What is your most recommended calf workout for building them up? I’m 6’3” and struggle with small calf syndrome.” – Zakk McCarthy

If you’re not blessed with killer calves, you are going to have to dig in for the long haul. Calves aren’t a muscle group you can build overnight and you’ll definitely not see immediate results regardless of the program you’re on. 

First and foremost, your calves are shaped by genetics. If your parents have big calves, then more than likely you’ll have them too. If your calves are small, your goals should be to reach your greatest potential, not compare them to others. Do the best you can with what you have to work with.

But don’t play the genetics card. Train your ass off and make calf work a priority in your workouts. If it is a weakness, try to make it a strength. Do them first before every training session. Calves respond to high volume training so shoot for 4-6 sets of 20 reps. Isometrics – where you hold the lockout for a count of 1-2 – and slow eccentrics – where you control the lowering of each rep for 3-5 seconds – are advanced and highly painful ways to make each set harder.  

Full Range of Motion

You’ll also want to try and perform your calf raises through a full range of motion and at different angles. Hitting your calves from multiple angles (toes in, straight ahead, and toes out) and performing full reps – where your heels drop all the way down and then you lock out fully up onto your toes – will develop them to the fullest. 

Finally, you have to target and develop both the soleus and gastrocnemius. Putting more emphasis on the gastrocnemius is done by performing your calf exercises standing – ex. standing calf raises.  Targeting the soleus is done with your knee bent because it attaches below the knee – ex. seated calve raises.

The Workout  

Here is how you can program all of these techniques into a simple program.

Standing Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Toes In

Standing Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Straight Ahead

Standing Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Toes Out

Seated Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Toes In

Seated Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Straight Ahead

Seated Calf Raises x 1 x 20 reps – Toes Out

Repeat 2-3 times

If you’re performing this program before your normal workout, just run through it once.  Don’t forget to include isometrics and slow eccentrics into the program as your calves get stronger and you can control the range of motion better.