:

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Guest mic31

From years of bike racing I had huge calf muscles developed by too many days riding up mountain passes.

Develop a good stretching routine. I found out through my trainer that Ballet,Pilates and yoga are great for leaning out the muscles. You will maintain most of the strength as well. The strength that you will lose if any will come from scaling back your activities that gave you bulky calves

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Thanks for everyone's support. I understand the need for a consistent stretching routine to produce long muscles rather than bulky ones, but after about 3.5 years of ballet I'm beginning to think that the "bulk" is more genetic than anything else. And of course, I'm careful about always putting my heels down after jumps :wub:

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ashatNYU, I have the same problem. I always assumed it was from all the years of ballet and extra calf strengthening exercises I've done. After so much frustration of not being able to touch in first, especially when returning my foot from tendus, I decided I'd just have to accept my build. Then recently I was doing the NYC Ballet Workout and noticed that not all of them touch their heels in first, so I figured I was in good company.

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As any bodybuilder knows, calf size is about 95% genetic and unbelievably difficult to increase via exercise. Muscles are also pliable unless contracted. So if your heels don’t touch in first position, it is very highly likely the result of hyperextension in the knee rather than calf size.


Whether having the heels touch in first position is really that important I don’t know. I can say that I’ve been in many a class with professionals whose legs from the calf up are tightly together, yet there is a sizable gap between the heels in first position. They don’t seem to worry about it or try to do anything about it, so it wouldn’t bother me either.


If you can’t keep from worrying about it, I think Victoria’s comment is right on target.

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Muscles are also pliable unless contracted. So if your heels don’t touch in first position, it is very highly likely the result of hyperextension in the knee rather than calf size.


At first glance, my tecaher also thought this was the case. Fortunately, I've got good 'ole straight legs, just with a big 'ole hunk of muscle on the back of them :wink:



Nice to know someone else has experienced this! And I completely agree with you about accepting the body we were given. It's just an extra challenge to figure out how to make it do what you want it to! :D

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And if your calves get large enough, you can always enter them in the County Fair.

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Guest abc4dance

I would agree with the straight legs, small space in 1st position. I read your post to mean the side/back of the heel not touching as opposed to not being able to get the bottoms of your heels on the floor. If it's the bottoms of the heels I'll be amending my answer.


I am all for the genetic response. No matter how much stretching and lengthening work I do really changes the fact that my calves are solid and on the bulkier side. I was so happy when the skinny bottom jeans and boots went out of style at the end of the 80's .... really sad when your reason for baggy jeans was calves and nothing else---- no it's everything else - lol. One time one of the body builders I was working with asked me how to get calves like mine - I handed him a pair of pointe shoes, you could tell he was seriously weighing the pros and cons there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I too noticed that the dancers in the New York City Ballet workout don't touch their heels in first position- not even close- one girl had 4-5 inches of space. Is this stylistic and characteristic of this company? I thought maybe I had been doing this wrong and shouldn't be touching them? B)

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Well, probably most of their dancers are seriously hyperextended, since that is part of the body type preferred there. B)

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I sympathize, because I share your problem of large calves. My teacher has told me not to try to keep my heels together, especially while moving through first position doing things like rhond de jambs.

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Not much to add but just wanted to join this support group for the calf-endowed! :blink: Funny how we've had so many similar experiences -- a professional athlete once dropped to his knees to get a better look at my calves and demand to know what exercises I did to get them that size. :) Of course I spend my life trying to get them smaller not bigger, but I think between genetics, ballet and other sports I used to do, I'll always have calves larger than I'd like.


On a positive note, I think our "afflication" is increasingly common, with so many people serious about sports and working out (or maybe it's just there are more people who are larger overall!). I've noticed that I can actually find boots that fit these days -- like you, abc4dance, I sat out that whole skinny-jeans-and-boots thing in the 80s. Now tho, if you can get past the humiliation of actually ordering something called "wider calf" boots like J Crew sell, there are some great ones out there! :blushing:

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