The programs you follow for building your physique should be all encompassing. There needs to be a real emphasis placed upon the development of each body part (like your calves) and the energy you put into building each muscle group should be equal. Of course, there are certain days we enjoy more than others in the gym and chances are those days fall in line with the stronger points of your physique.
You may find that on chest day, you go a little bit harder than you do on back day because the mind/muscle connection is a little better and you get greater pumps and have more fun. Maybe you hit biceps first because your development in that area is superior to the development of your triceps, so press downs, dips and extensions become an after thought on arm day.
The point being made here is that the energy you put into your stronger parts must transfer over to the weaker areas as well and the muscle group that seems to be last on the list for so many in this regard are the calves. You need your calves for balance and physique harmony so use the following strategies to help beef those calves up.
Focus on the Stretch for Your Calves
You’ll see lots of people training calves with what one could only describe as a bounce rep. Lots of ‘reps’ being performed while beating land speed records on the calf raise machine with little to no eccentric force occurring. Here’s the thing, your calves contract all day long while you walk. Constant contractions of the calves with every step you take means that this is a stress they are used to and therefore have adapted and no longer need to respond by getting any bigger or stronger.
So why would you continue to apply the same stress to them while you train by only focusing on the concentric portion of the rep? Instead, slow things down, sink those heels nice and low while performing your calf raises, spend some time in the fully stretch position and lighten up on the weight you’re using. Within weeks of starting to do this, you will see results. That stretch is exactly what weak calves need in order to grow.
Make moves towards Heavy Training
Even though in the first strategy presented here it was suggested to lighten up on the weight that you would typically use, it doesn’t mean the calves can’t handle heavier loads. In fact, once you get the full range of motion thing down and you’ve lived a little in the full eccentric portion of the rep, the next thing you need to do is introduce some weight. Again, your calves are used to propelling your body weight around all day long while you travel back and forth to your destinations.
That means, your calves have become accustomed to the resistance they face by virtue of whatever your current body weight is, so you have to provide them with more than that for them to respond with growth. Once you have your range of motion in place, start going heavier and heavier without losing the full rep capability and give your calves the type of resistance they need to get out of the adapted mode they’re in to see new growth occur.
Check Your Frequency
Now, last but not least, how often are you actually training calves? Once a week, twice a week if you can remember? You may find that in order to initiate the type of response from your calves that you’re looking for, it could require you to train them more often than you think. One of the greatest of all time once said that he had to train his calves hard and heavy every single day before they started to grow.
You may not need to go to this level of frequency, but if you’re not seeing what you want to see from your calf training then perhaps you’re not training them enough or maybe you’re training them too much. This one is going to be hard to figure out at first and only time will tell but take a look at what you’ve been doing up to this point and adjust accordingly by throwing in more calf training sessions or by backing off a little.
It has been said before and it will be something that will never be understood by this writer; “Who cares about calves anyway?” You may have heard this from someone with less than stellar calves because their resolve is that their genetics for building calves isn’t the greatest so why bother. Don’t be that person. If you haven’t been blessed with having low attaching calf muscles that seem to grow no matter what, that doesn’t mean you can’t make what you do have even better.
Keep training calves with as much energy and focus as you do your great body parts and they will improve. The best physiques are the most balanced ones and getting congruent with your calf training will help with achieving that.
Author: Dana Bushell
Gym Star Team Member