If you go to the gym 3-5 times per week and pay close attention to what you eat then chances are you are very conscious of how you look and take a lot of pride in your physique.
I mean let’s be real, you aren’t going to the gym to socialize. Having said that, being around tons of in-shape people all the time can definitely get you feeling insecure.
One are in particularly that most guys struggle with is calves.
If you are like us, calves have always lagged other body parts. After a few years of training our calves still looked small relative to our quads, hamstrings and upper-body muscles.
What made matters worse is that there were guys who barely spent any time in the gym at all yet still had massive calves.
While calf frustration is well-documented the good news is you can definitely train around it.
If you aren’t getting the type of calves growth you want you are probably making one of several common errors.
The Impact of Genetics on Calves
For most guys, calves are simply a weak point as a result of genetics.
It really comes down to the placement of the muscle, also referred to as muscle insertion
. Depending on how far up the leg the calf insertion is you can have wildly different results from the same training routine.
The calf muscle begins right below the knee and runs down behind the shin before stopping at a location that is essentially determined by your genetics.
If the insertion is high or closer to the knee then you will have a lot less size to work with and as a result you will have more difficulty getting those calves to pop.
Having said that, we aren’t eliminating the possibility of building great calves for guys with high insertions.
Just like guys with poor bicep, chest or back genetics having a great set of calves is within reach – it will just take more work compared to the guys with more favourable genetics.
Now if you are like most guys your calves routine consists of doing a few sets of calf raises at the end of leg day.
At this point you are tired out and just want to get out of the gym leading to a poor calf workout. If you want those calves to grow you really need to give them a lot of attention.
Tip 1 – Lift Heavier
If you are only doing bodyweight exercises for calves you can kiss any potential gain goodbye.
Your calves are used to supporting your bodyweight so in order to get them to grow you will need to add a lot more weight.
Some people compensate by doing tons of reps and while this might give you a pump it’s not hypertrophy-range training and won’t lead to growth.
This is what makes the seated calf raise such an effective exercise.
You are able to overload the muscles with heavy weight, safely.
That way you can lift enough weight to overload the muscles without putting stress on your back.
Most good seated calf raise machines will elevate your feet so that you can drop the heels below parallel. This increased range of motion makes each rep far more effective.
Tip 2 – Add in More Volume
While doing 100 reps of bodyweight exercise won’t do much for your calves, you should also avoid lifting heavy for very few reps.
Remember that your legs get used a lot throughout the day so they are used to working for extended periods of time.
Feel free to perform a few calves exercises with heavy weight for as many as 30 reps per set.
While this might seem like endurance training it is actually still hypertrophy since the calves are so used to endurance-type work.
Tip 3 – Contract the Muscle
This one should be obvious and applies to all muscle groups yet it never ceases to amaze us how many guys mess this up.
When you are training calves you really need to focus on contracting the muscle. It should feel like the calves are moving that weight!
Don’t rush through each rep – perform each positive and negative portion in a controlled manner. At the top of the exercise squeeze the calves to really emphasize them.
Remember – just because you are lifting heavy weights doesn’t mean you can simply drop the weight down during the negative portion of the lift!
Tip 4 – Add a Second Calves Day
While once per week might be sufficient for other muscle groups, your calves are used to getting a lot of work throughout your day to day life.
As a result, simply working them once per week might not be enough to stimulate them.
If you are like most guys you probably work your calves on leg day. While this is certainly one way to approach it, you have to keep in mind that your calves are already pre-exhausted from other exercises such as squats, leg extensions and leg curls. As a result you don’t have as much energy to really work the calves. Given that your calves can handle a lot of punishment why not add in a second calves day? This gives you an opportunity to work them after an unrelated muscle group such as back. The result is that you will be able to overload them more effectively and hopefully encourage more growth!
Tip 5 – Testosterone Levels
Like any muscle, your calves won’t grow if your testosterone levels are too low.
Now, we aren’t giving you permission to blame your girly calves on low t-levels, but if you are doing everything else right and still can’t get them to grow then you should get your t-levels checked.
Doing so isn’t cheap and will help you figure out if that’s the problem
There are a number of things you can do to increase your t-levels such as lift weights, improve your diet and take a high quality testosterone booster.
In fact, even if you already have normal t-levels it wouldn’t hurt to boost them even more so you make faster progress!