Fitness: Tips for building more impressive calves

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imageBuilding bigger calves is a goal for many of us. Great calf muscles are also one of the more difficult to achieve. Most people focus on the upper body, and unfortunately, the disproportionate result shows.

The calves are simply not a glamorous muscle group. They are hard to develop, they hurt when trained hard, and when trained hard they leave you walking a little funny for a couple days.

But when you are trying to develop a complete physique, you can’t be reluctant to train the legs. Some people just throw in a couple calf exercises at the end as a cool-down, and when you look at their bodies, you can see the neglect.

This is probably why most people wear sweatpants in the gym these days—to hide their calves. Well, you do not have to be one of those people hiding their calves. Be one of the few to have great calves and show them off.

To produce impressive calves, you must focus on working hard to build them up and give them just as much attention as any other body part.

Since your calves are tough and carry your bodyweight throughout the day and rarely fatigue, you must hit them with far heavier weights than they are accustomed to, train them at different angles, and constantly shock them using every possible high-intensity principle.

Heavy Weight and High Reps
With most calf training exercises, your knees are usually straight, such as with standing and donkey calf raises. In this position, the gastrocnemius, not the soleus, does the majority of the work. Since there are two different calf muscles, you must train both.

Since your calves are accustomed to carrying your body weight throughout the, the key to calf development is to go heavy. Set a goal of increasing your weights 25-50 pounds each month, which will give your tendons and ligaments time to adapt and grow to the increasing weight.

Shocking techniques are another key to calf growth. Some of my favorites include drop sets, partial reps, where I can really overload the muscles, and supersets.

Two groups of calf exercises: Straight-leg (gastrocnemius) and Bent-knee (soleus)
The standard exercise for the gastrocnemius muscles is the standing calf raise. This involves doing calf raises with your knees almost locked out allowing for a full stretch of the muscles. Standing calf raises and donkey raises are two of the best exercises to the gastrocnemius muscle.

The most basic movement for the soleus is the seated calf raise. This involves doing calf raises through a full range of motion, from a point at which your calves are fully stretched to being on the tips of your toes, with the calves in a position of peak contraction.

As with the standing calf raise, you need to keep your reps high—around 12-20—and gradually increase your weight over time. To get big, you have to work heavy but still maintain proper form, use a full range of motion, and to stay in the necessary rep range.

Advanced training means hitting your calves from every possible angle. Start your first set with your toes pointed straight ahead, which will force you to lift the weight using both the inside and outside of your claves.

On the next set, alternate your feet to a toes-in stance to emphasize the outer portion of the calf. On the next, move your feet to a toes-out stance to emphasize the inner portion of the calf.

Utilize these different positions for complete development. To place even greater tension on the calves, hold the peak contraction for 2-3 seconds with each repetition at the top of your calf raise. Trust me, you will feel it.

Since the calves recover quickly, you can actually train them with slightly more frequency than with other bodyparts. You can do both standing and seated movement in the same session or you can alternate between gastrocnemius and soleus training.

image Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.


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