I swear to you guys that I train legs. I really do. I squat and deadlift with the best of them, and I’ve even taken pride in making my butt grow a bit bigger to fill out my pants.
But up until about a year and a half ago, if you were to see me in shorts you’d think I was a jabroni who skipped leg day. You’d point and laugh my Merica’s Chubbies right off me.
All because I was on #teamsmallcalves.
Calves are one of the trickiest body parts there is when it comes to getting them to grow. It’s almost like some people just have them, and some don’t. If you don’t have them, you know what I’m talking about.
What’s worse is that we all see people who are the definition of fit, who have shitty calves. While at the same time cruising through the soft drink aisle is some dude who has never lifted a day in his life and has calves that we’d kill for.
I hate to break it to you, but calves really are heavily influenced by your genetics. That doesn’t mean you’re destined to have shitty calves forever, but unless you start shooting up the drugs Ivan Drago had straight into your soleus, you probably won’t have calves that would make pro bodybuilders proud.
That doesn’t mean you should quit though. Fuck no. We’re not quitters, are we? You just need to know what the calves respond well to, and start implementing a plan. Luckily, that’s why I’m here.
First, a couple of things to know about calves.
- Calves have a very high tolerance for work.
Part of the job of your calves is to carry your lazy ass around all day long. They’ve done this for years, meaning they’ve built up an impressively high work capacity. This is especially true if you’re a former athlete. Thanks to all the sprinting, bounding, jumping, etc. your calves are used to plenty of work.
Because of that, you can’t just hammer them one day a week and expect great things to happen. They’ll recover too quickly, and the stimulus isn’t enough to force them to grow.
- Your Achilles is keeping them down.
The Achilles tendon is one of the most powerful tendons in the entire body. Like the calves, it’s got an incredibly high tolerance for work thanks to all the years of walking, running, playing, etc.
Most people when training calves actually wind up training their Achilles tendon without even knowing about it by getting a big stretch in the calf and immediately raising back up. This is just plain wrong, and you shouldn’t be doing it for calf work unless it’s at the very end of the training session and you’re looking for a nasty calf pump.
The workout to turn your calves into cows.
- Standing calf raise (on elevated platform for bigger stretch)
5 sets of 12
- Calf raise on leg press
4 sets of 8 – Change foot positioning each set. Point toes in, out, straight ahead.
- Seated calf raise
6 sets of 5
- Single leg calf raise, bodyweight
3 sets to failure
- Jump rope
8 sets of 30 seconds
*On each set, outside of jump rope, you’ll be getting a full stretch and holding that for 3 seconds to keep the Achilles from doing all the work. You’ll also be holding the contraction at the top for 3 seconds.
For maximal calf to cow transformation I’d suggest knocking this bad boy out 4 days a week for the next 6-8 weeks. I’m not kidding. It takes about 20 minutes or so, and the calf pump is unreal.
Wear your shorts proudly this summer bros, show off your cows.