Calves are notorious for their stubbornness to grow. You want to build massive calves so you overload them with extreme weight and burn them out until you cannot walk but they still refuse to grow. I, along with many others, have experienced this problem and in this post I would like to provide you with a method of exercise that has given me results. I will be covering the tempo, weight/reps, frequency, and exercises you should implement into you calf routine if you want to experience what we all want, growth.
A lot of time the tempo is not talked about when lifting weights but I find it very important for building calves in particular. The tempo is the speed and timing of the motion. With calf raises (all kinds) I invite you to take your time with them. Go slow and controlled. You can be explosive in the positive of the motion, but slow down in the negative. You do not want to explode too much in the postive direction of this motion. This will create unwanted momentum making the resistance less throughout the rest of the movement. Also I have found it best to pause at the top of the motion with a good squeeze upon each repetition.
So a good tempo would be this: moderate explosive positive, pause and squeeze at the top, and a slow negative.
For this movement I suggest moderate to light weight. Remember controlling the contraction if of utmost importance. I also suggest that you do high repetitions, which will require lighter weight. Why do high repetitions? The reason for high repetitions is because of the range of motion in this movement, which is extremely small. As a general rule of thumb you want to do higher repetitions with smaller movements. It has to do with the time your muscles are under tension.
If you were to do only 6 reps per set it would take you probably 8-10 seconds. Now if you would do 6 reps during a set of squats this would take much longer.
I suggest you perform anywhere from 15 to 30 repetitions per set of calf raises, doing lower reps as you increase the weight.
Calves are able to be trained on a more frequent basis than many other muscle groups. Why? Because they are small and require less nutrients to rejuvenate and rebuild. Another reason why they tend to recover so fast is because of all the blood flow they get. As you walk around you are using your calves of course. This pumps them with blood providing necessary nutrients to grow.
Training them 3x per week has proven to show good results and this is what I suggest. So you could train them during leg day and then throw several sets of calf raises in on 2 other training days throughout the week. You do not need to a crazy amount of exercises each workout with them if you are training 3x a week.
You can really perform any calf exercise here. Just make sure you do so with the tempo, weight/reps, and frequency mentioned above. I do however suggest that no matter what exercises you do, switch them up from time to time. Do certain exercises for a 1-2 months and then switch up your routine. Different exercises will activate different muscle fibers which will help growth. I have listed a number of calf exercises you can perform below.
Seated Calf Raises
- You can even do this without a machine by holding dumbbells or a barbell on or across your knees.
Standing (Machine) Calf Raises
- smith machine
- squat/calf machine
Standing (free weight barbell) Calf Raises
- Yes there is a difference. Using free weights requires a lot of balance, especially with this movement. If you switch from smith machine to this believe me you will feel the difference. Use lighter weight with this.
Leg Press Calf Raises
Another thing you can do is switch up your feet placement with any exercise. Changing the angle of your toes will change the muscle contraction.
So if you have been struggling with calf muscle growth and have not tried out this method for calf training then I strongly suggest you do. It has worked for many as well as myself. Don’t think that calf genetics “suck” if you have not tried this. I hope you can benefit from it as I did.