They say that your calves should be about the same size as your biceps…but how many of you can honestly say that this is the case in your situation? Many bodybuilding greats, and particularly amateurs found it hard to grow their calves, either that or they didn’t train them as hard or regularly enough as they should. It’s bold for me to comment on the training methods of the likes of Arnold (who famously struggled to grow his calves), but I say this because strangely, once a concerted effort was made to focus on increasing calf size, the little beauts managed to swell out to some of the greatest calves ever to grace a bodybuilding stage. Was this a coincidence… I think not.
High volume to increase size
The key to stimulating calf growth is volume, the calves have an inherent level of endurance because we are usually on our feet quite a lot during the course of a day, so in order to stimulate growth you need to increase the volume to adequately stress them. As with any muscle, variation is key to shocking the muscle and inducing growth, with maximal perfusion of blood to the calf key to its development. German Volume Training (GVT) is a great stimulus, the 10 sets of 10 reps principle is extremely effective at stimulating growth through its ability to increase blood flow and growth hormone.
So how do you change it up?
Reinvent the way you approach calf training in the future, start to reprioritise the way you train them. Lifting vast amounts of weight is not all that matters, interchanging this with high volume may be a recipe you need to explore. Try performing double- leg calf raises for high reps (15-20) to warm the muscle up, maybe perform 3 sets of these ensuring a full stretch at the bottom of the rep. Increase the weight to add intensity, continue with double-leg calf raises to really shock the muscle (rep range 10-12), but this time try turning the heels out in order to recruit the inner head of the gastrocnemius. Next try turning the heels in so that you fire the outer gastrocnemius, following this up with neutral heels (pointing straight) to engage both heads of the gastrocnemius.
Once you have completed the 3 heavier sets, it’s now time to isolate each calf by performing single leg calf raises. The isolation of each calf individually further increases intensity, as well as reducing stability which will illicit deep tissue stimulation. To do this safely stand on one leg next to a wall and support yourself with your fingertips bending your resting leg behind you. Ensure the ankle, knee, and hip of the working leg is inline to protect joint integrity.
Stretch them to further encourage blood flow & re-alignment
The calves are a comparatively small muscle group so be careful not to overdo it. The calves inherent tightness mean they are prone to pulls and tears, be careful when increasing load, do it gradually and listen to the muscle…any signs of strain or tearing and relent, an injured muscle is not a growing muscle! To keep things in check be sure to gently stretch the gastrocnemius and soleus both before and after training to increase blood flow, assist drainage, and to relieve potential knots within the muscle.
Reinvention is a useful tool for hitting your calves, but there are some principles that need no manipulation…and that’s running! Few methods recruit the calf muscles more than running, the blood flow in the calves after a 2-3 mile run is usually enough to stimulate growth. Do this 4-5 times a week and you’ll not only strip off excess body fat, but build calves of steel too!