The calf muscles are one of the most stubborn muscles to grow. Today I will show you how to grow your calves quickly with unconventional calf training.
Not all of us are blessed with good calf genetics. As a matter of fact, small calves are one of the most popular complaints among bodybuilders. It’s one of the hardest body parts to grow.
There are many reasons for this phenomena. One is the fact that your legs are already used to carrying big loads all day. They support your bodyweight. So they are pretty much getting some kind of workout whenever you’re walking. This has made them difficult to grow using regular training.
So in order for you to grow your calves bigger, you will need to use an unconventional type of training that will stimulate the calves muscles enough to induce growth.
Why a regular calf training routine won’t grow your calves
You can’t approach your calves the same way you approach the other muscles in your body. It simply won’t yield good results. The location, shape, and daily use of your legs make your calves the odd couple in the paring of muscles of the human body.
Most muscles in your body are relatively at rest besides the basic bodily function and muscle stabilization that they take part in. But When you’re standing up, sitting down, walking, dancing, running, jumping, etc.. no other muscle groups in your body take such a beating as do your legs. That includes the calf muscles which take the hardest beating. Ever get tired legs?
So if you naturally have small calves and they haven’t grown that much bigger as an adult, you will need to follow an unconventional routine to make your calves bigger. The regular rep and volume ranges you use for your quads, hamstrings and upper body won’t cut it for calves.
How to exercise your calves for size
Like I said before, unless you already have good calf genetics, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this article, regular calf workouts are never enough to make a noticeable difference. What needs to happen in order to gain size is to train them in a way that doesn’t simulate the workout they are already getting when you’re using your feet for daily activities like walking.
There are many ways you can do that. We’re going to go over them soon but before doing so, I want to explain why you should not even waist your time on regular calf workout routines where you’re doing the regular eight to twelve reps using normal weight loads.
It’s because that isn’t much different from what they are put through every day since you began walking as a toddler. You can guess what happens when muscles get adapted to a routine. Once tolerance is built up, growth comes to a halt.
What you need to do is shock them with volume and intensity that they’re not used to. You achieve that by using very heavy weight loads for sets and also doing very high repetitions per set. You do not use both methods at the same time. What you do is to alternate between them.
So you would do very heavy weights and low reps for 30 days and then switch to very high reps and lighter weights the following 30 days and then repeat.
Growing calves with heavy weights and low reps
My favorite way to build the calves is to use really heavy weights for calf raises. This method is very effective for those of us with naturally small calves, also known as chicken legs or toothpicks. This method is the fastest way to grow your calves.
The reason why this type of training works is because while the calves are used to constant exercising when we do anything with our legs that involves moving, they are not used to doing it with, let’s say twice or three times your body weight.
When you all of a sudden start doing calf raises with such heavy loads, the calf muscles are shocked and forced to grow. When you force a muscle to adapt through exercising with heavy loads, the result is that they have to get stronger to support the new new load. Your body is always trying to protect itself, so in order to prevent injuries, it grows the leg muscles, specially the calves so that you can continue to train at that same weight.
An example of a good calf training routine using this method would look like this for a 180 pound guy ( use weight that push you the limit):
Standing machine calf raises. 5 sets of 5 reps at 400 pounds
Sitting calf raises: 5 sets of 5 reps at 225 pound.
Training calves using very high repetitions and light weights
Another training method that has shown good success in growing the calves is doing lots of reps with lighter weights. Now we’re not talking about very light weights, but weights that are light enough for you to do 40+ reps per set.
The trick with this method is to perform the reps faster than the normal tempo you would train at. What you should shoot for is 50+ reps at rapid succession. The quick tempo is important because if you do it slowly than you’re merely mimicking what your calves go through during the day when you’re on your feet moving around carrying a light load.
So a high rep, light weight routine for the same guy above would look something like the below:
Standing machine calf raises: 3 sets of 50 reps at about 200 pounds
Seated calf raises: 3 sets of 50+ reps at about 90 pounds or so
Some calve training tips to increase your success
Train calves at the end of your leg workout. By then they have already gotten some kind of workout and warmed up and ready to go. They are also a bit exhausted which will make the workout even more effective than if they were cold.
Don’t extend your knees to much, don’t lock your knees. Keep a slight bend in your knees when you do standing calve raises. This protects your knees and prevents joint injuries.
If you can’t perform 50 reps at once, you can take a quick break of 5 seconds and then jump right back in to continue until you reach 50+ reps.
On the heavy sets, perform the reps slowly in a controlled tempo. On the eccentric part of the movement, do it even slower, it matters just as much as the concentric part, if not more. A lot people get this reversed and just focus on the pressing/ pushing part of an exercise and just quickly drop down on the lowering portion of the movement.
When you do that you’re leaving half of your potential gain and progress on the table. As always, be patient and take your time. It’s not a race, and it’s not a marathon either. These techniques will return great results in due time.