If there’s one bane of every bodybuilder, it’s those darn calves that just don’t seem to grow, no matter what we do!
There are genetic structural reasons why calves are so hard to make grow, but I am going to spare everyone the Dr. Gray detailed anatomy lesson and instead, tell you how to add muscle and get bulls.
The real key is that your repetition range must vary widely for the muscles in the calves because of varying fiber type distribution. While all muscle possesses fast, slow and intermediate twitch muscle fiber speeds and have varying oxygen-carrying capacities, your calves are REALLY unique.
Your Soleus (red fiber this muscle largely underlies the exterior visible gastrocnemious) is a super slow twitch-dominant muscle and must be trained with relatively higher rep ranges to failure (10-25), while your gastrocnemious (white fiber) may grow best from very heavy 6-10-reps to failure.
Using the appropriate reps and corresponding loads is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to improve your calf growth.
Your front calf muscle is also important and this is mainly your tibialis anterior. It controls foot pick up or dorsi flexion.
The TA adds to overall calf circumference and muscularity. To work this do a lot of fast walking or do a seated Andy Fausz works his tibialis anterior low pulley dorsi-flexion with a cable system and velcro support around your foot.
While seated on a bench facing the low pulley, raise your toe towards your head and be sure to get full range. Your foot should be off the bench and about 6-10 inches off of the ground (depending on the height of your seat).
Work your ATibs hard... twice a week!
Yes, train your calves twice a week! Remember -- whatever you train first will always be trained best. You should work your soleus and gastroc-group FIRST but on 2 different days. Training both on the same day with this killer routine will kill you. First, do a simple test. Try training one leg at a time when doing a seated calf raise and see if you get the same number of reps with each leg. Many people will be able to do many more reps with one leg because of genetic right or left dominance. Singe leg training enables you to isolate each muscle and recruit more muscle fibers for growth.
Variety is a vital key to weight training success and switching exercise variables frequently shocks your muscles for growth.
There are a limited number of basic calf movements, but changing foot position is one link to greater calves.
This routine has instructions to rotate your foot on certain exercises. Toes in – everyone’s range of motion is different, but aim to have your heel wider than your toe, no need for a drastic angle; we just want to make use of a new stimulus. A few degrees of rotation can be a big difference.
Toes out is much easier because people possess more flexibility in this range, never go wider than 30 degrees and find a comfortable groove.
The time it takes to do a rep is critical. Control your rep speed to eliminate momentum and get the stress on! Every repetition has three components, which can be easily measured or timed. The concentric phase of the lift (raise up) should be done with acceleration. Then do an isometric contraction at the very top.
Then lower slowly on the down or eccentric phase. At the very bottom, get a good stretch.
The repetition lengths are in seconds. Most of the programs are 2-3 seconds up, 1 second hold and 3 seconds down. The ordertiming should be concentric (2-3 seconds) - isometric (1 second) – eccentric (3 seconds) – stretch (2-3 seconds) and repeat.
You can also stretch (post workout) which may provide faster recovery. Your calves can be notoriously tight. All muscle is surrounded by fascia which may restrict muscle growth due to a relative lack of space. Flexibility work will help loosen your fascia and give your muscle room to grow.
Phase 1 (4 weeks) Exercise Sets Reps
|Day 1 (Monday)|
|1. Seated single calf raise||4||12-20 to failure|
|2. Cable dorsi-flexion||4||6-12 to failure|
|3. Seated calf raise toes in||2||2-15 to failure|
|Day 2 (Thursday)|
|1. Standing single calf raise||4||6-9 to failure|
|2. Donkey calf raise||4||6-9 to failure|
|3. Machine calf toes-out||2||8-12 to failure|
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