Bigger and Stronger Calves

Piotr Leniart

Look at your calves. You probably don’t even realize the face that you just made. That’s because most people who are serious about building a stronger, better-looking body are likely to express disgust and disappointment when they peek at their calves. Some people think they don’t have the genetics to build thicker gastrocs, while others have tried everything they can think of and surrendered out of pure discouragement. But in both cases, these folks have probably just been short on vision and tactics.


Nobody got time fo dat!

One exercise and a number of tactics can help even the most calf-challenged gym rats maximize their growth potential with their calves. The leg press machine is good for more than just leg presses. Without even unracking the weight, you can press the sled to full extension. From here, with your heels just off the platform, you can put your calves through a mighty workout. 45-degree calf presses allow you to place a great overload on the calves, while also working them through a longer-than-usual range of motion. By hanging your heels off the platform, you get a good, long stretch on the gastrocnemius. Add a strong peak contraction against heavyweight loads to that and you have all the ingredients you need for bigger calves.

Go heavy

We won’t indulge the circular debate on which rep ranges work best for calves. We know that some guys claim “all heavy, all the time” is the only way to go, while others say the only see change when they go with higher reps. But the beauty of the 45-degree calf press is that you get to use heavyweight – as much as your calves and the sled can handle – while providing that critical, extended range of motion. This is a proven, fundamental method for taking muscles past their breaking point, bringing them back bigger and stronger – period. For good measure, perform five sets of 6-8 reps to failure, lowering the weight slowly and pausing for 1-2 seconds on the peak contraction with every rep.

And how do you train your calves?
And how do you train your calves?

Go light

If you’ve laid the groundwork of growth with five heavy sets, you can then advantage of the fascia-stretching benefits inherent in high-rep work. After the fifth set, strip about half of the weight quickly, get back on the sled and continue repping to failure. A drop set like that should put you in the 20-plus rep range but everyone will fail at different rates.

Finishing touches

After your crushing work on the 45-degree calf press – and only if you’re not completely hobbled – find a short step and perform single-leg calf raises using only your bodyweight, to failure for three sets.

Don’t rest between legs

Then, to work your deeper soleus – which lies beneath the gastroc – mix three sets of seated calf raises using a moderate weight load.

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