One of the most common complaints heard at the gym is that people cannot get their calves to catch up with the rest of their bodies. They are symmetrical and aesthetic everywhere with the exception of their lower legs. And to make matters worse, these people squat an insane amount of weight, so their quad development is dwarfing their calves even more.
But you know what the problem is? A very simple one that can be rectified easily:
You're not training your calves enough!
Most people throw in a few sets of calves when they remember or have some extra time and put no emphasis on them at all. Then they have the balls to complain that no matter what they do, their calves just refuse to grow. Sounds familiar? While genetics do play a part, the biggest mistake that people make is under-training their calves.
Although they are a small muscle, your calves can take a pounding and should not be babied at all. Work them hard and frequently, but do so with a strategy. Here are 10 tips for you to transform those scrawny calves into thick diamond-shaped monsters as thick as footballs.
1. Train Calves Every Workout
Yes, you read that correctly. Each and every day at the gym should be calf day. Now that doesn’t mean you should do 12 sets every time, but between four and eight will suffice. To bang out a handful of sets at the end of your workout is not exactly difficult to adhere to and if it is, arrive at the gym five minutes earlier.
Your calves are very resilient and can recover quickly, so don’t be too concerned about over training them.
2. Switch Up the Movements
Since you are going to be training calves a lot, you should make your program diverse and perform as many different calf movements that are available to you. Luckily, most gyms will have a variety of calf machines for different types of raises. So one day do them standing, the next seated, donkey raises on the third day or also on Day Two and so on.
Be creative and use all of the leg press machines, too, by sliding your foot down halfway and do a super set of calf raises. You can really hit the calves from different angles with these machines (90-degree, 45-degree, vertical) and they are roomy enough to allow for the next tip to be implemented. You can even utilize a board on a hack squat machine, Smith machine or single-leg standing dumbbell raises.
There is also another very important reason to do different movements. Your calf actually consists of two muscles – the single-headed thin soleus and the two-headed gastroc. The soleus becomes engaged more when you have your knees bent doing an exercise, such as seated raises, while the gastrocnemius takes on the brunt of the work with all of the straight leg movements
3. Change The Direction of Your Toes
Pointing your toes in or out will work a different part of the calf muscle, so even if you have less options in your gym, you can do a few sets pointing your toes in different directions instead of straight ahead to keep the variety going. When your toes are pointed out, you are hitting the inner head. And toes in works the outer head.
4. Rep Range
Another benefit of working a particular body part every day is that you get to experiment more often than you would if you are doing it only once or twice a week. For the most part, you should be doing between 12 and 15 reps each set. But there will be times when you should go to failure and others when you do a set of lower reps, depending on the weight being used. Either way, proper form is the most important aspect.
5. Heavy/Light Days
When it comes to calves, you should be changing the weight being used either every or every other set. Most of the exercises make this task as simple as moving the key down a plate, so don’t be lazy and do four sets of the same weight as to not have to bend up and down.
Drop down in weight once in a while and do 20-rep sets or even higher. Then on another day, do a few sets with heavier weight for six-to-10 reps.
Get into the habit of stretching out your calves before and after each set. It can be as simple as doing bodyweight calf raises, but some gyms have a stand that is constructed precisely for this purpose that does an incredible job.
7. Full Range of Motion
Don’t sell your calves short by cutting your range of motion down even a centimeter. Go up all the way, pause slightly at the top and then bring it back down, again pausing. Each and every rep should be like the first one of a set.
8. Refrain From Bouncing
Another error you see all of the time in the gym (if you see people actually working their calves) is the bouncing at the bottom of the rep to boost the momentum on the way back up. This is extremely detrimental to getting all that you can out of the rep and will of course keep you from making any significant gains.
If you’re following the previous tip about range of motion, this is a moot point.
9. Double Dip Leg Curls
The next time that you are working your hamstrings by doing leg curls (lying or seated), point your toes up instead of down and feel the difference. You will still be hitting your hamstrings properly, but you will also be engaging the gastroc portion of your calves.
And do not use this as an excuse to skip calves, either. Now that they are pre-exhausted, your four-to-eight sets will be even harder.
10. Any Time Calf Training
You can work your calves simply by walking up stairs on your ‘tippy toes.’ Sounds stupid, but it works. And you don’t even have to make it obvious; a subtle difference of using your toes instead of the middle of your foot on the landing will be felt.
5-Day Calf Routine
|Standing Calf Raises||4||15|
|45-Degree Leg Press Calf Raises||4||12-15|
|Seated Calf Raises||4||15|
|Donkey Calf Raises||4||Failure|
|Vertical Leg Press Calf Raises||4||Failure|
|Standing Calf Raises (Heavier)||4||6-10|
|Seated Calf Raises (Heavier)||4||12-15|
|Donkey Calf Raises||4||15|