These are the taunts and sneers that I refuse to listen to over the years whilst battling my way to calve supremacy.

I will never forget years ago a good friend of mine who didn't know the first thing about bodybuilding saying the haunting words to me - "Why are your calves so skinny compared to the rest of you?"

"You're either born with calves or you aren't. If you are not genetically gifted as others who display bulls on the lower portion on their legs, the chances are you will never get the darn things to grow."

If you are reading this I'm sure you are more than aware that lyrics like this do not sing a happy tune with the insecure bodybuilder. Although this person was as familiar with bodybuilding as Paris Hilton is with merchant banking, it was a harrowing statement that pushed, punished and agonized my calve workouts that screamed to me never to give up.

Formula To Growth

Prior to my practical weight training experience seven years ago, I was always of a skinny build with painfully thin calves and scrawny ankles that would have looked more fitting in a pair of high heels than a pair of Atomix training boots, but following hundreds of hours studying bodybuilding rags and putting countless of training principles together I finally found the formula to growth.

Balance and Symmetry has always been my focal point to my training and I would religiously prioritize my training around this to always train my weak points at the beginning of my workout whilst my strength was at its peak in order to obtain a flawless physique.

I was a bodybuilding judge for three years so I was more than aware that an experienced and fair judicator would always focus on body parts a bodybuilder doesn't have instead of the body parts they do have.

It didn't take me long to realize that my calves were to be as stubborn as a problematic child faced with a to visit the dentist, and with this in mind I absolutely butchered them with straight sets, supersets, high/low reps, training them once per week to every day - you name it, I did it. But it was no use. I was doomed to be the resident, housing calves that carried as much meat as a catwalk queen.

James 'Flex' Lewis

Suddenly, in a last ditch effort to keep the dream alive and avoid having to wear long pants for the rest of my gym days, I found a breakthrough that came in the form of a bodybuilder named James 'Flex' Lewis.

After studying old pictures of the Welsh Wonder I noticed that several years ago he had average calve development compared to the blimps that he has hanging off the back of his shins today. With this in mind, I did some good old fashion detective work studying, perusing and questioning his training rituals for this stubborn area.

I concluded that the one exercise that he always included within his regime and that I didn't perform in mine was a sequence of burn out reps at the conclusion of every set. After completing a set of seated, standing, donkey or any other calve movement "Flex" would always immediately move to a standing position and continue to do the presses from the floor until burn out failure was reached again.

The process behind this is to gorge the localized area with blood and thus providing it with more muscle repairing nutrients and to also stretch the underlying fascia allowing the muscle more room to grow.

Noticeable Response

Within the first six weeks of following this routine at a frequency of twice per week, my calves were noticeably responding to the torture. Before they had visibly started to grow the main thing I had noticed was the considerable increase in vascularity, especially around the shins.

Prior to this I was not vascular in this area whatsoever, even when I had dieted down for competition. This is due to the increased blood flow that is now present to the calves as a result of the blood volumizing burn out reps. Nutrients were now being absorbed more readily by the muscle to incur rapid recovery which in turn transpires to increased muscle size.

Several months later they have continued to grow so much that I no longer have to prioritize my training around them and no longer consider them a weakness. This is something that hadn't transpired over the past seven years of training and now I get to welcome compliments from other in regards of my quickly transformed calves.

Tips & Recommendations

These are some of the Tips and recommendations "Flex" follows:

Slow & Deliberate

When performing any calve movement, try to complete it slow and deliberate to eradicate any tendon involvement. The Achilles tendon that runs from the rear of the ankle is considerably strong and will take all the pressure from the muscle if this movement is performed to quickly fearing the muscle will tear, thus protecting it.

Two seconds on the negative (downward portion) and one to two seconds on the positive (upward movement) will suffice.

Burn Out

Following the traditional standing calve presses and continue the burn out reps standing in the same position from the floor. When completion of the seated calve press is finished, stand on the floor once again, only this time mimic the position of the seated press by bending the knees at a right angle holding onto something that supports you safely in position. Repping out a burn in this stance is a must to stretch out the fascia of the underlying soleus muscle.

Ball Of The Foot

Try to focus most of your weight throughout the ball of your foot to direct the resistance straight onto the calve muscle. Point the toes out if you need to isolate the outer calve. Point them in to isolate the inner calve.

Workout One
Standing Calf Raise
4 sets, 12-16 reps (burn out reps at end of every set)
Seated Calf Raise
4 sets, 12-16 reps (burn out reps at end of every set)
Workout Two
Calf Press On The Leg Press Machine
4 sets, 12-16 reps (burn out reps at end of every set)
Donkey Calf Raises
4 sets, 12-16 reps (burn out reps at end of every set)

A 5-10 minute warm-up prior to calve training is advised. At least two warm-up sets should be completed before working sets

About the Author

Kris Gethin

Kris Gethin

Kris is a writer and photographer, and periodically provides with articles and pictorial features.

View all articles by this author