Updated: May 13
Why are your calves not growing? What is it about calves that make them seem so difficult to grow that many people just stop training them altogether? Many people reach the false conclusion that it must be their genetics that prevents them from growing this muscle. Calf muscles are often overlooked in many fitness routines, but they are crucial for stability, balance, and overall leg strength. Developing strong and defined calf muscles not only helps with athletic performance but also improves the overall appearance of the legs. However, many people find it challenging to achieve calf growth despite regular exercise. Should you go heavy should you go high rep? The answer is both. If your focus is to grow your calves you should start with this muscle on the day you plan on training them. You have to find a rep range that gives you the best workout. Doing rep ranges as high as 12-25 reps is not unusual. The calf muscles are constantly being used, they allow you to walk, run, jump, and even stand. So sometimes high reps and substantial weight is the only way to stimulate growth. Let’s examine some of the exercises that are best for hypertrophy of the calves:
1) Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises are one of the most effective exercises to target the calf muscles. This exercise targets the gastrocnemius muscles, which are the two large muscles on the back of your lower legs. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and raise your heels off the ground as high as possible, then slowly lower them back down. Repeat this movement for several sets of a minimum of 12 repetitions. You can do this exercise on a standing calf raise machine, or a smith machine if one is not available in your gym. For the Smith machine variation, use a plate or a step as your platform and make sure you are able to reach full concentric and eccentric flexion on the movement.
2) Seated Calf Raises
Seated calf raises target the soleus muscles, which are located deeper within the calf muscle. The seated calf raise machine is available at most commercial gyms if your gym does not have one you can do a different variation. To perform the variation of this exercise, sit on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground, and place a weight on your lap. Raise your heels off the ground as high as possible, then slowly lower them back down. Depending on the stretch you want to feel you can also place a plate or step in front of you as a platform for the full stretch during the movement. Repeat this movement for several sets of a minimum of 12 repetitions.
3) Donkey Calf Raises
Donkey calf raises are an old-school exercise that also helps to build calf muscles. To perform this exercise you want to find a bench and stand parallel to it. Bend over to rest your forearms on the bench; you may use a slight bend at the knees. Lastly, raise your heels of the ground and then lower them back down. Repeat this movement for several sets of a minimum of 12 repetitions. Like the previous exercises placing a platform under your toes will accentuate the stretch.
4) Box Jumps
Box jumps are another great exercise to help with calf growth. This exercise targets the gastrocnemius muscles and requires explosive power. As stated in the introduction, calves are one of the main muscle groups that allow us to perform explosive movements such as jumping. To perform this exercise, stand in front of a box or step, and jump onto the box, then jump back down. Repeat this movement for several sets of 10-12 repetitions.
5) Reverse Lunges
Reverse lunges are an excellent compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, including the calves. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, take a big step backward, and lower your front knee towards the ground. Make sure to keep your front knee behind your toes, and your back knee hovering just above the ground. Push off your back foot, while flexing the calf, and repeat on the other leg. Repeat this movement for several sets of 10-12 repetitions.
6) Hill Sprints
Hill sprints are a challenging exercise that targets the calf muscles, as well as the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. To perform this exercise, find a steep hill and sprint up it as fast as possible, then jog back down. Performing sprints on an inclined treadmill works the same.
Incorporating a combination of the above exercises into your workout routine will help you achieve calf growth. Remember to perform each exercise with proper form and gradually increase the weight or intensity as your muscles get stronger. With patience and consistency, you will start to see visible improvements in your calf muscles over time. Do not be afraid to experiment with different rep ranges different foot angles, and weight.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.