Written by Andrew Carruthers
With so many different athletes using so many different training techniques and methods, I find that novice trainers tend to hop, skip and jump from technique to technique searching for the holy grail of bodybuilding training without giving any one technique the chance to manifest itself into some kind of growth or progress.
It’s like dieting for a show or even just to get into shape. If you don’t give your nutrition time to start working because you’re always chopping and changing your food intake, then you’re never going to really find out what works and what doesn’t. Calve training though, is simply one of those things in life that is governed by genetics – you’ve either got them or you don’t! You can however make sure you’re doing your absolute best to make the most of what your mama gave you.
The secret to training calves, no matter how tough you might think it is to get them to grow is simple – intensity, consistency and form. Keeping calve training simple is probably the single most important ally you can employ when attacking your calves. Once you’re prepared to limp, raise, raise, raise and raise, you’ll soon be on your way to great calve development. Calve muscle fibres are resilient as we use these muscles all day long when we are on our feet moving around from place to place, so it takes a little extra added effort to really grow great calves.
A calve training mindset
If you fall into the category of people that do a quick 5-6 sets of calves after a major body part then expect the results of your calve training to be exactly how you treat them – secondary! Make a priority to give calve training some quality time in the gym and you’ll see that once you treat them like every other muscle group, they’ll treat you with some dignity and respect and actually start growing.
Good form = good calves
Truth be told, when you train calves you need to train with a full rep range and movement. A full negative stretch and a great contraction up high will ensure that you work the muscle all the way through it’s movement and hit all if not most of the fibres you need to target to start getting them to grow. With that said, personally, I am a firm believer that you can only attack a full range of movement for a certain period of time within a set and therefore in order to take intensity to another level, allow the full range of motion to become a smaller range of motion towards the end of the set. Bang out some half reps and increase the speed of the movement to really take the intensity up and completely rip apart any fibres that might have been holding out on you.
Rules of successful calve training
- Train through a full range of motion in each set until absolute failure and then move onto a few partials to completely ramp up intensity. Due to fatigue these partials will be at the bottom of the movement. Stick to the rule that as long as there is movement, you’re not done yet!
- Train as heavy as possible whilst still making sure you can observe point 1.
- Always train to absolute failure!
In order to completely address all areas of the calves, you must vary your workouts with different movements (exercises). Leg press calve raises, standing calve raises, seated calve raises and a variety of donkey calve raises are an absolute must. Bent leg movements vs standing, straighter leg movements are imperative to hit both the upper – gastrocnemius and lower – soleus muscles of the calves. 2-3 exercises per calve training session are adequate with working starting sets of 12-15 reps and then moving to 8-10 reps for maximum intensity, followed by short rep partials to completely overload the calves.