Leg Exercises

Simple & Effective Calf Training

To maximize calf development, the key is to keep it simple.


Calf Raises

Calves represent quite a dilemma for many when it comes to creating a complete and balanced physique. They are among the most difficult muscles to develop. In large part, this is because of the difference in calf structure among different individuals. Everyone'’s calf structure goes from the knee to the ankle, but in some cases the muscle itself (the "muscle belly"”) is very long and the tendon attaching it to the lower leg is short. Even a few inches of extra length can make a big difference in muscle volume, because muscle size is measured in volume -– three dimensions, not two. Anyone who has spent any time around boats knows that a 40-foot yacht is not just a little bit bigger than one that's 30 feet - it's MUCH BIGGER, because you're dealing with cubic volume, not just length.

An individual with "“high"” calves is going to have much more trouble developing a lot of size than somebody whose calf is mostly muscle and very little tendon attachment. The same is true for forearms. But that doesn't mean the task is impossible. With high calves you may never develop the best lower leg on the planet -– or even just in your gym - but you can increase size and end up with a lot more development than you initially thought possible.

Attack Your Weakness

Of course, if you'’re genetically well endowed for calves, you'’re still going to need to train them to achieve your personal potential (there are a few exceptions to this, but if you were one of them you'd already know it and wouldn'’t be reading this article). But it's sometimes difficult to know in advance what your potential might be. One of Arnold Schwarzenegger'’s major weaknesses when he began bodybuilding was calves. The story goes that he cut off the bottom of his training pants so that he couldn't hide his calves and would be forced to train them as hard as possible. His credo was "“attack your weaknesses"” and that'’s something all of us should do.

Of course, how to go about overcoming a weakness like this -– or simply making good calves better -– requires making some intelligent choices. Mechanics know that there are often two choices when it comes to fixing a broken piece of equipment: Employ a more effective technique or just use a bigger hammer! Sometimes the answer is subtlety and other times it's to just beat the hell out of it. The trick is to know which application applies.

Weight training can be like that as well. There are some bodyparts that require a very complex understanding of physiology if you want to achieve maximum development -– special intensity techniques, different angles, esoteric training principles. But there are others that respond best to straightforward, pedal-to-the-metal concentration of effort. Sometimes "“training smart"” is not as important as just training hard.