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Calf Training

Dorian here, let’s talk about calves!

There are more misconceptions about calves than any other muscle group. This is perhaps because of the big variance in lengths of muscle bellies between people. But this applies to absolutely any muscle group and not just calves. The potential growth is limited by the length of the muscle belly. A professional bodybuilder will typically have long muscle bellies and it is down to the genetic blueprint.

To grow your calves, you of course need to train them… but how?

One thing I’ve heard over the years is that “you need to train calves everyday because they are stubborn and you walk on them all the time.” Well, why is duplicating this with high reps going to change them. 

It’s simple… Train them like any other muscle group – heavy to failure!

I’ve seen many people simply bounce up and down on the calf machine with no real thought and attention being paid to their calves and they seem to be an after thought. In addition to this, they’re being trained far too frequently. This brings me back to the old “sandpaper analogy”… If you grab some sandpaper and rub it on your hand to make it bloody, after a few days it’s gonna recover and build back stronger to protect against that stress. But if you don’t give it time to recover and go and rub your hand again, whats going to happen? You’re not gonna get anywhere, you’ll just have a bloody hand.

I would typically train my calves just like any other muscle group in terms of frequency, every 6-7 days. This gives them enough time to recover and prepares them for your next workout where you should be aiming to increase the weight to go as heavy as possible whilst keeping that all important strict form.

Train your calves with real intention, real focus, full range of motion, down to your heels and up on your toes! 

So what did I do?

I typically did 2 exercises, the standing calf raise and the seated calf raise, 1 exercise to target each muscle.

The first muscle we’ll talk about is the gastrocnemius and this is best worked with the legs being pretty straight. Therefore the best exercise is a standing calf raise with your legs being straight. I had to have a special calf machine add-on made to hold an extra 1000lbs and over the years, I worked my way up to 1500lbs on this machine. 

So I did 2 sets on this machine, the first being a warm up and the second to failure between 10-12 reps.

To target the second muscle, which is the soleus, and this is best worked with the knee being bent. The best exercise to work the soleus is the seated calf raise. I typically did 1 warm up set and then 1 set to failure between 6-8 reps.

Use as much weight as you can to go to failure but with perfect form and even a slight exaggeration on the range of motion. Build the weight up as you go along and in time, your calves will grow, but I cannot guarantee you’ll have calves like me.

Posted by Dorian Yates