By Sascha Teems,
It’s fair to say that calves are the most undertrained body part on the planet. There is a bar in every town where calves get together and drown their sorrows because they are under appreciated. There’s nothing that gets me more fired up than a chiseled pair of calves in heels or a guy that has calves to match his arms. I encourage you to find balance with your physique, and shapely calves will give you that balance. If I’m a judge in a Bodybuilding show and things are even between two competitors, I’m going with the one that has more developed calves. If I’m an athlete, I want to have trained my calves extensively so I can be more explosive. If I’m working in a factory pounding the concrete all day and I have plantar fasciitis, calf work is going to stretch my plantar fascia (the ligament that connects heel bone to the toes). It will also make your feet stronger. The stretching of the tight calf muscles and tight Achilles tendons from calf training will give you much relief.
So, why are so many athletes walking around with calves that need to grow? My observations over the years:
- People just do not take the time to train them. Make them a priority if they are your weak link. Blast them, let 'em heal, repeat.
- When I do see calf work, it is usually at the end of a leg workout. You’re exhausted from a good leg lift and you only throw in a few sets of calves. Calves need high volume. Give them their own spotlight. Set a day aside to blast them apart from other leg work.
- Incorrect training of calves is another point. I see way too much weight used with a lot of bouncing. There is not a full stretch at the bottom, and they are not coming up high enough. Slow down and talk to the muscle. Too low a number of reps is also a problem. This ties in with too much weight used. You will get better calf stimulation with higher rep sets of 15 to 20. Calves must be treated like redheaded stepchildren.
1. Toes straight to work the overall calf:
2. Toes IN to work the outside head:
3. Toes OUT to work the inside head.
Beginner- Focus on learning. If you have not trained calves in a while just learn the exercises day one. Do one set of each movement for 10 reps. I’m very sure you will get sore.
Intermediate- Shoot for around 250 reps per session. Pick 3 exercises from below and get your reps.
Advanced- Get 300 to 350 reps in per lift with any variety. Pick a few exercises from below and get your reps.
Note: Standing calf work will work on length and seated calf raises will work on width.
The Exercise Options:
1. SEATED CALF RAISES
Adjust the knee pad so that you can get a really deep stretch in the UP and DOWN positions. When you come up and you think your high enough, give it just a little more. These come with handles to hold on to. Use them to do forced reps when you fatigue. Be your own spotter. I like to do stretch sets on these. I’ll get in the deepest down position and then have someone push down gently. The stretch is amazing.
2. STANDING CALVES IN SMITH MACHINE
For me, doing standing calf raises in a Smith Machine feels better than a regular calf raise machine. I like having the cold bar on my back and the range of motion just feels better. You decide, it’s your body. One important thing: make sure your platform does not flip on you. You can use a wood box, metal platform, or even an aerobics step.
3. STANDING CALF MACHINE
Some of these types of machines have weight stacks and some you will have to load with plates.
You may be able to handle a lot of weight in this exercise because the pads sit on your traps. Just make sure you use a weight so that you can complete the full range of motion. I see more bouncing on this than any other calf exercise. Be careful. Take your time.
4. CALF EXTENSIONS IN ANY LEG PRESS
These are great for some major stretching. You can use some serious weight. Some leg presses will even come with a calf plate (a place intended for feet placement for calf extensions).
5. DONKEY CALF RAISES
If I could only do one calf exercise ever, it would be the Donkey’s. Once you can get over how crazy they look, you can do some serious calf damage. Find an area that will not tilt you over. You might have to get creative. Try these on steps if it’s all you have. I like these so much because they are so direct on the calf. They also stretch out your hamstrings. Be safe. Your partner on top needs a clear path to climb up and down.
6. JUMP ROPE WITH WEIGHTED VEST
Make sure your vest is tight so you don’t rub your skin raw. Being up off your heels and moving quick will fire those calves up. Jump till death.
7. HAMMER TIBIA RAISES
There’s a lot of meat on the front of your calves. If you have small calves, every little bit helps. These will also help athletes take blows to the shins. This is not a common piece of equipment in most weight rooms. If you have one, take advantage of it.
8. REVERSE CALF RAISE (poor gals tibia tool)
Stand on a step on your heels and raise toes up and down. Make sure you come up really high to activate the Tibia area. Using your bodyweight only will give you a good feel.
9. ONE LEGGED CALF RAISE
You can do these on a step anywhere. You can even hold a dumbbell or put on a weighted vest. Another option is to do these in the standing calf raise machine.
10. SEATED CALF EXTENSION MACHINE
This is a standaard machine in most gyms. It is very important to adjust the seat on this machine so you can get a full stretch in the back position. You don’t want to bottom the stack out.
11. SPRINTS ON A TREDMILL OR OUTSIDE
Wear a weighted vest. Run for 30 seconds at top speed, rest for 30 seconds, and repeat for 8 to 10 cycles.
Keep pumping that good iron! -Sascha
Author: Sascha Teems. Sascha works a full time job in Elizabethtown, KY, but spends his down time passionately training elite high school and college athletes, bodybuilders, and others craving more knowledge about strength training. He has a deep love for strength training and is well respected by local KY athletes. His favorite sayings are "Get it!" and "It's just pain!"
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