Calves are an interesting set of muscles, for some people they are almost irrelevant because no matter what they do their calves are massive. They may not have exercised in a gym once in their life but they could still have bigger calves than most. For others, they are the bane of their lives. Never being able to wear shorts because their calves look ridiculous, hours spent in the gym working on them with little to no reward, and jealous looks at women in heels, whose calves look amazing.
This article is going to give you six tips to building huge calves no matter how genetically cursed you were in the lower leg department. So get ready to work like crazy and never feel self-conscious in shorts again.
Lesson One: Be Consistent
"I've tried for ages but my calves just won't grow", a familiar complaint heard in gyms up and down the country. But how many of the people saying that really have tried for ages? And have they been trying once or twice per week consistently? Probably not.
The thing is, if calves were trained with workout plans and the same enthusiasm that biceps, pecs, and triceps were trained you could bet money that calves would not be one of the most complained about muscle. Nobody really goes into the gym yelling "It's calve day today bro", chest day? Yes. Back day? Of course! But calve day? Not a thing.
We're not suggesting that calve day should be the new chest day, what we're suggesting is that training your calves like you train your arms could give you the results you want. Also, don't give up after 3 weeks and say it's too hard. You didn't do that with back or chest so why do it with calves? Train them every week for the rest of your life like you do triceps and you'll be happy within a year.
Lesson Two: Go Heavy
How do muscles grow? They grow in response to being overloaded, having to lift more weight than they are accustomed to will force them to adapt. This will result in growth. Start performing very heavy calf raises for four sets of six reps, and then see how they respond. It's the same for any muscle, take yourself out of your comfort zone or you'll never see results.
Lesson Three: Go Light
Yes, this point completely goes against what we just said. But going heavy is not the only way to increase muscle size. As mentioned earlier, muscles grow when they are forced to adapt to more weight. But they also adapt when they are forced to perform more reps of the same weight than they did last time, so if you managed 15 reps on a calf raise last time and you hit 17 this time, your muscles will grow.
Mixing up the reps and weights across your sessions give you the best chance to grow. Also, try and work out what works best for you. Not everyone's calves are the same, some are made up of more fast twitch muscle fibers than others, and some are made up of more slow twitch. This means that the same rep range will be more effective for one person than the other. But the person who does both reps ranges (low and high) will be better off than anyone else.
Lesson Four: Perform Heavy Squats and Deadlifts
You don't find many powerlifters with small calves, there are quite a few reasons for this (partly the body type of successful powerlifters lends itself to big calves) but the reason that they will tell you is that they squat heavily and deadlift heavily.
This is good advice for any strength and conditioning program, it is good advice for any goal. Deadlifts are an excellent exercise as they work more muscles than any other exercise, and squats are the best leg exercise there is. These exercises will boost testosterone and growth hormone levels, will increase muscle size, and burn fat. They will also strengthen your calves. Barbell squats have been shown to activate the calves more than any other calf exercise.
Train with these exercises in your program regularly and even if your calves don't respond (which they will when combined with other calf exercises), you'll have such a good physique it won't matter!
Lesson Five: Use a Variety of Calf Exercises
Your calves are made up of the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles, these are attached to your Achilles' tendon at the base of your foot. These two muscles are quite different and will respond to different workout routines.
So only performing one type of exercise per week is not going to get you optimal results, whereas performing calf raises, seated calf raises, and calf presses will cover all of your bases. The variety will also help prevent boredom. Combine the different exercises with different rep ranges and weights and find out what works best for you.
Lesson Six: Walk More for Bigger Calves
A lot of fitness enthusiasts have an opinion on walking and its effect on calf muscles. Some say that it has no effect because you do it so often, while others say that it has a huge effect. The way to look at it though is have you ever met a long-term hiker with small calves? Heck no!
Okay, that may not be the best answer, but try going for a long walk (15 to 20 miles) one day and then report back on how your calves feel the day afterwards. They will hurt, not necessarily a sign of muscle growth but a good indication of how active they are during walking. Add some steep inclines and a heavy backpack into the mix and you're essentially performing 20,000 calf raises in a day. No calve workout can compare to that! So hike your way to calve muscles, and get those shorts out.