For many trainers, the one muscle group that just won’t respond to training no matter what they try are their calves.
It’s true that lots of guys have high calf muscles, which makes it hard to grow calves to a huge size, but part of the problem lies in the very nature of the muscle.
We use our calves every time we walk, and they are built for endurance activities for the most part. They’re extremely resilient, but they’re also resistant to mot of our training efforts.
Fortunately, even the most stubborn calf muscles can be coaxed into growth if you use some extreme, strategic tactics such as these five high-intensity training techniques.
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In order to make any muscle grow, you really need to be able to feel it contract in order to deliver the highest quality training stimulus possible. This is especially true for difficult muscle groups like calves.
One great method for getting that mind-muscle connection perking is to slow down your reps and concentrate on every centimeter along the way. During calf raises, for example, begin in the fully stretched position and then squeeze into the rep with no momentum, making sure that ALL the tension stays on your calves as you slowly come up onto the balls of your feet. Contract your calves — hard — for a couple of seconds and then slowly reverse the movement.
Get a full stretch at the bottom and feel those calf muscle fibers twitching as you push them to the max.
If you’re doing it right, each full rep should take 15-20 seconds, and your calves should pump up after just a few reps.
Many experts believe that the negative, or eccentric, part of each repetition is responsible for most of the muscle growth that we get from weight training. Calves have a natural advantage in this regard that you can exploit for more lower-leg development.
Load up a calf-raise machine with a weight you can do 10-20 reps with, then get in the machine and perform your first rep. At the top to the rep, shift your weight to one foot and then slowly lower the weight using only that leg. Repeat until you can’t control the descent, and then switch legs.
By using both legs to lift the weight and only one to lower it, you significantly increase the load on each calf and set yourself up for growth.
One Leg at a Time
Similar to negative-accentuated training (discussed above), you can perform BOTH parts of your reps using only one leg at a time. The advantage to this technique is that you can really focus on the working leg, and you can use your non-working leg to push out some forced reps at the end.
Train Your Soleus
Most guys focus on the showy gastrocnemius muscles when training calves, but you also need to train your soleus. The soleus is a flat, broad muscle that runs underneath the gastrocs and can provide fullness to your lower legs when well developed. The soleus is only fully activated when your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, so you would do well to include seated calf raises in your routine.
For all the tricks and angles you can throw at your calves, the truth is that they are just skeletal muscles like all the rest. No matter which methods and exercises you use, then, you need to increase your load over time if you hope to grow your calves to their maximum.
Add weight slowly but surely, train your calves hard with good form, get plenty of rest, and maybe your lower legs will grow into full-blown cows some day.