If you skip leg day and you’re ready to start bring up those weak little twigs you call calves, this workout’s for you. Maybe you hit a set of calves at the end of a leg session but you’re still not getting them to grow. To get your calves to match the rest of your well-built physique, you must attack them with the same, if not more, intensity to get them to grow. Keep the form key over the amount of weight used and you’ll be on your way to building a set of cows, not just calves!
Exercise #1: Jump Rope Warm-up
One of the most crucial things about working your calves directly are to properly warm up the muscles themselves. Too many times people jump right in to a heavy set of calf raises and their Achilles tendon ends up doing a majority of the work. This not only takes away from building up your calf muscles but puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the Achilles tendon thus setting you up for injury. Jumping rope is a great way to warm up the Achilles to get some blood flowing and it also provides some muscle recruitment of the calves through the constant hopping. Try to focus on hopping and landing just on the balls of your feet to keep the calves under constant tension and help cushion your knees through each landing.
Sets and Reps: 5 minutes of 30 seconds work/30 seconds rest
Exercise #2: Single Leg Calf Raises
Because working your calves is such an isolated muscle group, hitting them with an isolation-type movement will help prime them for growth as well as priming them for some heavier “compound” type lifts later in the workout. Utilizing the single leg calf raise at the beginning will help engage each leg individually- that way one muscle is not working more than the other.
- Start with left leg extended and your toe either up on a small step or even a weight plate
- Keep right foot resting on the back of left ankle and slowly press up to where you’re on the ball of your left foot
- Slowly lower yourself back down and just touch the heel on the ground before moving on to the next rep
- Repeat on other leg for completion of 1 whole set
Sets and Reps: 4 x 12-15 reps per leg
Top Tip: For an increased pump, try holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand of the leg you’re working for some added resistance
Exercise #3: Calf Raises on Leg Press Machine
,With the calves fully activated through a more of an isolation-type move, now we can proceed to some heavier movements. Using the leg press machine is a great way to keep constant tension on the gastrocnemius throughout the entire motion of the lift. Since it is more of a compound lift, don’t be afraid to go heavy here while maintaining good form. Rumors around that calves only grow with reps upward of 20-25. Simply put, this isn’t true and calves respond best to varying your rep ranges in all of your calf workouts.
- Start with the seat back as far as possible on the leg press machine and press the weight out in front of you where both legs are fully extended
- Scoot your feet down on the platform to where just your toes and balls of your feet are on the machine
- Allow the weight to be slowly lowered down and fully stretch the calves and then pop up on your toes to fully contract the calves
Sets and Reps: 4 x 6-10
Exercise #4: Stair Calf Raise Burnouts
Now that the calves have been hit with some heavy weight sets, it’s time to pump them full of blood and blow them up. Bodyweight stair calf raises are a staple to forcing these tiny little muscle groups to grow because it forces you to go to failure- every single time. Varying your foot position will help build a full, diamond-shaped calf muscle and really have you feeling wobbly afterwards.
- Start on the bottom step at either some bleachers or just a set of stairs with toes pointing straight in front of you
- Perform 10 reps then move up to the next step and turn the toes outward slightly
- Again per form 10 reps then move up to the next step and point the toes inward slightly
- Perform a final 10 reps and start all over all the way up the flight of stairs
Sets and Reps: 1 set to failure
Top Tip: These aren’t called burnouts for nothing. If you somehow manage to make it to the top, start over and go until you can perform no more.
We all want to have bigger calves that look great in a pair of shorts during the summer, but we must attack them with the same intensity (if not more) as all of our other body parts. Keep your form tight, squeeze and contract each rep and don’t forget to lift heavy!