Big, giant, cow-bell sized calves. That is definitely a goal for some people. Others would just be happy to increase the size of their lower legs so it doesn’t look like a pair of toothpicks attached to their shorts. No matter which goal you are after, you need to be training those calves for mass. How do you do this? By using the best calf exercises for size!
Because of the position of the calf muscle it can be difficult to train. Many people have complained that they can’t see to make their calves grow no matter what they do. Usually after observing them it becomes apparent that they are using the wrong exercises, using incorrect form, using too much weight, or a combination of all three.
First, let’s get rid of the notion that calves need to be trained differently than other muscles. People like to say that calves are overly dense and since they are used every day as we walk around and use them then you have to train them differently. When you walk you engage the rest of your legs as well. If you are right handed you use your right arm a lot more than your left; should you then train your right arm differently? Of course not.
Getting back to the best calf exercises for mass, this is a program designed around using three exercises, proper form, and a nice rep range to really blast those calves into oblivion. This routine should only be done twice a week with plenty of rest days for recovery and growth in between.
Cow Building Calf Exercises
Seated Calf Raises – This exercise targets the soleus muscle or the long flat muscle that runs from the ankle to the knee. It works more when the knee is bent. They key to this exercise is getting a full range of motion. That doesn’t mean load up the weigh and bounce up and down for a few reps. Do each set slowly taking a two count to raise the weight, pause at the top for a three count, two more counts to lower the weight, and three counts at the bottom in a maximum stretch. By going slowly you will ensure that you get the full range of motion. Do 4 sets of 6 to 10 reps with the first two sets as warm-ups with lighter weight and the final two being work sets.
Standing Calf Raises – This exercise targets the gastroncnemius muscle which is the bigger one everyone usually wants larger. It usually get the brunt of the work when then leg is straight. Again we will do reps in the same manner as seated calf raises going slowly and using a deep stretch and solid contraction at the top. Keep your heels in a neutral position, neither pointed in or out. Do 5 sets of 6 to 10 reps with the first two sets as warm-ups with lighter weight and the final two being work sets. Then after the 4th set drop the weight in half and do as many reps as possible at a regular pace (not the prolonged-pause pace).
Leg Press Calf Raise – This exercise is used in lieu of donkey calf raises which are less common nowadays. You do them with a slight bend in your knee of about 30 to 45 degrees to activate both parts of the calf muscle. These sets will be performed at a regular pace. Do 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps with the first two sets as warm-ups with lighter weight and the final two being work sets. Alternate each set using a foot position of heels slightly in with heels slightly out to target the inner and outer calf muscles. After the fourth set drop the weight in half and perform two more sets doing as many reps as possible, resting one minute in between. Again, use a different heel position for each set.
This calf routine is brutal and will cause some serious damage to your lower legs. Make sure to take a few minutes after the pump dies down to stretch as deeply as possible to stretch the fascia tissue as well as the muscle and then expect to stretch hard the next few days as you will probably be pretty sore after using this workout with the best calf exercises.