Arnold Schwarzenegger's Calf-Building Routine

How the Austrian Oak turned his greatest weakness into a strength.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Calf-Building Routine

Arnold’s calves were even more fantastic than his biceps or his pecs. Bear with me here. I know how stupendous his arms and chest were when he won seven Olympias. Fans may not have even noticed his lower legs, and they don’t appear in most iconic photos. But his calves were superb—huge, separated, and finely detailed. There’s that shot in Pumping Iron of him tensing the right one, and it looks like tectonic plates shifting beneath the skin. But what makes his gastrocnemii special is that he had to work and work and work for them. In amateur contests they were his greatest weakness. But in 1969 he visited his idol, Reg Park, who taught him how to assault calves with a heavy barrage. “From walking, calves are used to lots of light, low-intensity work with small ranges of motion, so to make them grow you need to continually go heavier and harder,” Arnold says. After one year of this toil six days a week, his calves had expanded two inches. And they kept growing from a weakness to a strength.



  • “To develop your calves to their potential, you must take each rep through a complete range of motion.”
  • “The goal is to use the heaviest possible weight that still allows you to use a full range of motion.”
  • “Sometimes, I’d hold the top of reps and squeeze for four seconds.”
  • “After I couldn’t do any more full- range reps, I’d do short, quick reps.” 


  • Donkey Calf Raise | SETS: 5-6 | REPS: 15-20
  • Standing Calf Raise | SETS: 5-6 | REPS: 10-20
  • Seated Calf Raise | SETS: 4-5 | REPS: 10-15