Sometimes, it might seem like absolutely nothing is working – your calves just aren’t getting any bigger.
And calves are really just that one character that truly sets an awesome build apart from all the rest. Because calf workouts don’t come easy, it’s a true triumph when someone is able to achieve awesome results.
On the flip side, having smaller and less developed calves stick out like a sore thumb. While the upper body begins to shape and develop, and the other parts of your legs take shape, your calves are going to be embarrassing. Even if you’re able to squat over 300 pounds, if your calves aren’t built, it’s going to look like you have chicken legs.
And let’s be honest – no one wants chicken legs. Nothing ruins a look quite like having everything you need above the knees….and then falling short as soon as the eyes wander down to your calves.
And we aren’t just saying you should go for huge, muscular calves just for the looks alone. For calf workouts for mass, that’s going to include exercises like squats and deadlifts. And these kinds of workouts are going to stabilize your entire body as a whole. Plus, if you have stronger hamstrings and quads, it is actually counterproductive in several different kinds of sports if your calves aren’t up to par. Because the calves need to control the force the upper leg is giving off, it needs to redirect all that energy that’s going into the ground.
And if your calves aren’t strong enough to handle this job, you’re going to run into some issues which can push you even further back.
When you have weak calves, that means you’re going to experience things like some pretty wobbly deadlifts and squats, slower overall speed running, short jumps and even a greater likelihood of getting a knee injury during sports.
Obviously if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re concerned or interested in your calves, so we don’t exactly need to sell you on why you need to build up the strength. You probably want to some information on the best way to do it – as well as why fantastic and built calves are kind of like a nonexistent unicorn.
Why do People Neglect Calf Workouts?
We’ll tell you that a lot of people just straight up neglect their calves – they either don’t think it’s necessary or they just forget. But there are a couple of genetic problems you might have to push through, too.
So we’re going to look at all the issues that come with building bigger calves, and the kind of routine you need to do to get not just size but also strength.
In terms of the structure of your calves, there are 2 very powerful muscles that make up each calf. This is the gastrocnemius is the muscle that’s more externally visible, while the soleus is the deep muscle under your gastrocnemius.
But they aren’t enemies. Rather, these two work together in order to control both the ankle joint and the foot joint. They also team up so you can flex your leg right at the knee joint. Some pretty important stuff here.
As for just the looks aspect of it, you’re going to want to focus on the gastrocnemius. However, you need to have a decently developed soleus in order to offer a kind of “pop” for the gastrocnemius. Trust us, this is going to help a lot, because it’s going to make your gastrocnemius look a lot more impressive.
Now some people are going to tell you that training your calves goes right alongside of ab exercises and focus – you don’t actually need to do anything, as long as you’re doing a ton of deadlifts and squats.
We hate to break it to you, but these people are usually wrong.
But if this isn’t the case (it isn’t for most people, so don’t sweat it) you are probably going to have to spend a decent amount of time getting your calves up to par, especially if you want to regular the how it looks against other parts of your body, including your arms and especially your thighs.
Let’s say that you’re on the opposite side of the scale. You have no good calf genes, and you aren’t getting any results from deadlifts and squats. There is going to be a lot of work on your end. But in the end, it’s going to be worth it.
And since we’re on the topic of genetics, your mind may have crossed into some wondering about why some people’s calves just won’t grow, while others literally bulge with hardly any effort. So what gives?
This actually comes down to the structure of the fibers in the calf muscles. Sounds complicated but stick with us.
Basically, there are 2 sets of calf muscle types. The first type is called slow twitch fibers and the second type is fast twitch fibers.
This type 1 muscle fiber isn’t going to give you much growth or output for force, but because they are thick in capillaries (plus it’s high in myoglobin and mitochondria), they aren’t going to get tired as quickly as other muscles.
Type II on the other hand hold a lot more power for force and growth, but the catch is that they get tired very quickly.
There’s been some research that shows these fibers found in the gastrocnemius differ in terms of composition depending on the person.
In fact, person A might have a gastrocnemius that is 70% type 2, while person B only has 15%. So obviously, it’s going to be a lot easier for person A to get mass, while person B is going to have to work harder. A lot harder.
And the research doesn’t stop there. Some research has uncovered the ratio between type I and type II fibers in different muscles is actually decided by a few factors, how much and how often we use those specific muscles.
Why are Calves Workouts Necessary?
Think about how often you use your calf muscles. You only really use them when during lower intensity and endurance exercises. So that includes activities like biking, jogging, and walking, among other things. For these types of exercises, you are going to have a bigger requirement for type I fibers over type II fibers.
With that being said, this doesn’t automatically mean that your genes are going to the final say in whether you have chicken legs/calves or if you’re able to shape them up.
However, what you need to know is this: the speed is going to vary. Whether it comes quickly or you need to spend more time focused on these exercises, it’ll depend on what the structure of your calves current is.
Now it’s time we take give you a glance at the calf workouts that are going to give you the stellar results you’ve been missing out on.
There are a few different things you need to know about calf workouts. Much like ab regimens, your calves are likely going to fully recover after your workouts a lot faster than the various other kinds of muscle groups in your body. Why this matters – they need to be trained a lot more intensely.
While there isn’t any solid scientific evidence that proves this, there are tons and tons of anecdotal evidence that goes way, way back that sides with this claim. In fact, good old Arnold mentioned that he found his calves bounced back from work outs significantly quicker than his other muscle groups did. Not like the other ones were suffering.
Secondly. Calves respond extremely well when you do periodized training, which also incorporates higher reps. Periodized training is when you focus a specific group with different ranges in reps. So though you can actually score some pretty awesome gains with these bigger groups in your body, your calves are a bit different. They seem to do extremely well when you include higher ranges for your reps.
Like many things, there are tons of different opinions on this, but there isn’t any concrete answer. However, this could possibly be one of many clues success leaves behind, so when you’re talking to guys with those killer calves, and actually needed to work hard for it, this will likely come up.
With these two major points in mind, we’re going to give you a calf routine to follow to get bigger muscles.
First, you want to do a total of three different calf workouts on a weekly daily, with at least a day of rest. With each workout, you want to do 6 sets. And for the very first set, set yourself up with your toes going forward. The second set, point them out a bit (around a 20 degree angle), third set you want to point them in. Do this for the three sets you have left.
As for a rep tempo, go for the 2-1-2. You want two seconds to a full contraction, with a quick pause in between while you stay contracted, and then you can release for two seconds.
As soon as you are at the top of that range, add on another 10 pounds. It sounds like a lot, but it is completely doable.
Here are some Calf Workouts for You to Try Out!
Calf Workout 1:
Go for 3 sets of 4-5 reps of a standing calf raise. Switch right into a seated calf raise, with also three sets of four to six reps. In between these sets, you want to rest anywhere from two to three minutes.
Calf Workout 2:
Start with the leg press calf raise, with three sets of eight to ten reps total. Then from here, go into either the leg press or donkey calf raise, with the same amount of sets and reps. We suggest doing the leg press calf raises instead, just in case your gym doesn’t come with the donkey raise machine. In between these sets, you want to rest for 1-2 minutes each.
Calf Workout 3:
This one is going to start with the standing calf raise again, but this time, you’re aiming for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Then go into the seated calf raise again, but with the same exact amount of reps and sets. In between these, you need to rest for one minute.
Pretty simply, right? You can switch it up however you like, such as doing 1 on Monday, 2 on Wednesday, give yourself 2 days off, then get back into with workout 3 on Friday.
Like with every single other exercise you do, the key here is the proper form. If you’re cutting back on the full motion, you aren’t going to get as much out of your workouts, and your results are going to suffer because of it.
So what is the correct form for calf workouts? When you’re reaching the very bottom of your rep, you want to make sure your heels are positioned low (as low as they can possibly go). When you do this, you will feel a huge, deep stretch right in your calves. Then, when you reach the top of the rep, stand up on your toes, like a ballerina does.
A lot of people use a lot of weight, meaning they aren’t able to get high enough when they reach the very top part of the rep they’re on. So that’s the reason why they aren’t seeing the results in their calves. Case in point – don’t do this.
We think you will be extremely surprised with this calf routine. It’s challenging, yet doable and you can fit it into your other routines during the day as well. And if you continue with it on a regular basis, you will see results in no time, no matter what your genes are giving you. So give it a shot and keep it up – you will be way past those chicken legs in just about no time. And pretty soon, you will be the one at the gym dishing out advice on how to get killer calves.
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Great read here Terry! I’m guilty for being one of those who neglect calf workouts and after reading this, I figured I really need to work them out too. Thanks for sharing these routines!
Sometimes, I’m guilty as well but figured I would remind everyone :).