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How often do you see people in the gym neglecting certain body parts, or leaving weaker body parts to the end of their workouts and treating them like an afterthought? Two body parts that are most often overlooked are the calves and forearms. Let’s take a closer look at how we can give these muscle groups the attention they deserve.
Calves can be one of the hardest body parts to develop and train properly. I know many people who have had lifelong difficulty getting them to grow more than just a couple of inches. However, there are several ways in which lifters can improve this stubborn body part:
Prioritize Calves: Don’t Make Them an Afterthought
Most people still treat their calf training as an “extra” at the end of a hard legs workout. Those who really need work on this muscle group must train them hard and heavy with as much focus as any other muscle group.
Some bodybuilders like to work their calves before they train the rest of their legs, but I think this presents a potential to fatigue your legs and hamper your strength on squats. So why not train your calves at the very beginning of an UPPER body workout, so that there is no interference between muscle groups. The best training days for this are ones that might not take as long, such as chest or arms. There are 3 major muscle groups in the lower leg. If you want to build the calves to their fullest potential, you MUST include calf muscle exercises that work each of the following 3 major muscle groups.
This is the largest calf muscle and the one that most people work. This is the one that you see when flexing and looking down at your calves. Standing calf raise exercises, donkey calf raises, and all variations of those two calf muscle exercises will work the large gastrocnemius muscle. If the leg is not bent and you do a calf raise, the gastrocnemius is being worked.
The soleus gives the calves depth and thickness because it lies beneath the larger gastrocnemius muscle. If you looked at someones calves as you were standing behind them, you would see the soleus muscles running down both sides of the lower leg. The soleus is worked during calf muscle exercises in which the knee is bent. So any variation of seated calf raises or squat raises will best work this muscle.
The tibialis anterior is almost always ignored. It’s the huge frontal muscle that you can see if you flex your toe upwards and watch the area below the front part of your knee. This muscle goes all the way down the front part of your lower leg. If you haven’t been working your tibialis anterior, you’ve been missing out. Reverse calf raises of any type will work the tibialis anterior.
Up next: Forearms
The best forearm exercises are compound exercises that allow the use of heavy weights. In addition, a variety of isolation movements are also great for strengthening and building muscle in the forearms. Follow these isolation exercises to work your forearms to the max.
Dumbbell Wrist Curls:
This exercise targets the forearm flexors and allows you to work each forearm individually, thus helping to develop balance and proportion between both forearms.
Sit and hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip. Rest your forearm on the bench between your thighs with your wrist just beyond the edge of the bench.
Allow the dumbbell to roll down the palm towards the fingers. Curl the dumbbell back up and flex your wrist. Once you perform the desired number of reps for one arm, switch and repeat with the other arm.
Barbell Wrist Curl:
This is a basic forearm exercise that works the forearm flexor muscles.
Sit on a flat bench and lay your forearms on your lap while holding a barbell palms up. Using only your hands and wrists, curl the barbell up toward the ceiling as high as possible, keeping your forearms flat on your lap. When you return to the start position, allow the barbell to roll all the way down into your fingertips and then repeat.
Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls:
Sit on a flat bench and lay your forearms on your lap while holding a barbell palms down. Using only your hands and wrists, reverse curl the barbell up toward the ceiling as high as possible, keeping your forearms flat on your lap. Lower the barbell down as far as you can, then repeat.
Reverse Barbell Curl:
The reverse barbell curl works both the biceps and forearm extensor muscles.
Grip a barbell with a shoulder width overhand grip. Stand straight up with your back flat and head up. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides, curl the bar up towards the top of your chest. Pause for a second to fully contract the forearms, then slowly lower the barbell back down.