It has been said that we always want what we can’t (or don’t) have.
I can clearly remember the first time I observed a competitive bodybuilder in peak condition. What struck me wasn’t the size of his biceps or delts- it was his calves that left an indelible impression- they looked like a pair of upside down hearts carved out of granite!
I have always wanted bigger calves and have struggled for years with developing this “stubborn” body part. You name it and I have tried it- drop sets, heavy weight/ low reps, light weight/ high reps, seated, standing, machines, free weights and on and on and on.
No matter what I did I could not seem to even come close to even looking like I trained calves.
What ticked me off even more was when I would see guys who didn’t even work out yet had better calves than I did!
I am not the only one with this problem either. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 1,170 calf implants were performed in 2003, up from 149 in 2002, and now estimates are that 1,500 of these surgeries are performed every year on both men and women.
And this doesn’t come cheap. The national average surgeon’s fee for calf implants is over $3,000 plus hospital fees. A nice, sexy pair of calves will run you as much as $10,000 when it’s all said and done.
However it doesn’t have to be that way. I am pleased to announce that I have finally found something that works AND it won’t cost you a dime.
When we talk calf workouts and how to get bigger calves we are talking about three muscles- the gastrocnemius (the heart shaped muscle you see when you stand on your tip toes), soleus (the muscle beneath the gastroc and just above your heel) and the tibialis anterior (the muscles that allow you to lift the front of your foot up off the ground).
Calf workout tip #1
Lose the shoes. Your shoes are great for providing support but they can limit your calf development big time. The typical running shoe or cross trainer does not allow for enough flexibility in the foot. The next time you perform your calf workout I want you to do it barefoot. Yes, I know that this may raise a stink in a public gym (pun intended) but just make sure your toe nails are nice and trimmed and wash your feet before you go to the gym. However, please keep in mind that the exercises I am about to show you can be easily performed at home.
Calf workout tip #2
Rise up onto your tippy toes. Your calf muscles are very resilient and are subjected to constant use. Whenever we walk our calf muscles are engaged. However, when we walk our calf muscles are subjected to a limited range of motion. Think about it- when was the last time you walked and rose up fully onto each foot at the top of every step?
Walking in this fashion would look pretty silly (and take you twice as long to get to your destination) but it would serve to improve your calf development big time! Therefore the next time you train your calves I want you to focus on raising up as high as you can. Try to be like a ballerina (they always have great calves) and rise up onto your tippy toes with each rep.
Calf workout tip #3
Slow down. The tempo or speed of a repetition is something I have wrote about extensively. Don’t perform your calf exercises like it is a race to the finish line. Always lower using control and rise up explosively. This will extend the time under tension and this is important if you want to bust through a growth plateau.
Calf workout tip #4
Train your calves every day. Calves and forearms are perhaps the only muscle groups where I would recommend that you try this. For the next 4-6 weeks I want you to perform the following calf workout every single day. I can already hear the naysayers screaming about “overtraining” but that is kind of the point. When you want to grow a particular body part overtraining can actually be beneficial- provided that you allow for a period of recovery and super compensation. This is just a fancy way of saying that after the 4-6 weeks are done take a week off from training calves entirely and then switch to a different program.
Calf workout tip #5
Track your progress. Whatever is measured improves. Take a measurement of both calf muscles before starting this routine and then measure again 4-6 weeks later. Be prepared to be amazed by the results.
Calf workout tip #6
If after 6 weeks of diligent and consistent effort your calves still resemble a pair of Q tips then you may benefit from something known as ART or Active release Technique. ART is a type of massage method that helps to stretch the fascia that covers our muscles (like a sausage casing). When the fascia is stretched it can allow for more room for muscular growth. However, be prepared- ART is no joke and it is not painless. During your ART session is the ideal time to remind yourself of the old adage “no pain, no gain”.
Your daily calf workout
As discussed, perform the following workout 6-7 days per week for the next 4-6 weeks:
Standing calf raise (barefoot) X 100 reps in succession
Followed immediately by tip toe walk w/dumbbells (10-20 steps)
Followed immediately by jumps X 10
Here is a video I shot demonstrating the exercises:
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