Some people are just plain lucky. All they need to do is walk and they wind up with defined calves. They are the fortunate few who have a tendency for white (fast-twitch) muscle fibers that allow for greater growth.
The rest of us measly mortals have calf muscles which consist of red (slow-twitch) muscle fibers - the kind that won't grow simply because they aren't designed for strength, they're designed for endurance.
Training will improve musculature, but the improvement will almost always be slower and less noticeable than other muscle groups.
There's an ongoing controversy as to which training approach is best for calves. Some bodybuilders believe that high reps are the way to go because that's what the calves do naturally - withstand thousands of "reps" each day through walking.
On the other hand, the calves' ability to handle the daily stress of walking is the very reason some bodybuilders believe the calves need to be "shocked" with the exact opposite approach - low reps and heavy weights. Both theories are valid. Both theories are flawed.
It's been my experience that calves respond best when worked quickly. I don't necessarily mean that the reps should be performed quickly, but the total reps should be condensed into as short a time as possible.
- Pick one calf exercise (I prefer the standing calf raise). Your goal will be to reach 75 reps.
- Use a weight that you would normally choose for a twenty-rep set. Complete the 20 reps and continue until you can't do another rep.
- Rest just long enough for the burning to subside and continue with as many reps as possible, even if it's only 5 reps.
- Continue in this fashion until you reach the target goal of 75.
I won't lie to you—this is going to hurt. But the total time it takes to complete this procedure should be no more than 2 minutes. Do not do another set!
You may be tempted, considering it won't feel as if you put in enough time, but believe me, you're going to have two mighty sore calves tomorrow morning. If you don't, you either didn't go heavy enough or more likely, you took too much time between sets.
Once you're able to more easily accomplish this shortened yet torturous routine, increase the rep range to 100.
The calves are stubborn, which is why it's so important to make the most of your calf training. Try this workout and you'll see for yourself that it doesn't take very long to build outstanding calves. All it really takes is a high tolerance for pain! Enjoy.