A bodybuilder’s calf muscles are often the hardest body part to develop, though some are naturally gifted in this department. Some bodybuilders have even used such extreme measures as calf implants and synthol. A younger Arnold Schwarzenegger was plagued with less than Olympian calves; he often posed in the ocean to hide his poor lower leg development. In an effort to bring them up to par with the rest of his musculature, he was known to train them relentlessly with endless sets of donkey raises and countless other exercises. He even quit wearing long pants so he would have a constant reminder. On the other hand, Dorian Yates was blessed genetically with massive calves. He never trained them any differently than any other body part.
The lower leg consists of two muscles, the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus composed of mostly type two (fast twitch) muscle fibers. The larger of the two, the Gastrocnemius originates at the femur, just above the knee and inserts at the Achilles tendon, midway down the calf. It consists of two heads, the lateral head on the inside of the leg and the medial head on the outside. The main function of the muscle is to raise the heel while the legs are extended; it is deactivated when the knees are bent. The Soleus originates at the Tibia and Fibula, just below the knee and also inserts at the Achilles tendon. Its primary function is to raise the heel when the knees are bent.
Many bodybuilders fail to develop their calves because they give up before they begin. They blame poor development on poor genetics without adequately stimulating the muscle. If your calves are lacking, you should train them with as much intensity as humanly possible. Instead of waiting till the end of your routine, train your calves when you are fresh and can devote enough energy to stimulate growth. Don’t just work your calves on leg day; train them every other day.
It may be necessary to avoid training calves along with the rest of your legs. Use forced reps, negatives and drop sets to up the intensity. Stretching is another very important aspect of any calf routine. Each and every muscle in your body is surrounded by a tight sheath of connective tissue called muscle fascia; stretching can help to loosen the fascia and create room for growth. Training barefoot can help you use the complete range of motion.
If you’re one of those guys with great genetics and huge calves you won’t need to devote huge amounts of energy trying to develop them. Follow the same principle that you would when training any other body part. After your leg workout perform 2-3 sets of Standing Calf Raises. Use good form, keep your knees extended but not locked and slowly raise your heels until your calves are fully contracted and then slowly lower them until they are fully stretched.
Use a rep range of 12-20 and follow each set with one or two forced reps. Finish your workout with 2-3 sets of Seated Calf Raises. Again, use good form and a full range of motion and a rep range of 8-15 per set. Remember to stretch in between sets and after your workout.
For those of you who are not blessed with huge calves, you’ll need to use more ingenious methods of convincing your calves to grow. After you have stretched your calves and warmed up with several light sets of calf raises, begin your workout with Donkey Calf Raises. You will need a partner to perform this exercise; guys, go ask the best looking girl in the gym to give you a hand. Place a block of wood on the floor, just far enough away from a bench, a weight rack or anything that you can use to stabilize your body.
Stand on the block of wood so your toes are the only part of your foot on it. Bend forward at the waist and grasp the weight bench or rack to stabilize your body. Ok guys; tell the hot chick to climb on your back. Do 2-3 sets of 15-30. You can’t do forced reps; instead, when you hit failure, tell your partner to hop off and knock out a couple more reps. Now it’s time for Standing Calf Raises for another 2-3 sets of 15-30. Make sure to keep your knees straight but not locked. Don’t use your quads to cheat the weight up.
This is a great exercise to do triple drop sets. Once you hit failure, lower the weight so you can do another set of 15-30 reps. After you reach failure, lower the weight again and perform a final set of 15-30. That’s one set. When you get done with three triple drop sets your lower legs will be on fire. Finish your calf workout with 2-3 sets of Seated Calf Raises. Once you’re seated comfortably with your knees under the pad, raise your knees and slide the lever out of the way. Use a rep range of 15-20. Put your hands on the handles but don’t give yourself any help until you reach failure.
Alternate the above calf workout with this one. There aren’t too many exercises for the Soleus; instead of trying to find another exercise, perform them first and use a lower rep range, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. Next up is the Leg Press Calf Raises. Do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. You should be able to do this exercise without releasing the slide. This can prevent an injury when you hit failure. Tell your partner to give you a hand with a couple of forced reps.
Finish up with One-Legged Calf Raises. This unilateral exercise will ensure symmetrical development of both calves. You can either do these while standing on a block using a weight rack to stabilize your body, or on the spotting platform of an incline bench. Grasp a dumbbell in the hand on the same side as the working leg. Use a full range of motion and slowly raise yourself until you reach a full contraction.
Make sure you get a full stretch at the bottom of the movement. Try not to rest all your weight on your stabilizing hand, just balance your body. When you hit failure, drop the dumbbell and knock out several more reps until you reach failure again. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Make sure you stretch your calves before your workout, in between sets, and after you are finished.
A lot of people talk about the benefits of using different foot positions to hit different areas of the calf. There have been a lot of studies that refute this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial. Experiment with varied foot positions and decide whether or not this is worthwhile for you. Do the first set with your toes pointed in and then another with them pointed out. If you like it, use different foot positions in each workout.
For athletes that participate in sports such as football, baseball or basketball, Plyometric training can be indispensable. Do you remember those strength shoes with the huge plate that keeps the heels constantly elevated? Plyometric, or stretch reflex training as it’s now called, teaches the muscles to perform explosive movements. This type of training can be effective in bodybuilders with calves that are unresponsive to any other type of training.
If you can’t get results get creative. Arnold sometimes used staggered sets. For example, while he was doing a back workout, Arnold would perform sets of calf raises in between each set of his back workout. By the time he was through with his back workout, he would have an incredible pump in his calves. This type of training should not be performed too often, as it could lead to overtraining. There are many other methods of increasing training intensity. You can use supersets or giant sets to get a good pump going and increase the blood flow in the muscles.
In order to fully develop your lower legs, you must consider all of the important factors of muscular development, these being training-intensity, volume and frequency. You can often see people that half-ass their calf training. After they have done numerous sets of squats, leg presses and several other exhausting exercises, they limp over to the calf raise machine and do a few casual sets before they go home. You are not going to get the results you want if you don’t prioritize your calves. Always use 100% intensity. If you have to, do your calf exercises first. But no matter what, don’t treat calf training like some kind of cool-down.
Make sure you knock out that extra rep and then do a couple of forced reps. It is important to adjust your frequency to a level that is tolerable to your body. To avoid overtraining, you may need to implement a larger rest period in between workouts. Use the above prescribed volume unless you feel you are not recovering between workouts. If you are experiencing severe muscle soreness that extends into the following workout, add an extra rest day before your next workout. Training volume can also contribute to overtraining if you do not maintain a proper balance.
If you feel that 2-3 sets is not enough for you, carefully increase your volume by adding one or two sets to your program until you are getting a good pump and a strenuous workout. On the contrary, 2-3 sets may be too much for your body to handle. Many bodybuilders use the high intensity training method. Mike Mentzer performed as little as one set of one exercise for each muscle. Most people will not get enough muscle stimulation from one set, but you may try reducing the number of sets you do by one or two per workout. Follow this workout religiously, making adjustments as necessary, and you will see improvements in your calves.
About the Author: Dane Fletcher is the world's foremost training authority. He writes exclusively for GetAnabolics.com, a leading online provider of creatine and clenbuterol . For more information, please visit http://www.GetAnabolics.com .