Want Sculpted Calves? Work Them These Two Ways

by Allen Gil July 26, 2015

Want Sculpted Calves? Work Them These Two Ways

One of the misunderstood muscle groups seems to be the calves. It’s like we have a divided fitness nation when it comes this topic: Either we are completely obsessed with sculpting them or we totally neglect them because we couldn’t care less or think we can’t improve our calves. Like most divisive issues, there is a bit more middle ground to be had than the vanity-driven obsession or the neglectful “it’s all genetic” argument.

Dr. B is here to tell you that perhaps both sides need a fresh approach to successfully sculpting your calves.

Fresh Approach to Sculpting Your Calves

Your calves are a very unique muscle group, and while we can put together a great set of exercises to improve them (and we will) there is something else from a habit perspective that should change. I don’t care if you have the greatest single exercise to build muscle, if we always do the exercise at the end of the workout when we are the most physically exhausted, I doubt you will see much in the way of gains.

Who amongst hasn’t heard about starting with the largest muscle group, then working down to the smallest? This makes most of us do calf exercises last, if at all. What if it’s when we place our calf exercises within our workout that is causing us to struggle with developing them? This means it may be more than just the exercises themselves or the genetic predispositions we are dealt.[1]. I know, cue the Keanu Reeves memes, right?

Anatomy of Your Calves

Let’s nerd out for a moment: There are essentially two main muscles that make up your calves. You have your gastrocnemius (which you probably hear about more often of the two) and the soleus. Your gastrocnemius runs up your leg through your knee and is comprised of more fast-twitch fibers than the soleus, whereas the soleus runs down to your ankle and is comprised mainly of slow-twitch fibers. The gastroc is thought to be made up of approximately 51% fast-twitch muscle fibers, while the soleus has been found to contain up to 80% slow-twitch muscle fibers. (Green et. al, 1981)

If you are a human that is upright, you use your calves pretty much all day walking, balancing, and pumping blood through your legs.

The Two Calf Exercises You Need for Growth

What I am going to suggest, in addition to moving your calf exercises to earlier in your workout are these two tried and true movements. You won’t need a lot of weight or a lot of time.

First, you should get on the calf jumps train. While your calves only account for about 15% of the power in your jumps, doing calf jumps helps isolate their effective power, and really burns them out in a very short about of time.[2] Not only can you attack your calves like no other, you will really help generate great hormone level increases and even work a little cardio, if you want.

The second exercise is the standing calf raise[3]. This exercise seems boring or really hard because of the isolation people do when performing this exercise. This is wrong. This is actually one of the most diverse exercises you can do (foot placement changes everything). When you see the super intense guy with way too much weight standing and holding a calf raise, run, because this is not how you should approach this exercise. When performing this exercise you want to remember, you aren’t holding for too long, you shouldn’t be trying to max out weight, and never lock your knees.

Sometimes our plan can be our own worst enemy. It isn’t that our calves need tons of time or attention to improve, or we aren’t seeing gains because of our genetics, maybe we just need to work smarter and not harder.


[1] T Nation: 3 Reasons Your Calves Aren’t Growing https://www.t-nation.com/training/3-reasons-your-calves-arent-growing

[2]  Exercise of the week: Calf Jumps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlVYw3f3ptQ

[3] Instructional Fitness: Standing Calf Raises https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdGuHOh7vE8

Allen Gil
Allen Gil


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