Struggling to grow bigger calf muscles? You’re not alone. Lots of guys struggle to make gains on the lower part of their legs—but that’s probably because they’re not working smart.
Athlean-X founder Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. has one move he wants you to implement that truly will start getting those gains. As he notes, calf size can largely be determined by genetics, but they can be bolstered with smart, consistent training.
First, you need to understand the science of calf training. “The calf muscle attaches to the heel via the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon. This happens to be one of the strongest tendons in the body but yet, still the most frequently torn,” notes Cavaliere. He also notes that the Achilles tendon can handle up to 1,000 pounds of force, but because the tendon is so good at handling the ground reaction forces that start below it through the feet, it doesn’t necessarily transmit those forces up to the muscle that it is attached to so well.
“This means that the calf muscles (both the gastrocnemius and the soleus) do not experience the peak tension that they should from the forces generated below. Less force directed into the calf muscle itself means less contractile stimulus for growth,” says Cavaliere.
So how can you hit those calf muscles properly? The move he suggests is a calf raise. But in order to maximize your results, you need to make two major adjustments to the way you’re doing the exercise.
Adjustment 1: Train One Leg at a Time
“You’re going to be able to develop more tension into that calf and more focused tension than doing a simple dumbbell calf raise with both legs at a time where you can hide your imbalances in strength,” says Cavaliere.
Adjustment 2: Change the Tempo
“The way to do this at the ankle is to nullify the ballistic component of the moves that the calves favor. This means, no more bouncing your way through each rep of a barbell or dumbbell standing calf raise,” says Cavaliere. “In fact, the elimination of all momentum is going to be the key to unlocking bigger calves that is going to be a pleasant surprise for many that have chalked up their bad genetics to why they can’t grow big calf muscles.”
So how should you properly execute a dumbbell calf raise?
According to Cavaliere, stand on a platform and descend, holding the bottom position for four seconds in order to take all elastic rebound out of the exercise. From here, lift up high onto your toe and hold the top position for four seconds again.
“Keep performing these slow controlled reps until you can’t do anymore. Don’t worry about what the number is, but rather make sure to make these reps count,” says Cavaliere.
You should be performing three sets on each leg every day. (You read that right: every single day.)
“When you can exceed 10 reps per side, you need to increase the weight,” says Cavaliere.
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