How To Turn Your Calves into COWS.
What You are getting yourself in for
Word Count - 1101 Words
Reading time - 5 Mins
Topic - Calves Training
The calves are something that A LOT of people lack or struggle to grow.
Just a heads up, there’s nothing crazy new or revolutionary in this article, but it may well be the thing you NEED to read to kick yourself into gear and run a good training protocol for your calves! First off, I think it’s important to note that the calves are most likely going to respond ‘slower’ to the initial stimulus of weight training - the rationale behind this is that you are training your calves since the day you can walk, we are on our feet most of the day and therefore the calves are already ‘trained’ prior to getting under a weight training stimulus. Look at postmen… they generally have HUGE calves and all they do is walk!
More often than not, people situate their calf training at the end of their sessions, EVEN when they are trying to bring them up.
This makes no sense to me; first of all, the calves require minimal energy output or recovery capabilities, but the overall intensity and ability to perform the moves well is important, so situating them at the end of a brutal lower body session, when all you want to do is go home, is a silly idea in my opinion. Alongside this, people just SKIP calves. They aren’t that fun to train, right? So people just end up leaving them by the wayside, grabbing their shake and heading home, wondering why they’ve still got small calves.
Train the calves first.
It won’t take away massively from your sessions, but it will allow you to get them DONE, out the way and then you can move on to the more important stuff, it sounds simple, but more people should take note of this tip!
Training the calves first will also allow for a greater thought process and thus potentially a greater mind muscle connection.
HOW TO TRAIN THE CALVES
First things first, the calves are the same to any other muscle group in which to grow them, we will require some form of overloading, so therefore, tracking your calf raises and progressing them is KEY, a lot of people will close up the log book when it comes to calves, your laziness will not give you any growth! Secondly, the stimulus is key, so jumping up and down with 100kg on the standing calf raise will NOT grow your calves, just like bobbing up and down on the leg press with 200+kg won’t either. We are talking about -
2 - 3 second CONTROLLED eccentrics.
A strong stretch at the bottom of the movement.
A powerful concentric.
Please apply this to every single calf exercise you do.
Calves usually 9/10 times get trained once or twice max a week, at the end of a leg session, and yet people wonder why they still aren’t growing their calves. In terms of the total AMOUNT of work you can do on your calves across the week, most people can recover and progress from a LOT of training volume, you could most likely get away with training the calves (with exercise rotation) 4 - 5 times per week, with up to 20 total work sets (across the week) - this is higher than most other body parts.
Just like anything else…
If you’re getting sore and not progressing - reduce volume.
If you’re progressing and not getting sore enough to effect the next session - you could MAYBE do a bit more.
In terms of loading the calves, I anecdotally have not found any benefits to heavy, low rep range work, the rationale behind this is because you tend to lose all mind muscle connection with the calves when loading anything below 8 reps in my opinion. I’d load between 50 - 70% of your 1RM, don’t cheat on the ROM and make progressions in the 8 - 12, 10 - 15 and 15 - 20 rep ranges.
My favourite and most programmed calf moves are -
Leg Press Calf Press
Standing Calf Raise
Seated Calf Raise
(In that order^^) - I honestly thing the leg press is the best due to the controlled ROM and you are able to get a stretch unlike any other variant in my opinion.
EXERCISE ROTATION & STRUCTURE
Most people are slightly limited on calf equipment at most gyms, but if you are in the lucky environment to have several options then I would rotate exercises on a session to session basis to allow for the most progression possible.
For example you could have -
Mon - Standing Calf Raise - 2 sets 10 - 15 + Leg Press Calves - 2 Sets 10 - 15
Wed - Leg Press Calves - 2 Sets 15 - 20 + Standing Calf Raise 2 sets 15 - 20
Fri - Seated Calf Raise - 2 Sets - 10 - 15 + Standing Calf Raise 2 sets 8 - 12
Sun - Standing Calf Raise - 2 Sets - 8 - 12 + Seated Calf Raise 2 sets 8 - 12.
Obviously you can switch through rep ranges and adjust as you progress, but this would be a good outline, adding sets to this wouldn’t be an issue either, likewise training the calves outside of an Upper Body Day doesn’t pose any issues with me.
The rationale behind changing the exercise rather than doing 4 total sets on one exercise is to allow the QUALITY of the training volume to increase, as you perform an exercise, that exercise fatigue will accumulate, switching it up therefore could be very beneficial.
Additionally, you’ll need phases of backing off to allow your calves to ‘catch up’ and adapt to the stimulus you have just put them through, so a de-loading phase where you reduce overall training volume & intensities is still integral for EVEN the calves.
OTHER ADDITIONAL TIPS
I have found anecdotally that my calves respond well to drop sets and forced isometric holds, this will be down to ‘ticking off’ the metabolic stress mechanism of hypertrophy, high reps and short rest periods, combined with some drop sets can be a great way to tap into some metabolite training.
I also do think doing calf training in olympic weightlifting shoes is pretty much a no-go as it limits flexion and thus reduces the ROM possible on calf movements, I’ve found the best footwear to be barefoot or nike free runs (trainers) - this is a very important point. THE MAIN TAKE HOMES
1 - Don’t skip your calves training
2 - Log & Progress your calves training like anything else.
3 - Train the calves with a multitude of exercises & rep ranges.
4 - NAIL your form and stay consistent with it.
5 - Don’t be afraid to train your calves very frequently.
6 - Become a postman.
Thanks for reading guys, see you in the next post. :)