Let’s face it. What’s a competitor without great legs and beautiful calf development? While a great pair of sexy legs will really put the eyes on you, keep in mind that your calves are also a part of your overall package. So, let’s talk about calves, training, their development, and growth.
All too often I seen men and women put a lot into their leg training, but leave quality calf training to the wayside. To really make your legs and calves pop out on stage in those figure heels, training your calves properly will give you the unfair advantage and give you beautiful calf development.
Just as with any body part, training calves to bring them to their full potential takes hard and dedicated work from your mind as well as your physical body.
What’s that familiar cry? “I don’t have the genetics for calves.” Believe that all you like, but you CAN build great calves IF you train them the right way. You see, for over 30 years I’ve been studying, researching, and even putting myself through personal trail-and-error in the fitness game in regards to muscle gain, fat loss, and contest prep.
Through it all I’ve uncovered some secrets to getting stubborn calves to grow so they balance out with your overall leg development. So, before you throw in the towel and stop putting 100% into your calf training just hear me out and give these tips, secrets, and tactics an honest whirl for 6-8 weeks. I guarantee you that you will have some beautiful calf development.
What Your Trainer May NOT Be Telling You about Calf Development
You know, it’s not uncommon to see someone who doesn’t train calves much or at all, yet they have balanced and beautiful calves. That’s partly because calves are genetic.
The length of your calf muscle and the tendon’s insertion point determines the overall immensity of your calves.
Those with short calf muscles and a long tendon insertion will have a more challenging calf work on their hands. These people can develop great calves, but the calf muscle will just be a little smaller and higher.
So, even if the Gods didn’t bless you with the genetics to have sexy, beautiful, and well-shaped calves, you can use my advanced training tactics to boost them and get them up to speed with your upper legs and create your own beautiful calf development.
Understanding the Basics of Calf Development
To build those sexy calves you need to understand what is involved in how they function. The calves require a different form of training than other muscle groups. They need an entirely different type of INTENSITY and training scheme rather than just adding more reps and sets.
The calves contain two major muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These two muscles are what give your lower legs that dynamic shape and size that looks so cool.
There is also a smaller muscle, the tibialis anterior, which works with the calves. It is a smaller muscle and may even seem irrelevant, but it is a key muscle in your overall leg development. We’ll discuss this muscle a bit later.
Calf anatomy image is from MusclesUsed.com.
The Gastroc – The Muscle That Gives Overall Size
The gastrocnemius is the largest of the two calf muscles. It’s responsible for giving the calf shape. It lies at the top back of the calf area and extends from the knee joint to the ankle joint. The gastroc is compromised of two heads (lateral and medial) which lie next to each other. This muscle is visible when it’s well-developed and in combination with low body fat. This is the muscle that gives that popular upside down heart or diamond shape.
How to Train The Gastroc
You can train your gastrocnemius with calf exercises that keep your legs straight such as the standard calf raises, leg press calve press, or donkey calves. The key here is to keep your legs straight and locked.
You may see some people putting a slight bend at the knees to relieve pressure. While this may seem logical, it only shifts the focus to the soleus muscle (I’ll explain this one in just a moment), putting less stress on the gastroc. Keep your legs straight and locked to keep 100% focus on your gastroc muscle.
The donkey calf raises are a little better than standing calf raises because of the position you are in. You see the gastrocnemius muscle ties in with the hams. So, when you are bent over the hammies and gastroc are stretched out.
Since the gastrocnemius has a large number of fast-twitch muscle fibers, it builds best with using heavy weight, doing more sets and fewer reps.
The Soleus – The Muscle That Gives Width
The soleus is mostly involved in endurance activities. Since the gastrocnemius has a lot of fast-twitch fibers or an equal amount of fast and slow-twitch fibers, this allows the soleus to take over when the gastroc becomes fatigued. Pretty neat action plan!
How to Train Your Soleus
You can target the soleus muscle best with bent-knee exercises such as seated calf raises. When your knees are bent the gastroc muscle isn’t involved to a great degree.
Since the soleus contains mostly slow-twitch fibers, it builds best by using lighter poundage, but doing more reps with less sets.
The Forgotten Muscle with a Lot of Potential (Don’t Miss This)
The anterior tibialis, commonly referred to as the tibialis, is located opposite to the calves. It’s the little muscle between your ankle and knee. Yes, it may seem small and insignificant, but it can play a big role in how your calves appear. When you build your tibialis it will add more proportion and depth to your legs and calves. Yes, a two for one shot!
[Brut bodybuilder comes to you while you are on the standing calf machine. He goes on to say “you should rotate your toes in and toes out to hit different areas of the calf.”] Humm you think. That’s an intriguing concept.
This is a myth handed down by each generation. The belief is that pointing your toes inward zones in more on the outer head while pointing your toes outward puts more emphasis on the inner head.
Red Flag! The popular “toes-in” and “toes-out” training approach is an utter waste of time. It’s complete NONSENSE because all the muscle fibers in the calf muscle run in the same direction. Oh, not to mention that it is very dangerous to externally and internally rotate your ankle or knee!
Sure, the ball-and-socket joint at the hip gives the foot rotation, but it doesn’t do anything for the calves since there is no calf muscle that crosses the hip joint. Of course you will have lifters “claim” they “feel” the difference. However, that NOTHING to do with the internal or external rotation of the calves, but just bad form combined with too much weight.
Here’s The Secret For Calf Development (Shhhh…..)
Don’t run off so fast!!! You CAN target different areas of the calf muscle. All you have to do is just angle the pressure. Simply roll the pressure over from the soles of your feet onto your big toe (inversion) and/or roll the pressure over from the soles of your feet to your little toes (eversion).
Rolling over on the big toe will put more stress on the later head and rolling over on the small toes will put more stress on the medial head.
So you see. Targeting different areas of the calves has to do with form and technique, not rotation your knees. OUCH! When you angle the pressure you can take advantage of the movement which occurs at the ankle. Roll and angle the pressure and stop twisting and turning! Hey, practice safe sets, girl.
Don’t use this method for muscle building purposes. This is a technique more along the lines of fine-tuning the muscle once you have developed it. Ok? Ok, let’s move on…
How to Train Your Tibialis (Yes, It Needs To Be Worked)
Remember this muscle we talked about earlier? It’s the muscle that lies opposite of the calf muscle. The tibialis is best targeted with toe raises, lifting your toes up and down. Don’t confuse this with calf raises which is lifting your heels up and down.
To do the toe raises just stand on the edge of a platform or even a weight plate placed on the floor. With your heels planted, lift your toes up and down. It’s not a huge movement with a big range of motion, but it packs a punch and they are great for overall lower leg development.
More REAL Training Information (The Essentials)
Now that I’ve given you the REAL information on how to build beautiful calf development, you might check out my FREE 5 Leg Training Hacks to jack your training through the roof.
This free guide lets you in on what you are doing wrong and how to fix it with simple tweaks.
Karen Sessions NSCA-CPT
Thanks for reading over my article! I hope you found the information helpful. If you have any questions you can contact me directly using the “Contact Link” at the top of the page. I answer all emails.
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