Calves – those pesky, often-forgotten muscles – can really compliment anyone’s physique. Unfortunately, I hear many people complaining about the fact that they find it difficult to see growth and improvements in their calves. Even the great Arnold had trouble regarding the development of his calves. This can be due to a few minor details that make all the difference.
Here are five tips that may help you turn the corner on your calf gains.
The first, and most important, rule that you must follow when wanting to grow your calves is volume. You are constantly walking on and using these lower leg muscles, and therefore doing low amounts of reps will be ineffective. The best way to feed these bad boys is to load them with reps so treat your calves to high volume workouts with low rest.
Supersets are extremely effective, especially when performing a high number of sets that include high reps (20 reps or higher). In addition, using low weight will be beneficial as it allows for you to reach the required amount of reps. This will get some nutrient rich blood pumping into the muscles and will thus translate into some major improvements. Don’t be afraid to train them more than once a week, as calves are one of the fastest recovering muscles in our body.
Much like many other muscles in your body, a great way to stimulate growth is through muscle confusion. This basically means that we should change up the exercises that we perform in order the muscles not to develop a tolerance. Implementing different types of calf exercises such as, calf raises (there are many different variations), jumping rope and even incline treadmill. Changing the angle of your calf raises can also be a good way to add variety. Implementing any of these ideas into your calf workout can pay huge dividends.
Stretch and Squeeze
I cannot stress the importance of range of motion and mind-muscle connection when working out any muscle, especially calves. First, you must understand that, your calf muscle is made up of two major muscles that do most of the work: the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus. The Soleus lies under the Gastrocnemius and contributes to balance standing and walking. The Gastrocnemius, which is what gives our calves the ball shape, partakes in jumping and running. In order to properly train these two components, and ensure that they develop to their maximum capacity, a full range of motion is required. That is where the stretch comes in, a part of the movement that most people do not perform.
When performing a calf raise it is crucial that you complete the bottom part of the movement and feel a stretch in your calves. To do this let your heels fall below the platform you are standing on, as far as they can. Furthermore, the squeeze (or contraction), which occurs at the very top of the movement, is just as important. Ensuring that you get on the very tips of your toes, feel a squeeze and hold it for a couple of seconds will guarantee that you are performing your reps effectively. Developing the proper mind muscle connection will aid in feeling and executing both the stretch and squeeze! Who says bodybuilders didn’t need their brains?
As I mentioned, when speaking about variety, skip rope is a great exercise to ensure your calves stay toned and growing. It was one of the greatest hypertrophy workouts for our calves and the best part is that it doesn’t feel like the same old ones we’re used to. Jumping rope is also great for training the strength, endurance and explosiveness of your calves. These three aspects can translate into pushing more weight, for more reps at a higher intensity, thus leading to even more development.
In addition, skipping rope is not only great for your calves but can also be used as a warm up or, more interestingly, a great cardio workout! Since this is a lower impact exercise, people with knee or back issues can perform it as well as those who are looking for cardio that will not make them loose their hard-earned muscle mass. Given that it is such a great cardio exercise it can also benefit plenty of men and women, looking to lose weight and tone their body. A toned and leaner body can also lead to better aesthetics thus improving the overall looks of your calves! As a result of all these benefits, this is an exercise that you can perform not only when training calves, but on any day of the week, no matter which muscle group you are working out.
Yes, I already know what you’re going to say… how will nutrition help my calves? Well it’s quite simple, and in truth applies to any muscle in general. Ensuring that you keep a diet rich in nutrients, protein and healthy fats will result in greater gains and better aesthetics. Better aesthetics leads to muscles that look bigger and better; therefore you are getting double the rewards. Furthermore, working out while eating properly and drinking the appropriate amount of water will aid in keeping your body hydrated. Thus, avoiding irritating calf cramps that are extremely common during workouts and making sure that you have no reason no to train at the highest level that you can.
If you’re thinking of trying any of these tips out here is a great workout you can try:
Jumping Rope – 4 minutes- No Rest (or “Tabata Style” if to difficult)
Superset (5 sets):
Seated Calf Raise – 20-25 Reps
Smith Machine Standing Calf Raise – 20-25 Reps
Light jump rope – 30 seconds- Rest 15 seconds.
Cool down: 5 minutes walking on incline treadmill
If at home: Calf raises on a stair or plat form works fine as a substitute.
Variety: Can interchange the Seated Calf Raise or Smith Machine Calf raise with:
- Standing Calf raise Machine
- Kettlebell Calf Raise on platform or stairs
- Leg Press Calf Raises