Let’s just get straight to it – calves can be a giant pain to work effectively. Many guys (and some women) have complained about a lack of calf development. The main reason is that they are a very hard muscle to train.
Look at the facts of the situation: they are small muscles that are used constantly all day whenever you take a step. The calves have built up a very natural level of strength and durability over the years from every activity you have done on your feet. So in that regard it makes them difficult to stress and stimulate easily unlike other muscles that don’t get such a natural, regular workout.
So how can you shape up those lower legs?
Tips for Calf Building
- Two-Prong Attack – The Calf is comprised of the gastrocnemius muscle (which is the more visible outer muscle that goes from the back of the knee to halfway down to the Achilles tendon) and the underlying soleus muscle (which is thinner and longer going from the back of the knee down towards the ankle). They both do the same thing but the difference is in positioning. When the knee is bent the soleus muscle does more of the work.
- Stretching – First and foremost you need to focus on getting really good stretches for both muscles of the calves. Very light stretching before starting a lower leg workout is a must. Then also between sets and after sets more intense stretching help spurs growth. The calf muscles can easily get tight and the stretching helps with recovery and growth.
- Frequency – Far too many people think since you walk all day that calves can handle a lot of training. They can, but not in a way that will cause growth. You should limit calf training like you would any other small muscle group. Twice a week is plenty.
- Order – If calves are a weak point then they should be worked first that day. Don’t wait until later when your focus and energy is at lower levels. Instead jump on those calves at the beginning of a session when you have the most to give.
- Exercises – There are a lot of great exercises. Basically you can break them down to two categories: exercises that focus on the soleus (bent knee) or those that focus on the gastrocnemius. There are machines for standing calf raises, seated calf raises, and donkey calf raises. You can also use the leg press machine, dumbbells, or barbells with a block of wood.
- Reps – A lot of people think the calves should be done at high repetitions. If you are looking to build endurance strength then yes that is true. But if you are looking for more size then lower reps in the 8 to 10 range is where you need to be to spur maximum fiber growth.
- Variety – You should do one exercise for each part of the calf per workout. But mix up the exercises to constantly attack those calves. You can also split between single leg and double leg exercises as well as changing the angle of your heels (close together or farther apart) to hit the calves from different angles.
Almost anyone can have fantastic calves. It just takes the right workout and some dedication. If you follow this program soon enough you will be getting the good looks and compliments when you are wearing shorts and showing off those diamond-like calves.