The Question: Calves are one of the hardest bodyparts to build, especially for someone with naturally small calves. Are you doomed to have small calves your whole life? What can you try when all else seems to have failed? Why do so many people have problems building them?
Please list your exact steps and/or workouts and tell your success stories!
- antihero View Profile
- Audioslave View Profile
- purplhaze214 View Profile
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1st Place - antihero
Out of all the muscles, calves are the most underdeveloped on today's bodybuilders. Before you can make something grow you must know the anatomy of it.
Anatomy Of The Calf Muscle
The calf has two major parts to it. The soleus muscle, and the gastrocnemius muscles. The soleus muscle is a wide and flat muscle located on the tibia and the fibula. The gastrocnemius muscles are the large muscles located near the middle and goes to the top of the fibula and tibia.
The gastrocnemius muscle is broken down into two smaller groups, known as the medial head (inner calve) and the lateral head (outer calve).
Training The Calf Muscle
Arnold Schwarzenegger had the right idea when it came to calf muscles. He said "Everyday you walk around. When you walk you are using your calves. You are pushing at least your body weight every time you take a step. So, when you go to the gym and work out your calves with light weight, are you really stressing your muscles?"
When you think about it, this statement has to be correct, because we all walk around everyday, and yet many of us have very little visible calf muscle. So, for this muscle to grow it must be put under immense stress.
Unfortunately, there is not a wealth of different exercises that you can do for your calves. It is also important to note that calves can be effectively trained at a high rep range, because they are used to the extra work from constantly being used in actions such as walking and climbing stairs.
Donkey Calve Raise
Donkey calve raises can be preformed with or without any weights. Simply bend over and support yourself on a bench, have your training partner (or the gyms fat guy) get on your back, then raise your heels off the floor, and pause at the top of the muscle contraction, then return your heels down, almost touching the floor, and repeat.
If it is still too easy for you, the person on your back can hold dumbbells or a barbell to add weight. This exercise puts the emphasis on the gastrocnemius muscle group.
Standing Calve Raises
Standing calve raises can be preformed one of two ways. Either on a machine or with a barbell on your shoulders as if you were going to perform a squat. Using a machine is most common, because the lifter does not need to stabilize the bar on his back while performing the exercise. You can also create variations of this exercise by using only one leg, or pausing at the top of the contraction for a length of time.
This exercise puts the emphasis on the gastrocnemius muscle group.
Seated Calve Raises
Seated calve raises are most commonly preformed using a machine where you sit, and a padded section rests on top of your knees. Unlike the standing calve raises, this allows your legs to be at a 90° angle, and puts most of the emphasis on your soleus muscle group. If your gym does not have a seated calf raise machine, you can still perform the exercise.
My gym does not, so one of the older guys there showed me what to do in this situation. Sit on a bench, and put a barbell on your knees, then (with feet shoulder width apart) simply raise your heels off the floor, and pause at the top of the muscle contraction, then return your heels down, almost touching the floor, and repeat. If the barbell hurts your knees, you can take your shirt off and/or wrist straps, and wrap it around the barbell for padding.
What The Pros Do
- Donkey Calf Raises (using a machine or with person sitting on your back): 5 sets - 10 reps
- Standing Machine Calf Raises: 5 sets - 10 reps
- Seated Machine Calf raises: 5 sets - 10 reps
- Front foot raises for Anterior Tibialis: 4 sets - 20 or 30 reps
- Seated Calve raises: 4 sets - 20 or 30 reps
- Standing Calve raises: 4 sets - 20 or 30 reps
I have been using Arnold Schwarzenegger's calve routine for the past few months, and it's been quite good. I have been gaining about .25 inches on each of my calves every month. So I have been very satisfied with the results.
2nd Place - Audioslave
It's simple, if a certain muscle group is stubborn and won't grow then you need to SHOCK it. People are constantly working their calves all the time when they are walking around.
Here are 3 key rules to growing bigger and better calves
1. Do Cardio
Most people believe that cardio is bad when trying to gain size, but I beg to differ. Running will help build your calves. Running forces your calves to support your own weight, and it does it constantly and fast. Using ankle weights will help as well.
Another great cardio activity that will build your calves is jumping rope. After a good session of jump rope my calves BURN. It makes a big difference in calve size and brings speed to them. Cardio can tone the calves nicely and help lose weight which makes them look cut.
2. Use Heavy Weight
Calves are used to walking which is light and easy. It can be done for hours. Calves aren't used to moving heavy weight. This is a way of shocking the muscle and adding some serious size. So next time you're doing calves raises, aim for 10-12 reps instead of 15-20.
3. Use Techniques
Do pyramids, drop sets, super sets etc. This is all part of the plan. Mix up exercises, sets, and reps. Variety is key for muscle growth. Never let your body get too used to a workout. You have to shock the calves.
There you have it. Hit your calves hard, heavy, and with variety. Follow those 3 rules and you will see results in no time.
3rd Place - purplhaze214
It has even been said by some of the best body-builders history that calves are a weak point. As a matter of fact, Arnold made his earliest posing shots in knee deep water to hide his calves.
Anatomy Of The Calves
First, one must understand the anatomy of the calf. The soleus is the largest muscle in the calf and originates from the fibula and tibia. The gastrocnemius originates from the femur. The tibias anterior runs along side the shinbone. All of these muscles work together to flex the foot.
Calves are similar to the abdominals in that they are an aesthetic muscle. The ideal for size in the calf muscle is equivalent to that of your bicep. To best make your calves respond, intense training from every angle with extremely heavy weight is required. This is due to the fact that the calves are already relatively strong, having to support your bodyweight every time you walk, run, climb, jump, etc.
So, if a person weighs 150lbs (me for example) each of my calves is comfortable with supporting 150lbs of weight. If I were to then do calf raises with 300lbs, this would be "normal" in a sense for my claves, and they would not grow. In my opinion, I would have to train my calves with double that to make them respond, but as any other muscle, a good balance of heavy and low reps, as well as light and high rep training is required to keep the muscle fully stimulated.
As far as training goes, most body-builders take the calves too lightly. As any other body part they need their 45-60 minutes of hardcore training also to grow. This training must also emphasize correct form. It is important to work all areas of the calves: upper, lower, inside, and outer. The calves recover quickly, so it is okay to train them at least 30 minutes every day.
There are many ways to shock them into growth, and shocking principles are the only way they will grow. Supersets, running the rack, forced reps, staggered sets, rest/pause and so on are great ways. My training partner and I used to compete. We would put a weight on and get 15 or so reps. Then I would try for 20. He would then feel obligated to go for 25 or 30. We did that until neither one of us could walk for a few hours.
Stretching the calves is also important for growth. To get a full contraction of a muscle means a full extension. Go all the way up as high as you can, and then go a little higher before going all the way back down again.
Make sure you wear correct shoes also. For your lower calves, do seated calf raises. For upper calves do raises standing. For inside work, do calf exercises with toes outward, for outside work do them with toes inward.
Last, remember to be patient. Arnold once said anything less than 500 hundred hours and you can't have good calves. He said that breaks down to 660 45 min calf workouts, at 4 workouts a week that is 3 years. Be patient.
Make sure to get a full range of motion, That is very important and don't bounce.
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