Why Are Jon Jones’ Calves So Small? (Simply Explained)

Are you wondering how one of the greatest martial artists of all time has such small calves?

In this article, we’ll examine why Jon Jones’ calves are so small, whether it affects his fighting ability, whether he can increase their size, and whether big calves are useful in MMA.

Why Are Jon Jones’ Calves So Small?

Jon Jones received his nickname ‘Bones’ in high school because he was 6 ft 4, extremely skinny, and weighed only 170 lbs. While Jones is still 6 ft 4 (1.93m), he’s weighed in at 205 lbs for dozens of light heavyweight bouts in the UFC, where he’s likely around 220 lbs on fight night.

Despite the extra muscle mass Jon Jones has packed on since high school, and the strength and hypertrophic training he does for his calves, they’re still small and thin because of his genetics, and more specifically the following reasons.

1. The size of someone’s calves is often determined by the muscle belly. In Jones Jones’ case, his calves have short muscle bellies. This means his calves attach high on the Achilles tendon so that his calves are short in length and his Achilles tendon is long.

2. Jon Jones’ calves are also small because of the balance between his type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers. Type 1 muscle fibers are smaller, contain more oxygen, and therefore generate more energy aerobically, while type 2 muscle fibers are larger, use less oxygen, and generate energy anaerobically.

Therefore, Jon Jones has small calves because he has more type 1 muscle fibers than the average MMA fighter with much larger calf muscles. As type 2 muscle fibers are larger, they play a large part in determining the size and definition of a muscle.

3. Thirdly, the size of someone’s calves is also determined by the length, shape, and size of the tibia (shin bone) and fibula bones. Larger bones generally have larger muscles attached, while thinner bones have smaller muscles attached – and Jon Jones has thin and long bones as he has an ectomorph body type.

Also, as Jon Jones is very tall and his limbs are very thin, his already short calf muscle bellies are stretched and therefore have a thinner look.

4. Fourth, Jones Jones has small calves because he has a very low body fat percentage. Standing 6 ft 4 and having large quads, shoulders, chest, and back muscles, Jon Jones holds most of his weight in these areas and therefore has to cut a lot of his body fat in order to make the 205 lb light heavyweight limit.

Not only do genetics determine the size potential of muscles, but they also determine the distribution of body fat around the body. When cutting body fat, some people lose all of their body fat from their legs before their back or stomach, which is the case for Jon Jones.

Overall, despite training them hard, his calves have reached their genetic size potential. It’s easy to see this because proportionally his hamstrings and quads are big compared to his lower legs and calves, despite his long limbs.

Do Jon Jones’ Small Calves Affect His Performance?

Jon Jones’ calves being small has never negatively affected his performance. He’s easily one of the greatest UFC and MMA fighters of all time, having never been beaten inside the octagon and only losing once via disqualification due to illegally thrown downward elbow strikes.

Having small calves or calves with short muscle bellies may be better for MMA fighters. Sprinters have calves with short muscle bellies because it’s better for explosiveness and bounce – and this definitely helps Jon with movement and offensive and defensive takedowns in the octagon.

Not only this but because he has more type 1 muscle fibers in his calves, they’re optimized for aerobic exercise which is extremely useful in long grueling MMA fights.

Despite having small calves, Jon Jones has been able to outwrestle some of MMA’s best-known wrestlers such as Daniel Cormier and consistently use his wrestling effectively throughout his domination of the light heavyweight division.

His small calves and long limbs give him fantastic leverage for wrestling and bjj, as he can reach double legs for takedowns and submissions such as d’arce chokes from positions others can’t.

While Jon Jones’ calves don’t affect his performance, they do affect his fighting style. His height and long thinner calves/legs are one of the reasons he’s a striking-based fighter, as opposed to a Bjj or wrestling-based fighter.

His long limbs allow him to easily control the range in a fight by using jabs, teeps, leg kicks, and his favorite, the oblique kick.

Not only does the size of a muscle not indicate its strength, but Jon Jones’ best strength is his height and length of limbs, which is also the reason he has small calves.

If Jon Jones’ calves and legs were thicker, he may not have been able to fight as a light heavyweight, or he would’ve had to surrender muscle elsewhere. Of all the muscles an MMA fighter would agree to surrender size, it would be the calves – and Jon Jones would be the best example of why.

Are Jon Jones’ Calves Bigger as a Heavyweight?

Even after putting on 30+ lbs of fat and muscle, Jon Jones’ calves and lower legs still look the same size, because as mentioned before, Jon Jones’ calves have reached their genetic size limit.

Many fans of the UFC have questioned whether Jon Jones’ small calves will be a weakness against heavyweight fighters who generally have much thicker lower legs (bones and calves) and can therefore deal damage against him.

However, it’s highly unlikely to be an issue for Jon Jones. Many have tried to exploit this apparent weakness to no avail. Jon always has a game plan and most of his opponents can’t attack his legs often because he always has a reach advantage and controls the distance impeccably.

Even with his height of 6 ft 4, he has one of the highest positive ape indexes of all UFC fighters – which means his wingspan/reach is much longer than his height and gives him a terrific reach advantage.

Are Big Calves Useful in MMA?

It’s well understood that the size of muscles means nothing when it comes to MMA and that they’re mostly a hindrance. This is because while they do provide some extra power, that power doesn’t compensate for the loss of speed, mobility, technique, and cardiovascular endurance.

With this in mind, big calves are not useful in MMA. However, strong calves are useful in MMA.

On a podcast with Brendan Schaub, Joe Rogan said of Jon Jones’ calves, “he’s got, like, literally the perfect frame for fighting. Because he only has muscle where he needs it. He’s got shoulders, he’s got arms, he’s got thighs. He doesn’t need his calves. He’s so long, it’s like he’s designed in a lab.”

Despite Joe Rogan saying Jon Jones doesn’t need calves because he’s that good, he’s simply referring to the size of his calves, because Jon Jones has very strong calves and legs in general.

Strong calf muscles are useful in MMA because they:

  • Add extra spring and explosiveness in movement which transfers into more powerful strikes
  • Help alleviate pressure on the knees and hips which in turn improves footwork, movement, balance, and knee/ankle stability.
  • Provide a stronger base which is essential for exploding into takedowns and sprawling backward to defend against takedowns

The Bottom Line

Jon Jones’ calves are small because of his genetics. His calves have small muscle bellies and more type 1 than type muscle fibers than the average MMA fighter. He’s also very tall with an ectomorphic body type, and he also loses body fat around his legs before his upper body.

Despite having small calves even as a heavyweight, Jon Jones’ performance has never been affected as he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest of all time.

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