For some people it’s their genetic: they were born with big calves or their calves just grow like weed. For others, building big calves can be painstaking like watching grass grow. Countless of exercises and reps with little or no progress at all: The calves just are not responding at all. Calves are often considered the most difficult muscle group in the body to develop, but they respond to resistance training like any other muscle. You just have to prioritize them and train them from several angles and with a combination of heavy and light weights.
One of the best way to target you calves for growth is to prioritize them in your workout routine. This can be done in two ways. One by dedicating a specific day for calves only. This way will give you ample time to work the calves thoroughly and use as much volume as you want to exhaust all muscle fibers. The other way is by working on your calves first in the beginning of your workouts. This entails performing all of your calves exercises before you start working on another body part. This second way is however less preferred to the first method if you calves are lagging and you are targeting maximal muscle growth in minimal time.
There are opposing view on what is the most effective way for growing calves. Some recommend heavy weight/low reps while others recommend light weight/high reps. But calves are just like any other muscle group and should be trained as such. The most effective strategy is then to combine both heavy weight/low reps and light weight/high reps. This combination will allow you to reach your goal a lot faster by maximizing strength and hypertrophy. The Heavy weight/ low reps will get you calves strong and this allows to lift more weight with your calves leading to strength gain. This strength gain subsequently leads to an increase in muscle hypertrophy. On the other hand, light weight/high reps targets your calves for hypertrophy and endurance to make your calves grow faster and even stronger.
The ideal rep range for adding mass and strength is between 6 reps and 15 reps. This range where you can experience gains in strength and, more importantly, gains in size.
The more you train your calves the better you have a chance to grow them. However, it’s also important to give them enough rest for recovery. You should train calves three time per week giving them a two-day rest in between using a variety of exercises, not just a few sets each of standing and seated calf raises but enough exercises to every area ( the upper, lower, inner and outer portions of the calves). If your calves are lagging in a big way you could train them even more than that. Arnold used this strategy to bring up his lagging calves by training his calves 6 times a week.
I have addressed muscle-mind connection in previous articles but I think it’s important to mention again. It’s one of the key ingredients that can help you maximize muscle growth, especially if the muscle is underdeveloped. By being mentally focused and connecting that mental energy to your muscles, you push the muscle to take in all the work. Studies have in fact shown that a strong mind-muscle connection can help spur growth and strength gains.
A proven way to make stubborn muscles grow is to shock them with high-intensity training techniques. Techniques such as supersets, drop sets, and giant sets are killer techniques and will shock your calves in massive growth. They not only allow to you work the calf muscle beyond failure or use constant tension to exhaust it but also maximize blood pump in your calves. Intensity is key in calf training and these techniques can take your calves to next level. Be intense and work hard, with a full range of motion, and lots of stretching, and your calves will grow.
The Key to calf development is intensity not endless sets or reps
The calf muscles are strong and dense so stretching and flexing can help facilitate growth. To develop your calves to their potential, you must take each rep through a complete range of motion. This means getting a full stretch at the bottom and forcing yourself up as high as possible on your toes at the top. Make sure to squeeze out every last bit of intensity by holding and squeezing the calves for a 2-3 counts before lowering the weight. Calf training is all about the range of motion. Go all the way down and all the way up on every rep. Stretching is crucial too. Do it before, during and after training calves.
Try this workout routine which includes a variety of angles and intensity-boosting techniques. Give your calves at least 2-day rest between workouts.
1. On your last two sets, have a partner help you get 5-10 forced reps.
2. Do drop sets on your last two sets until you are using just your own bodyweight.
3. Extend your last two sets by doing 2-3 rest-pauses.
1. Rest two minutes between sets.
2. After each set, stand on your toes and squeeze your calves for up 30 seconds.
3. Use a weight that causes you to fail at approximately 15 reps. After each set, drop the the weight about 30% and continue until you reach failure.