Ask any bodybuilder at your gym which musclegroup he/she thinks is the hardest to make grow, and I can assure you that 95% of them will answer: "The calves." And to remedy this, they finish almost every gymsession, every day, by doing a few sets of standing and seated calf-presses before hitting the shower. Later at night they scratch their heads as they look down and see absolutely zero improvement, in spite of their daily work.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Boy, there's plenty wrong. Obviously, as they're not growing! However, let's take a step back and see WHY that is before going into detail of what works. For one thing, what on earth are you planning to accomplish by training the same muscle group every day? I mean, except for making a classic example of overtraining? Would you train your PECS every day? No way! You hit it hard, then let it rest for a week to rebuild and overcompensate before going at it again.
I know some people argue that it's OK because it's mainly slow-twitch muscle fibers, and is simply made to last longer. It's about 80% actually, and that means they're slightly less explosive and don't have quite as good potential to grow as if it was a majority of fast-twitch fibers... which only makes it even MORE important to train them properly! Just because they have higher tolerance before fatigue doesn't mean they don't need to recuperate just like your pecs once you've torn them down, so to speak!
And in order to tear them down, as in training effectively, you need to train them like every other muscle - hit it hard and precise, then let it rest.
Which Brings Me To The Next Point:
The keyword in my last sentence is "hit them hard." If your calves are lousy in the first place, making your entire legs look disproportional, why would you let your worst bodypart play second fiddle to another bodypart that is way ahead in the first place? The classic example of this is they guy who blows off all his energy and then some on set after set of heavy squats and leg presses, then dutifully does two sets of leg curls and two sets of seated calf presses before crawling home.
He repeats the procedure once a week for three years. Then, suddenly, he looks down when wearing shorts, and exclaims: "Gee, look how tiny my calves are! Why is that?" Duuh... I guess we can simply conclude that he won't be seen on Jeopardy anytime soon.
Seriously though, it's all about common sense. If you know that you can bench press more if that's the first thing you do, than compared to if it'd been the LAST thing you did, simply because you had more stored energy in the beginning, why be surprised that it goes for calves as well? The body has only so much stored glycogen in the muscles and liver, and when it's gone, it's pretty much gone.
Variation & Stretching
|What we call "calves" is basically 3 muscles - The outer and inner Gastrocnemius, which is the two lumps that you can see, and the Soleus, which lies underneath the two others and spreading out to the sides. To make it simple: Standing presses mainly hit Gastrocnemius, while seated presses hit the Soleus. Donkey-raises hit both. Like the biceps and it's underlying muscle Brachialis, we get the best effect - sizewise - when we train both the visible muscle and the underlying one, pushing the visible muscle out. Soleus also adds to the width of the calf, to a certain degree.||
Dave Draper & Arnold repping out some donkey calf raises.
Angling your toes in or out doesn't make the least difference, so go with a natural stance and avoid nasty knee-injuries. Don't forget to train the FRONT side for maximum effect; stand with your heel on the edge of a pile of plates, toes hovering over the floor, the other foot lifted of just balancing on the plates. Let your toes as far down as the wrist goes, then flex your foot upwards and contract it for a second before repeating.
Sounds silly? Try it, I'm sure you won't be laughing after 2 sets of 20 reps on each foot! And last but not least, don't forget to stretch properly. The calves are strong as hell, so allow at least 90 seconds per stretch in order to get them stretched fully.
I know this article might be a bit unorthodox to many people, but it's a fact that calf-training has been haunted by wild myths ever since the great Arnold started training his calves once a day back in the '70s.
Observe Two Things:
He was a pro bodybuilder who not only was accustomed to extreme training, he also took considerable amounts of anabolic steroids. If you fail to meet both these criterias, which I hope you do, you have nothing to benefit from daily training of your calves.
| Seated Calf Raises
Standing Calf Raises
Donkey Calf Raises