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Sit Down To Grow: The 4-Minute Calf Workout

If your calves are struggling to grow, it's time to train beyond the muscles you can see. Hit this often-forgotten muscle group and start growing from within!

Don't you just hate those stubborn body parts that never seem to grow? This stubbornness is often caused by underlying issues, or more accurately, underlying muscle tissues.

You may not have considered it, but you can improve a body part by training deep muscles that you can't see. I call these the "pop 'em out muscles," since they aid in popping out the muscles we bomb every day in the gym, making them look larger and more developed.

The three main pop 'em out muscles are the brachialis, pectoralis minor, and soleus. That last one deserves some time in the spotlight. That's because it's hiding down there in what is supposedly the most stubborn muscle group of them all, the calves. You may have given up on training it a long time ago, but just a few weeks of direct work there can deliver some eye-popping results.

Smack Around That Soleus! ///

The soleus is a thick, flat muscle underlying the gastrocnemius. It originates on the head and shaft of the fibula, as well as the posterior surface of the tibia, and inserts onto the posterior surface of the calcaneus (heel) via the Achilles tendon.

The soleus functions to flex the foot forward or down. The science geek term for this is plantarflexion.

The soleus is unique in that more than 80 percent of its muscle fibers are Type I, or slow twitch. These fibers generally have a slow contraction velocity, low tension capacity, and high fatigue resistance, so it's a good idea not to go heavy when training them.

You might know that. But what you might not know is that the soleus constitutes roughly 60 percent of your calf. That means most of your calf is made up of this muscle!

It's Not as Simple as Sitting ///

The other major calf muscle is the gastrocnemius. The standing calf raise targets that one more, whereas the seated calf raise places emphasis on the soleus. So let's head to that lonely machine over in the corner.

This is a basic exercise, but I still see people doing it all wrong. First off: Set the pads comfortably over your lower quads, above the knee. Set the pads too low and you risk them sliding off. If they're placed too high, the range of motion will decrease, lessening the effectiveness of the movement.

The ankle is a hinge joint that allows movement up, from a maximum of 20 degrees (dorsiflexion), to down 50 degrees (plantarflexion). However, unlike many other muscles, the calves keep working at full contraction—they don't transfer the stress to the bones. Therefore, it's vital to work your calves from a full stretch to a full contraction. Calf muscle strength and size are positively correlated, so you should aim to use more weight each and every session.

Keep your upper body still during seated calf raises; don't swing or otherwise use your arms. Focus on lifting your heels as high as possible and then getting a good stretch at the bottom. A legit seated-calf-raise machine will have a slanted platform, or even better, a rounded platform to accommodate an even greater range of motion.

Many people are sloppy and lazy during the plantarflexion movement, so keep it controlled and roll over your big toe to emphasize the often-neglected medial fibers. As opposed to the standing calf raise, foot position doesn't change muscle action in the seated calf raise.

The Four-Minute Calf Workout ///

For the seated calf raise, do three sets of 15-20 reps. I've also seen great results from dropsets, where you finish a set, drop the weight, and knock out another set or two without resting. These both work fine for a while, but I want you to try something different. Trust me, it won't take long.

Perhaps the most efficient calf-building program is one that I picked up ages ago from The Bodybuilding Truth: Secrets You're Not Supposed to Know by Nelson Montana. It involves a form of cluster training, which is basically one long set with inter-repetition rest intervals. The goal with this method is to perform 75-100 reps within a 4-minute period using a load that equals your 20-rep max.

Here's how it works: Load a seated calf raise machine with a weight you would normally use for a 20-rep set. Start the set and do as many reps as you can. Once you hit failure, rest 10 seconds, and then continue until you can't do another repetition. Proceed in this manner until you bang out 75 reps.

You may only get a few reps out at a time toward the end. That's fine; that's how this is supposed to work. Just keep going until 75 reps are completed. It should take you no longer than four minutes to accomplish the whole set. Perform this routine at the end of your leg workout every five days, adding five reps each time.

Workout 1
Workout 2
Workout 3
Workout 4
Workout 5
Workout 6

After a month, your calves should be noticeably bigger. Make sure to change the routine at that point. Switch back to some form of straight-legged calf raises, and you can add some definition on top of your newfound thickness.


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About The Author

John Paul Catanzaro is one of Canada's leading health and fitness authorities. He is a CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist.

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itsJustAROD

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itsJustAROD

talk about killer reps. but also i didnt really read it but if it didnt talk about how you should get the full range of motion (full flex down and full extention up). thatll sky rocket results

Apr 9, 2013 4:54pm | report
 
Marcozr1

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Marcozr1

they don't have this machine on my gym i wish they did i have to do it with some dumbells

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Apr 9, 2013 6:06pm | report
 
liuzhoudragon

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liuzhoudragon

I feel your pain. I also do it with dumbells on occasion but the ROM is bad, even if you add some plates under your feet I still dislike the ROM.

Apr 9, 2013 6:41pm | report
Nielsentimmy

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Nielsentimmy

I have the exact same problem :S it sucks

Apr 10, 2013 1:34am | report
longhaired

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longhaired

the smith machine also works so you don't need to hold dumbbells in your lap. you can even throw on the barbell pad so your legs don't get thrashed, only if necessary.

Apr 10, 2013 7:01am | report
travis132

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travis132

I didn't either but my friends and I nagged the owners and they got one a month of so ago :D every time I went in and saw him I'd just say "look at these pencils!!! They could be so much better with a calve machine!!!"

Apr 10, 2013 7:14am | report
apcipollone3

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apcipollone3

Put a 5lb or 10lb plate under each foot when you do this with dumbells to help give you a makeshift platform to press with the balls of your feet. You can also try moving the plates forward, backward, inward or outward to hit them differently while seated.

Apr 10, 2013 11:23am | report
internetgyrl

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internetgyrl

You can get the same action by keeping your toes on a step and flexing up and down. Since you can't increase your body weight by much at home, you can just bang out more reps.

Apr 13, 2013 12:34pm | report
ks44magarica

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ks44magarica

doing it on the seated shoulder press bench works well too as long as its one where you can prop your feet up. or you can superset calfraises with bench press and use the foot rests.

Apr 16, 2013 9:32pm | report
taylorbakerjr

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taylorbakerjr

I set on the leg end of the lying leg curl maching and put knees under the lifting bar. I then raise the balls of my feet onto either a step (if available) or 3-45 lb weights to achieve full range of motion. This hits it soo deep if you do not have access to the proper machine.

Apr 17, 2013 9:55pm | report
bigjoegreen

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bigjoegreen

Hey, i think the key is to have bent knees. So you don't really need the seated calf raise machine, you can use most any leg press and if you keep your knees bent your probly golden. May be more difficult I imagine tho. Here's another article that helped me greatly if you're interested:

www.whyaremycalvessmall.com

Jul 15, 2014 9:54pm | report
KettleBellFreak

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KettleBellFreak

PRESTON NOBLES CALVES JESUS CHRIST

Apr 9, 2013 7:03pm | report
 
Goody908

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Goody908

rep power -598171 lmfao

Apr 10, 2013 9:53am | report
Antrozous

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Antrozous

That was my reaction must do calves NOW...

Do people give negative rep points or something? Don't understand lol

Apr 10, 2013 10:07am | report
prestonnoble

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prestonnoble

Hit them calves my peeps! lemme know how it goes!

and idk about that negative points stuff

Apr 10, 2013 3:13pm | report
BatteryBackup

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BatteryBackup

How do you get rep points in general...? Filling out the stats and whatnot?

Apr 10, 2013 7:26pm | report
jakejordanhall

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jakejordanhall

making all kinds of gains! great article, never knew that the soleus takes 60%

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Apr 9, 2013 7:45pm | report
 
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

5 days a week? Is it just me or does this go against everything you always read about the recovery and resting of muscles

Apr 9, 2013 8:41pm | report
 
dchampisere

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dchampisere

"At the end of leg workout, EVERY FIVE DAYS." It means repeat after 5 days break

Apr 9, 2013 8:58pm | report
JFort93

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JFort93

Calves can take a beating don't worry about working them too hard or too often.

Apr 9, 2013 9:26pm | report
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX

Haha my bad bro, guess I misread it

Apr 9, 2013 10:00pm | report
longhaired

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longhaired

I found that working them twice a week gave me better results. Try it like this first, if it's not working so well after the month switch it up to maybe twice a week. Maybe, one day seated calve raises and the other standing. Scare those calves into growing!

Apr 10, 2013 7:03am | report
prestonnoble

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prestonnoble

Yea it does mean just work them out once every 5 days. but my other routine for calves is the exact opposite to where you do work them out 4 to 5 days a week straight. look up Monster calves article on bb.com

Apr 10, 2013 3:15pm | report
bigjoegreen

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bigjoegreen

Ya, calves are crazy. You apparently have to do an insane amount to effect them. Here's another good article that helped me:

www.whyaremycalvessmall.com

Jul 15, 2014 9:56pm | report
a3ian

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a3ian

This is an awsome artical,i would really love to match my skinny calves with my upper body.Think ima give this a try

Apr 10, 2013 12:37am | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 54 Comments

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