I will admit it, I am part of the small calves crew. It is a body part that I have always struggled building and it is like that for countless other people. A lot of people give up and refuse to even train the muscle. While I have always been at war with my calf size, recently I managed to put on a solid quarter of an inch in 3 months.
Some of you reading may be thinking “Really? A quarter of an inch? That’s nothing”
Well if you’ve been training for over 14 years, a quarter of an inch is actually substantial! Especially on your calves. Before I go into exactly what I did, I want to go over some common mistakes I see all the time.
Mistake #1: Not a Priority
Rarely will people make their calves a priority in their training. They will slap on a couple of sets of calf raises at the end of their workout and call it a day. You need to make calf training a priority. Do it in the beginning of your workout when you are fresh.
Mistake #2: Frequency and Volume
Your calves are constantly being worked just walking around. They are used to high volume and frequency. Because of this, they are best suited to be trained A LOT. By a lot, I mean 5-7 times a week. Calves recover very quickly
Mistake #3: Not Eating Enough
You can’t grow if you don’t eat! This is the same for calves. If you are looking to put on size to any bodypart you need to be eating over maintenance. If you are at maintenance or cutting you will not put any size on your calves. Plain and simple.
Mistake #4: Intensity
Most people will load a 45 pound plate on each side of a calf raise machine and bounce around for 10-20 reps. This just won’t do. You want a good stretch at the top and the bottom of the movement. One of my favorites is to do 4 second pause at the top and 4 second pause at the bottom. With the pause at the top, squeeze your muscle as hard as possible. This can be very painful (in a good way) and will leave your calves pumped up.
Mistake #5: Variation
You need to mix up different types of calf exercises. Primarily different variations of seated and standing raises. Also throw in some anterior tibialis raises.
So what did I do specifically? Here are some bullet points
- Trained calves 6-7 days per week
- Various rep ranges. 10 reps all the way up to 50 reps
- Mixed it up with seated and standing variations
Here is an example week
Day 1: Nathan’s Steps of Death: This is a fun one I made up. Single Leg Calf Raises on steps using bodyweight. 30 reps one leg, 30 reps other leg. Immediately switching back and doing 25 reps one leg, 25 reps other leg. I kept doing this until I got to 5 reps. Then I switched to regular calf raises with 2 legs. 4 seconds top position, 4 seconds bottom position. Did that for 10 reps. And then did 10 regular reps. The first time you do this, you will be sore for days.
Day 2: Seated Calf Raises: 3×30
Day 3: Leg Press Calf Raises: 4×50
Day 4: Weighted Single Calf Raises: 3×10-15
Day 5: Same as Day 1
Day 6: Same as Day 2
Day 7: Same as Day 3
So there you have it. I wanted to challenge myself with hitting my calves every single day for a couple of months. I have never done this and did it as a “last resort” to put some calf size on. I am certainly content with my 1/4 inch.
Training like this has got me in the habit of training calves often. I am hoping I can continue to maintain the size I put on and possibly put on some more. If you have any questions at all on calf training or my program in particular just shoot me a message!