Some people are born into money. Some people are born with amazing intellect. And then there are those that have been blessed with massive calves.
Don’t you just hate those people? (Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word.) But for those of us who struggle to see much calf development, we envy those dudes who rarely need to do a calf raise and yet display thick, powerful muscles from knee to ankle.
There are plenty of those guys (and gals) out there. But that being said, lack of genetics isn’t a great excuse for having less-than-impressive calves. Most of the time, a weak pair of calves is a product not of poor genes, but of undertraining.
The good news: Even if you don’t share the huge-calf-muscle gene with Manny Pacquiao, you can still build formidable muscles in your lower legs. Sometimes, the hardest and smartest workers actually come out ahead of the genetically gifted. If you’re only throwing in a couple of lazy sets at the end of your workouts—or, worse yet, ignoring them completely—it’s time to start treating the area below knees with some more respect.
Most guys find that their calves don’t grow much. This means that you need to absolutely attack your calves if you want to see any increase in size and strength. Conventional training simply will not work—so here are 6 unique methods for sending a wake-up call to those stubborn calf muscle fibers.
Your calves should be your lower-body biceps, the show-and-go muscles for your legs. But some people just develop a monster set of calves while some people can train their calves daily for their whole lives, chasing calf glory.
Either way, you want a big, muscular set of calves, because they’re the leg muscles that separate the smart lifters from everyone else. Don’t have calves? You may be the punchline of the next “skipped-leg-day” meme.
The calf muscle you see is actually two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The soleus is the larger muscle, and it lies just beneath the gastrocnemius. The gastroc (you didn’t think we’d write the whole thing out for this entire story, did you?), however, is the muscle most people think of when you say “calf.” It’s the ball of muscle that contracts at the top of your lower leg, and it works to push the foot downward. It also assists in bending your knee.
Both muscles require different weight room approaches. To hit the soleus, you’ll want to do standing movements that attack your calves, because the soleus attaches below the knee. The gastroc, meanwhile, attaches above the knee. A bent-leg movement for the calves, such as a seated calf raise, will prioritize the soleus, because it will be at full tension while the gastroc will be lax.
Thing is, the soleus lies under the gastroc. If you want massive, shapely calves, you’ll need to train the gastroc. Ever see those people hammering away at seated calf raises and nothing else? That’s why they often don’t have jacked calves; they’re not hitting the gastroc.
- Train Calves for 2-4 Weeks Straight
Train your calves on a daily basis for a period of 2-4 consecutive weeks before returning to your normal program. Use about 4-6 sets per workout, using a different exercise each day.
- Train Before Bed
Every night before you go to bed, do a set of 100 slow, hard-squeezing standing calf raises with just your bodyweight. Do this in addition to your normal program. Go for the maximum burn!
- Walk on Your Tiptoes More
Wherever it is possible, walk around on your tiptoes rather than your flat feet. (That’s why ballet dancers have powerful calves.)
- Calf Raises on Stairs
Every time you encounter a staircase, do a calf raise up each step. On the way down, step onto the ball of your foot, as this will act like a plyometric movement for your calves.
- Do 2 Calf Workouts per Week (Heavy and Light)
Try two calf workouts per week—one with very heavy weights for sets of 4-6 reps, and one with very light weights for sets of 25-50 reps. This will attack fibers that you probably have not been hitting with conventional workouts.
- Train Barefoot
Do like Arnold did and train calves in your bare feet (if your feet can handle it). This will increase the range of motion for any calf movement and will force a very intense contraction.