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Let's Talk Calves

danieltx

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For all the conjecture about calves being a tricky muscle group, I'm surprised we don't have more discussion about them here. So let's talk calves, how we train them, tips and tricks, etc.

For probably 4 years I've trained calves at the beginning of every workout. One day it's seated calf press, next day it's seated calf raise and tibia raise. I never do standing calf raises because I don't want more spinal loading than I already get with squats and rack deadlifts. I do 2-3 warmups and 2-3 working sets. Once or twice a year I take a week off training them when the balls of my feet start to hurt.

My calves made another good jump in size last year - couldn't get my boots over them in the 270s - and one of the keys to that was switching to single leg calf presses. I got to where I was doing the full stack + 50lbs. for 10-15 reps on the Hammer Strength / Life Fitness calf press so I decided to drop back in weight and go one leg at a time.

I think the stretch is the most important part of calf movements. You're almost doing the top half of the movement when walking so your calves are very used to that; they're not used to being stretched under heavy loads. You still need to get a hard, full squeeze at the top, but if you're not getting a full, slow stretch at the bottom you're missing out on progress. I also stretch and flex them once or twice between my working sets.

For tibialis, I've always used a Hammer Strength tibia raise, but most gyms around here with them closed permanently in 2020 so I switched to DB tibia raises off a bench. I still think the HS tibia raise is superior given its ROM, but spending most of the year using DBs did seem to thicken them more. I started going to a 24 Hour Fitness that still has a HS tibia raise about 6 weeks ago so I'm back to using that at least once a week.

Shredded calf is Sunday and 18", bulked calf is from October and almost 20".

calvescomp.jpg
 

b_cornelius

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I'm a weirdo. I had calves about like that in high school when the rest of my body legged at 190. That wasn't bodybuilding, so it's kick ass at ball. Now the older that you get, your muscle fibers convert to smaller endurance fibers, and eventually everyone would get smaller less powerful legs. It's harder for old people to grow legs and some people at any age. At that point is the chemical enhancement towards hyperplasia of new strength bulk fibers.

All this information leads to an idea that calves may be an entirely different beast. Plyometrics are great for calves, a different sort of twitch. Your right it is about the stretch, tempo and intensity at certain points. I'm even working on a program which uses this approach as the "burn set" to finish off other body parts.
 

b_cornelius

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Impulse, the science word is impulse. The transfer of force. This differs with plyometrics.
 

TheOtherOne55

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I BUILT my calves. There are a few bodyparts that I have really pushed...ones that were not responding and I just put my head down and worked them and 2 years later, i got comments. Calves are one of them. I had just nothing there for my entire athletic career and spent my formative years not making much in terms of gains. Honestly, my calves really responded to high frequency. I remember 5 or so years ago I made a huge jump training calves in Dr Scott's Fortitude Training system. Cluster sets, pump sets, basically working them every 2 or so days. I knew i was had made some great progress when i would get constant comments in shorts.

It sounds like most advanced guys get some consistent gains out of really stretching during every rep.
I also loved JM's tactics in some of his earlier training routines. Pauses, stretches, 1.5 reps, just a variety of intensity techniques and high frequency.
 

SOUR DIESEL

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Fit2Serve

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my calves were near 21" at my biggest and leanest. my dads were near same w out direct training.
for me all genetics. i only trained my calves 6 weeks before a show. otherwise, for real they made my quads look smaller
-F
 

FrancisK

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I work my calves harder and more than any body part and I’ve done it every way I could find, still have chicken legs....

Im that but guy at the gym that you look at me say “looks like someone skipped leg day haha”....but I swear I didn’t!

Fuck you guys
 

Fit2Serve

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I work my calves harder and more than any body part and I’ve done it every way I could find, still have chicken legs....

Im that but guy at the gym that you look at me say “looks like someone skipped leg day haha”....but I swear I didn’t!

Fuck you guys
my calves were an inch or more bigger than my arms!?!
and i rarely if ever trained em!
i can only imagine if i had same genetics in all my body parts i woulda been mr o lol
and thats exactly how it works...
-F
 

machomadness22

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Uphill sprints really helped mine along with the basics heavy as I can for 15-20 reps.
I personally train mine once a week if that body part was lacking I’d train twice a week obviously training them everyday is working well for you. Comes down to what responds best for that individual IMO. Took me years to find out how to build my chest for example (still lacking).
 

heavyhitter

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I train my calves 3 days weekly dc style supsersetted with banded tib raises. It’s the only combo that’s finally started putting real meat on my lower legs
 

jeroendebleser

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Those are some nice calves there Daniel 👍

I'm also with Fit2serve on this one: my calves are probably my best body part but I don't do anything out of the ordinary for them. What I did notice is that they grew more the heavier I got, basically just from walking around at a heavier body weight. Probably why a lot of obese people have thick calves.

This is all not to say that you can't do anything about them training-wise because you probably can.
 

b-boy

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I train calves once a week, I treat them no differently than any other body part, most I've trained calves is twice weekly due to the training program I was using at the time.
I train calves slowly, stretching and squeezing. I do 1 high rep set to warm up, then 3 sets heavy 10-15 reps range to failure, then 1 more high rep (30+) set. I do this for each exercise I do for calves.
 

maldorf

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I had good luck doing mine 4x per week. One day targeting the gastrocnemius and another day for soleus. Repeat that for 4 days a week.

Mine got up to about 19 inches, a half inch under my arms when pretty lean.
 

juggy38

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I’ve brought mine up substantially over this past year. I went with JMs advice...blast them 4-5 sets or so every time you go into the gym.

I’d end up doing about 4x a week when they were sore to the touch, I’d take off a couple 2-3 days
 

benchmstr

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I think you don’t here a lot about them because most guys feel that you either have them or you don’t.

the guys who have them don’t think about them and they don’t care.

the guys that don’t have them are insecure about it and definitely don’t post about them.

I do them about never...I typically wear heavy boots and that pretty much does it for me...I am not a fan of doing abs, biceps, or calves...I’ve forced myself to do abs and biceps damn near daily for over a year now...calves seem to be a hell no on doing them.
 

11111

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I think you don’t here a lot about them because most guys feel that you either have them or you don’t.

the guys who have them don’t think about them and they don’t care.

the guys that don’t have them are insecure about it and definitely don’t post about them.

I do them about never...I typically wear heavy boots and that pretty much does it for me...I am not a fan of doing abs, biceps, or calves...I’ve forced myself to do abs and biceps damn near daily for over a year now...calves seem to be a hell no on doing them.
This. So damn true for most guys who don't have calves. So many guys just fully buy into and accept the old mantra, "you either genetically have them or you don't," so they exert minimal effort/time training them...

I truly believe that if the average guy with shitty or mediocre calves put as much time/effort/volume/intensity into training them as they did training their chest or their shoulders or their arms, they'd probably have a significantly different (much better) looking pair of calves within a couple year period (or sooner)

paul carter has written a couple very solid articles for tnation on calf training that have worked incredibly well for me. much along the lines of DanielTx and Juggy in this thread, training them every time you're in the gym except occasionally when your feet hurt or your calves are destroyed
 

danieltx

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I think you don’t here a lot about them because most guys feel that you either have them or you don’t.

the guys who have them don’t think about them and they don’t care.

the guys that don’t have them are insecure about it and definitely don’t post about them.

I do them about never...I typically wear heavy boots and that pretty much does it for me...I am not a fan of doing abs, biceps, or calves...I’ve forced myself to do abs and biceps damn near daily for over a year now...calves seem to be a hell no on doing them.
This. So damn true for most guys who don't have calves. So many guys just fully buy into and accept the old mantra, "you either genetically have them or you don't," so they exert minimal effort/time training them...

I truly believe that if the average guy with shitty or mediocre calves put as much time/effort/volume/intensity into training them as they did training their chest or their shoulders or their arms, they'd probably have a significantly different (much better) looking pair of calves within a couple year period (or sooner)

paul carter has written a couple very solid articles for tnation on calf training that have worked incredibly well for me. much along the lines of DanielTx and Juggy in this thread, training them every time you're in the gym except occasionally when your feet hurt or your calves are destroyed
I hate to hear that mentality of you either have it or you don't. Yeah, some guys will just never have great X - like Johnnie Jackson, he worked for years doing everything he could for his quads and did improve them, but they just weren't meant to be a great body part for him. But they still blow away the quads of most guys in the gym.

Anything can be improved if we work at it through intelligent trial and error. My arms will never be great without Synthol - they're long and were 18" at 275lbs. last year. But I've made good progress on them the last few years, enough to where they've impressive to average people and I can be proud when I look at them.

Calves are the same. If you really try everything possible for them you will eventually find something to improve them. Yeah they may never be like Flex Lewis' or Steve Kuclo's, but you can definitely improve them and be proud of you progress.
 

Gunsmith

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It's genetics. 😁

I train mine on leg day , dead last.
Calf raises in smith machine with a 45 on each side , three sets to failure
One set toes point in , one set toes point out last set is neutral and I do 10 half reps after failure.
I think the tempo is the biggest factor
I do a 3 second stretch , three seconds to reach the contract , hold contraction for 3 then a 3 second negative.
 

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maldorf

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It's genetics.

I train mine on leg day , dead last.
Calf raises in smith machine with a 45 on each side , three sets to failure
One set toes point in , one set toes point out last set is neutral and I do 10 half reps after failure.
I think the tempo is the biggest factor
I do a 3 second stretch , three seconds to reach the contract , hold contraction for 3 then a 3 second negative.
Only use 135 lbs? How many reps are you doing? Like 50? Your's look great for training like that.
 

juggy38

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This. So damn true for most guys who don't have calves. So many guys just fully buy into and accept the old mantra, "you either genetically have them or you don't," so they exert minimal effort/time training them...

I truly believe that if the average guy with shitty or mediocre calves put as much time/effort/volume/intensity into training them as they did training their chest or their shoulders or their arms, they'd probably have a significantly different (much better) looking pair of calves within a couple year period (or sooner)

paul carter has written a couple very solid articles for tnation on calf training that have worked incredibly well for me. much along the lines of DanielTx and Juggy in this thread, training them every time you're in the gym except occasionally when your feet hurt or your calves are destroyed

Fully agree. I had “ok” calves, but I’m sick and twisted (legs and calves my best body parts)

I treated it like the exit door. I couldn’t leave the gym, no matter what until I hit 3-4 sets to failure at least. Didn’t give a damn what machine, or the reps, or the weight....slow eccentric, pause in the stretch, full lockout. And doing those tibia raises.

if you do that for a year...one day you’ll look down and think, hell my calves look pretty damn good!
 

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