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Body Part Blitz: Calves


Build calves everyone will be envious of...

For many people, slow growing calves are an endless source of frustration.

There are plenty of theories as to why your calves tend to grow at a slower rate than other muscle groups.

Some claim that the muscles in the calves contain primarily slow twitch muscle fibers, and need to be trained with high repetitions.

Others think that because your calves are designed to support your body weight, they need the stimulus of a heavy weight to promote growth.

The fact is, genetics play a large role in determining the appearance of your calves. I've seen plenty of guys with fantastic calves who do little or no direct calf work at all!

Before we look at how best to stimulate growth in your calves, it's worth knowing a little more about their anatomy.

Located at the back of your lower leg, your calves consist of two muscles - gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius is the muscle you can see when viewing the calves from behind. Soleus lies underneath gastrocnemius.

Although both muscles are involved in an action called plantar flexion (which involves raising yourself up on your toes), the degree to which each muscle contributes to plantar flexion depends on whether your knee is BENT or STRAIGHT.

Your gastrocnemius crosses the knee joint, whereas the soleus crosses the ankle joint only. When your legs are straight, BOTH gastrocnemius and soleus contribute to plantar flexion.

However, when you bend your legs, soleus performs most of the work.Soleus comprises mostly slow-twitch muscle fibres. Gastrocnemius on the other hand is comprised of mainly fast-twitch muscle fibres. So you’ll be using a combination of both heavy weights/low reps and lighter weights/high reps to really work the calves and help them to grow.

Standing Calf Raise 4 sets x 5-8 repetitions (2-3 minutes rest between sets)

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your toes should be on the block, with your heels extending off the back. Place your shoulders under the pads and raise your heels onto your tip toes keeping your knees slightly bent. Return to the starting position.

Seated Calf Raise 2 sets x 12-15 repetitions

Sit on the seated calf machine, ensure your heels are hanging off the edge. Raise your heels so all your weight is on the balls of you feet, hold, then lower down until your calves reach a full stretch.

Donkey Calf Raise 7 sets x 8-12 repetitions (30-45 seconds of rest between sets)

Stand on a small bench or platform, with enough room for your heels to hang off the edge. Bend over, and hold on to something stable so your torso is parallel with the ground. Flex your calves, raising yourself up as high as possible before returning to the starting position where your calves are stretched, heels hanging off the edge.

This final exercise is to be done in FST-7 style. The term FST-7 was coined by Hany Rambod, a trainer and nutritionist to a number of champion bodybuilders. FST stands for Fascial Stretch Training and the seven refers to 7 sets performed. There’s minimal rest in between sets in order to get the best pump possible.