Thursday, November 19, 2015

Train Your Puny Calves

Don't forget the giveaway of a USD$25 gift card from ends on Friday.


For many people, the calf muscle is the most difficult to train. It’s harder to make the calf muscle grow and harder to strengthen it.

There are several reasons the calf muscle is hard to improve:


Yes, the old excuse of blaming the problem on your parents sometimes holds true. My daughter had four knee surgeries by her late thirties. She got that from me.
I wore corrective shoes until I was six years old and have had three knee surgeries myself.

But there is a saying that says “Genetics may load the gun but you don’t have to pull the trigger and then reload twice”, meaning that many genetic challenges can be overcome if you don’t use it as an excuse. It just means you have to work a little harder than some.

I’ll be honest; I have to put myself in the category of not working as hard as I could have on my lagging calves.

Calves Have a Very Short Range of Motion

Having a short range of motion (ROM), the calves don’t spend as much “time under tension” (TUT) for each rep you do as most other muscles. Compare the calves to the range of motion of your quads or biceps. ROM for quads and biceps can be measured in feet. ROM for your calves is measured in inches.

The Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon does a large part of the work for any movement of the ankle joint. It’s designed that way. It’s more efficient. It enables humans to do a tremendous amount of walking without exhausting the calf muscle and the rest of the leg. In very quick movements, the way most people exercise their calves, the Achilles tendon takes on almost the entire work load.  It’s called “stretch-reflex” and the purpose is to protect the calf muscle from tears.

Adaptive Response

“Adaptive- response” simply means that you body will quickly respond to any new stimuli by getting stronger or bigger or both. Any new growth in size or strength requires that stimuli be greater than what the muscle is already accustomed to. And the calves are accustomed to very heavy stimuli.

Your calves support you full body weight whenever you are walking or standing. Usually for several hours almost every day of your life since you graduated from “rug-rat” to “toddler”. Every time you take a step you are pushing your entire body weight on one foot. Do you really think two or three quick sets of 10-12 reps are going to make them grow?

Before we talk about solutions, a quick anatomy lesson…..

We’re actually talking about two muscles. The Gastrocnemius, which is visible from the rear of the leg and has 2 heads. And the Soleus, which runs underneath the Gastrocnemius but is partly visible on the outside surface of the lower leg.


The solutions for the Genetic issue and the Adaptive-Response issue are actually the same; More work!

More sets, more reps, more weight, more exercises and more often.

·        Remember how much weight your calves push every time you take a step? Move as much weight as you can handle with a full range of motion
·        Remember; volume is the key (weight x sets x reps). Sets should be a minimum of 4 to 6 and reps should be 12 to 20
·        Do seated calf raise, standing calf raise, donkey raises and calf extensions on leg press. Switch up the exercises and alternate sets with toes turned out and toes straight ahead.

·        Work the calves daily or as often as you can. The calf muscle is nearly impossible to over train. Remember how much work they do simply by walking.

Extend the Time Under Tension and Stretch Reflex Issues

·        Raise and lower the weight slowly. No jerking the weight up or letting it drop. Raising the weight in a fast jerking motion is what activates the Stretch-Reflex and puts the Achilles tendon in play taking stimulus off the calf muscle.
·        Hold a 2 second stretch at the bottom and a 2 second contraction at the top
·        On the last rep of each set hold the contraction for a full 10-20 seconds

If this sounds brutal, it is. It just depends on how bad you want to get rid of those puny calves.

Oh, I almost forgot the most important rule of all!

Don't skip leg day!

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