People often complain that the calves are stubborn but they really aren’t. People just train them incorrectly.
Think about it: The calves get low-intensity work pretty much all day long (unless you’re lying in bed all day).
What’s NOT needed is high volume and low-intensity, but rather a low volume of VERY high-intensity work. Then once the growth stimulation has been brought to the muscle, give it time for the overcompensation/growth to occur before working them again (see “finding your P.O.P.“).
When intelligent trainers speak about growth taking place outside of the gym during rest periods, it’s not something someone made up to excuse laziness, it’s a cold, hard fact.
If you were to cut your arm with a knife you’d naturally expect it to heal up in the days after you made the incision, right?
Furthermore, you’d know that any further cuts made to the same wound BEFORE it had fully recovered would PREVENT it from healing. Remember that analogy when it comes to working your calves, or any muscle for that matter. (note: cardio, especially high-intensity cardio, counts as a small “cut”, so take it easy when bulking up).
Ok, so let’s have a quick reminder of the rules of maximum muscle fiber recruitment:
- Work the muscle along the path of its FUNCTION
- Ensure there is resistance at the PEAK CONTRACTION POINT (PCP) as this is the part of the rep where maximum fiber recruitment occurs
So you want to know the function of the calves now, right?
Good question. Basically our calves are responsible for plantarflexion of the ankle joint. Plantarflexion? Stand on your tips of your toes; that’s what it is. Of course you do this to a smaller degree every time you walk as well.
So how do we do this and ensure there is resistance at the PCP? Good old Calf Raises are all that’s needed.
Since I train at home and don’t have a dedicated calf raise machine, I came up with a way to use my smith machine to perform Seated Calf Raises. Check out the vid…
* The balls of your feet should be just on the edge of the foot rest. This will allow you to achieve a full contraction.
* Make sure you pause at the PCP like I’m doing in the clip.
* TIP! When you ‘think’ you’re at the top of the rep, try to push up an inch higher!
* Just like training the abs, you’ve probably been told to “squeeze” the calf muscles at the top of the rep. The fact is that if you can VOLUNTARILY squeeze the muscle, the weight is too light. The correct load should FORCE a hard contraction in the fully contracted position.
* Train to muscular failure
* Use a heavy weight. Most people are shocked at how much they can lift with their calves
You can perform standing calf raises if you wish. The seated position involves the soleus muscle more so I prefer it. I’m also able to concentrate better in a seated position for some reason. The intensity caused by such heavy weights can be extreme, so it warrants all your will power to stick with it to failure.
Like all other muscle groups, choose a weight that causes you to reach failure within the “Anabolic Window“.
P.S. Judging from previous articles, someone’s gonna ask below what equipment I’m using. It’s called “Marcy MP3100”. Although I don’t know if it’s available in the US, this one looks very similar to it (just confirm that it has a low pulley if you are interested in buying it).
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