Although it is not that big of a muscle in the legs, it is amazing how much calf development goes into how your legs look whether you are onstage or just walking around. If they are not trained properly, it just makes the whole leg look funny.
It also surprises me how little calves are trained in the gym. Those guys who do train legs just do quads and hamstrings and call it a day. If they do think about calves they will 'get around to it' another day.
Although it is true that calf development is genetic for the most part, they certainly won't grow if they are not a priority. You can still achieve calves that will make you think about walking around in shorts in January
Muscles Of The Calves
The calves, otherwise known as the triceps surae, are composed of three heads coming from two muscles. These are the soleus and gastrocnemius. To better understand how you can make them grow, let's get into what these muscles are and how they work. The soleus specifically plays an important role in standing; if not for its constant pull, the body would fall forward. It runs from just below your knee down to your heel.
The gastrocnemius is the muscle that is closer to the skin. It gives off two heads that connect to the base of your femur directly above the knee. The bottom end meets with the soleus at the calcaneus, or heel bone, and forms the Achilles tendon.
Let's Make Those Calves Grow!
If you want the calves to get big, you are going to have to make them a priority for a while. This means you will need to train them first in your workout and hit them twice a week. I will let you choose which day you want to train them. Just make sure you train them twice and this workout is the first thing you do on those two days. Don't train them on back-to-back days of course. Leave at least 72 hours in between so they can rest. This workout plan should help you see calf growth after six weeks.
Warm up by walking on the treadmill for about 10 minutes. You should be doing this before training anyway. Put the incline at about 8-10% and walk at a normal pace. Now that your legs are warmed up and ready, let's train. If these exercise descriptions don't help, you can go to the Bodybuilding.com Exercise Database so you can get a better understanding of how to perform them.
Hold yourself up against a sturdy object like a squat rack or a Smith machine.
Lift the right leg in the air a couple of inches off the floor and perform a circular motion with the big toe. Pretend that you are drawing a big circle with it. One circle is one rep. Breathe normally as you perform the movement. When you are done with the right foot, repeat with the left leg. You are going to do 2 sets of 20 reps with each leg.
Seated Calf Raise
Sit on the machine and place your toes on the lower portion of the platform provided with the heels extending off. Place your lower thighs under the lever pad, which will need to be adjusted according to the height of your thighs. Now place your hands on top of the lever pad in order to prevent it from slipping forward. Lift the lever slightly by pushing your heels up and release the safety bar. This will be your starting position.
Slowly lower your heels by bending at the ankles until the calves are fully stretched. Inhale as you perform this movement. Raise the heels by extending the ankles as high as possible as you contract the calves and breathe out. Hold the top contraction for a second. You are going to do 4 sets of 20 reps with one minute rest in between each set.
Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a shoulder width foot stance.
Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you without locking your knees. If the leg press machine you are using allows you to leave the safety racks on and you can still perform this exercise, leave the safety racks. Now carefully place your toes and balls of your feet on the lower portion of the platform with the heels extending off. This will be your starting position. Press on the platform by raising your heels as you breathe out by extending your ankles as high as possible and flexing your calf.
Ensure that the knee is kept stationary at all times. There should be no bending at any time. Hold the contracted position by a second before you start to go back down. Go back slowly to the starting position as you breathe in by lowering your heels as you bend the ankles until calves are stretched. Hold this stretch for two seconds before performing the next rep.
This is the most intense part of the workout. You are going to do what is called "The Burn". It was made famous by WWE Superstar Triple H when he was recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle. He used it on his quads, but it works well with the calves too. Go with a light weight for this.
- 10 reps with 10 seconds rest
- 9 reps with 9 seconds of rest
- 8 reps with 8 seconds rest
- 7 reps with 7 seconds rest
- 6 reps with 6 seconds rest
- 5 reps with 5 seconds rest
- 4 reps with 4 seconds rest
- 3 reps with 3 seconds rest
- 2 reps with 2 seconds rest
- 1 rep
This is going to be 55 total reps. It is going to burn like crazy. Once you are done with this, get to stretching the calves out so they don't cramp. After a couple of minutes, repeat the ankle circles you did earlier for 2 more sets of 20 reps per leg and you are done. If you feel the weight you did was too light, make a note and go heavier next time.
I know this seems like too much work on such a small muscle group, but think about this. Your legs are the most used muscles in your body. As much as you stand, walk, run and jump your legs are used to doing a lot of work. You have to hit them intensely to get them to grow.
More Advanced Strategy
If you are a more advanced trainer just looking for something to break a plateau, then you can take your toes and point them in a different direction to stimulate different parts of the calf. If you want to target the portion on the outside of your leg, then take your toes and turn them slightly inward when doing the seated calf raises and calf presses. To hit the portion on the inside of your leg, then point your toes outward. You can actually do both by training with toes in one workout and pointing the toes out the next time.