Calves are definitely the most unpopular muscle group. When did you see someone with massive, ripped calves last time? Probably long time ago. And that’s not surprising when you analyze volume and exercises that people do for calves.
Every muscle group needs different amount of volume and intensity, but generally, you must do at least 3 exercises with at least 3 intense sets in each, for good results. And train the muscle group at least once a week. That includes calves and forearms. Why do people do 1-2 exercises for calves or a lot of exercises 2 times a month and expect something miraculous to happen?
But you are not alone. In fact, even bodybuilding king Arnold Schwarzenegger had real problems with his calves when he was younger. He explained in his bodybuilding autobiography book that he took a lot of photos in the water knee-deep, because his calves were weak and not up to par with his legs or other muscle groups. When he realized his mistake, he stopped hiding his calves, cut his gym trousers so everybody could see his weakness. And he started to train his calves like crazy.
That was the first step for bigger calves for Arnold. Second major improvement came when Arnold finally met his idol Reg Park and saw how much weight he is lifting for calves. He did 8-10 reps in calf machine with 500kg weight! Before that point Arnold greatly improved his calves and he thought he is doing really well. But turned out that Reg Park was lifting twice the weights Arnold did. So that was final piece of puzzle for Arnold and his calves. He went on to build some of the most amazing calves in bodybuilding.
So what did we learn from this?
Without gigantic weights your calves will be lagging behind forever. They are made for intensity and endurance, because average human does thousands of calf rises daily, when he walks. So your job is to put as much weight as possible, without sacrificing range of motion. Try to use more weight with each training session.
You can’t get away with 1-2 exercises for calves. Try to do this with your legs and your progress will stall. Calves are not that different. Blast your calves with variety of exercises each time you want to train them. Three exercises with 3-4 sets are good.
Calves and pain are inseparable. If you want to build big and powerful calves you will need to go through a lot of pain and suffering. But that’s okay. Pain is the prerequisite for growth, in bodybuilding and in life. Here is what Muhammad Ali said about pain: “I don’t count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count”.
You can’t grow your calves overnight. Or even in 6 months. It requires time. Arnold said that he spent around 1000 hours to build his amazing calves. That says it all. So be patient and keep working hard.
What are good exercises for calves:
- Smith machine calf rises
- Donkey calf rises
- Calf presses (on leg press machine)
- Seated calf rises (in Smith Machine too)
- Standing calf rises
That’s pretty much it. If you have some cable machines for calves in your gym, you can use them too, but only as the last exercises, like isolation movements. They are weak for building mass, but pretty good for defining your calves.
So start training your calves hard, starting from today!