Building big calves is a challenge for most bodybuilders. For some, calf training is frustrating and confusing. This is because the calf muscles are structured differently than other bodypart muscles and must be trained differently to force muscle growth. The calf muscle group is composed of two muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus.
The gastrocnemius is the heart-shaped muscle at the top of your calf area and is exercised best when the heels are raised with straight legs (knees locked). The soleus lies under the gastrocnemius and is trained best with the legs bent, usually at a 90 degree angle. The soleus requires higher repetitions for growth because it has around 90% slow twitch fibers. The gastrocnemius needs higher and lower repetitions to stimulate a 50-50 balance of fast and slow twitch fibers.
Both of these calf muscles are built for endurance and do not fatigue easily. When they do fatigue, they recover quickly. As a result of these structural and physiological differences, the calf muscle group must be trained differently.
To effectively stimulate growth in your calves you must do the following:
1. Exercise with full range of motion. Many times, I see calf trainers using a partial rep or bouncing technique when doing calf raises. They’re using a weight that’s too heavy, which results in only being able to attain a partial range of motion. Select a weight for your calf raises that will allow you to raise and lower the weight through the entire range of motion.
For instance, at the top of your calf raise, you should be able to “lock your ankles”. At the bottom of your calf raise, you should be able to get a full stretch of your calf muscle. If you cannot do this, then your weight is too heavy. It’s not how much weight you use…it’s how you use the weight.
2. Contract the calf muscle. At the top of your calf raise, you should pause a second and contract the calf muscle hard before beginning the lowering portion of the repetition. This contraction will further fatigue the muscle to stimulate growth.
3. Stretch the calf muscle. In addition to holding a momentary stretch at the bottom of your calf raise, you also need to perform a 30-second stretch of the calf muscles after each calf exercise.
4. Accentuate the negative. When lowering the weight during a calf raise repetition, slow down your descent. The descent portion of the calf raise is the eccentric or “negative” part of the repetition. Take about 2-3 seconds to perform the negative part of the repetition.
To build bigger calves, you must focus on these four principles. Calf training cannot be a casual thing. You must concentrate on the basics to truly achieve good results. For more information of effective calf and bodybuilding, training techniques, visit this site for a FREE e-book.