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Training Those Darn Calves!

Are your calves your worst body part? There is some science of why you are having so much trouble getting your calves to grow. Read on and then you can start on the road to huge freaky calves.

Stubborn calves - gotta love 'em. Keep reading to find out how to grow those less-than-impressive calves on which you're standing.

Calves - Turning Them Into Cows! Calves - Turning Them Into Cows!
This article is about the impact calves can have on a persons physique and how you can go about bringing them up to speed. Get the full details right here!
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You've Got Some Nerve

One major reason that you have trouble growing those darn calves is related to the poor nerve supply to the area. The fact is you have almost three times the amount of nerves going to your face when compared to the nerves going to your legs. The brain has less than a third of the area dedicated to the calves than the legs.

This graph shows the small amount of nerve distribution to the legs and calves:

nerve distribution
Click Image To Enlarge.
Nerve Distribution.

The diagram below shows the parts of the brain and the amount of area dedicated to any particular part of the body.

parts of the brain
Click Image To Enlarge.
Parts Of The Brain.

With that little amount of area of the calf, it takes more concentration to use what little amount of dedicated brain area that you have designated to the lower leg. Oddly, some of us have more 'brains' than others related to the calf function.

Genetics Are Part Of The Problem

Genetics also play a strong role in calf size, based on the amount of muscle and particular type (I, II, IIa). This all results in your genetic nerve distribution directly relating to the size of your calves. Have you ever seen someone who has nerve damage on one side of their body?

Someone with polio or some other injury that causes nerve damage will show a difference in calf size from one side compared to the other. I see it all the time with patients who have chronic lower back disc problems. The nerve is trapped from the broken tissue and the nerve impulse cannot get through.

Genetics: How Will They Affect You? Genetics: How Will They Affect You?
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Eventually the calf will shrink or atrophy so much that we commonly measure each calf to determine the amount of damage. So keep that in mind if you have an imbalance in your lower or upper limbs. See a physician to properly evaluate your situation. On the other hand, we have all seen the guy who never trains his legs.

What Is Atrophy?
Atrophy is a decrease in size of an organ or muscle from its fully developed normal size, caused by disease or lack of use. Disuse atrophy of muscles and bones (with accompanying loss of mass and strength), can occur after prolonged immobility, such as extended bedrest.

Temporary atrophy may occur in muscles that are not used, as when a limb is encased in a plaster cast. This type of atrophy can usually be reversed with exercise.

They have huge calves and it makes you just ill to look at them. Now watch them walk, you will see they use their calves more when they move their legs. We used to call this one guy "twinkle toes" cause he would always walk up onto his toes, but the dude had huge calves by the time we left high school.

Blood Supply

Another big problem with training the calves is the distance that they are from your heart. Getting blood to that area is very difficult, since only your feet and toes are farther away from the main pump. It takes more pressure and time to get the blood to and from the calf muscles.

Have You Ever Felt Lightheaded After Doing Leg Exercises?

Not Sure.

The body normally offers 65% of your blood supply to your legs. We have huge blood vessels to carry the large amounts to your lower extremities. You can actually force so much blood to your lower body that you can pass out.


The biggest problem with training calves for most people is getting the feeling for squeezing your calves. Some people have a natural gait that forces them to use more calf muscle when walking or running. Other people use mostly hip and leg during movements.

platform shoes We are all wired a little differently and some people have larger calves because they genetically have more nerve involvement to them.

Boyer Coe invented some shoes that had an elevated toe, which forced your body to use more calves when you would walk or run.

The idea works and using that theory when you walk or run is a great way to activate more calf usage.

You will need to increase your coordination to obtain more contraction from your calves during your workout. The following are simple steps to begin that process. Remember, it takes a while to achieve a response, but keep at it.

Calves Training 101

Put the ball of your foot on a step. Don't try to balance your foot's weight on just your toes. Raise your heel and contract the calf muscles, now tighten up the calves even harder as you lower the heel below parallel. Think about contracting the muscles only on the way down or the negative part of the movement.

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Squeeze them harder and harder the lower you go. Slow down the movement. Take about six seconds to lower and then another six seconds to slowly raise the heel. As you progress along, begin to add small amounts of weight, focusing on maintaining the intense flexing of the calves. It takes a great deal of concentration to achieve maximal contraction.

As you progress, add various exercises and make the activity longer. Do standing, seated, and donkey calf raises. Make it all one huge giant set, doing 20-30 reps for each exercises and start with one set and then add additional sets. Don't rest more than a few seconds between giant sets.

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Because training calves calls for a different kind of intensity than with other major muscles in the body, you can't just train them heavier, or do more sets, or cut down on the rest between sets...
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Additional Tips

  • Work the calves in odd intervals.

  • Work the calves like three days in a row and then every three days and then not for a week, then everyday for a week. You have to shock them to make a difference.

  • Try a set of 21's. Only use the idea of 10 lower range movements, 10 upper range movements and 10 full range movements. Do the lower half of the movement for ten reps, then the upper half of the movement for ten reps, then the whole movement for ten reps. Flexing hard on the way down.

  • Another thing to do if you want to improve your calf size is to start at the bottom of the movement, then move the heels about 10 degrees at a time and hold and flex for 10 seconds. It is challenging to work both up and down in the calf movements.