The arms are looking full, the chest is filling out the vest nicely, and the picture flows until the camera hits your angles and boom – chicken leg syndrome! One of the most exhausted excuses used by gym bunnies is their lacking ability to gain size on their calves. In the reality a lot of them fail to put the same volume of time and effort into their calves as their biceps for example. With that said, it is more often than not a lack of effort rather than genetics. For today’s sake let’s pretend you do hit calf raises on a weekly basis for 12 sets, a typical kind of workout. Whilst this can to a degree hit the spot, there is more to calf training than meets the eye.
I myself have been there, a lazy git when it came to training calves yet I would complain and ponder on the thought that my genetics just might be to blame. In the last handful of months I have committed to training them properly, weekly and have added over 0.5’’ to them with more vascularity, a welcome result in my eyes. Simply put you have the gastrocnemius which has two heads and then the soleus, which sits almost below the gastrocnemius on the inside of the lower leg. In order to achieve impressive development in this region it is important that you comprehensively train the said muscles, with variation of angles, rep tempos and rep ranges.
Like nearly every other muscle group within the body, there are several angles you can look to utilise in order to maximise the development of a muscle group – the calves are no different. Pointing your toes inwards and outwards will help strike different portions of the muscle heads, leading to a more 3 dimensional workout.
One of the most effective protocols to use with calf training is to focus on the isometric contractions at both ends of the repetition. Another excellent way to hit the calves is to use 4 second negatives. The pain this delivers within the area can be pretty extreme, but we want growth right? Pain is temporary; victory is forever and all that!
The calves respond exceptionally well to high repetition training, a theory which stands strong within the bodybuilding world is that the blood volumisation helps with growth in this context, stretching the fascia. In contrast, using 6-10 rep ranges every 3 weeks with very controlled form is also a great way to hit certain areas of the calf muscles and of course to improve the strength of the muscle.
Applying these basic principles will almost certainly speed up the progress of your calves.