Although the dreaded leg day seems to slowly gain more popularity in recent years, we still get to see a lot of guys who sport an insanely ripped upper musculature on top of a pair of neglected chicken legs. Furthermore, when it comes to training legs, the calves are the lonely heroes that work so hard to support all compound movements but never get enough attention on their own. Say what you want, but we think that most people would agree that well-developed calves are a true respect-worthy attribute that looks pretty badass and these strong muscles should be more emphasized in the leg program of any bodybuilder who strives to build a proportional physique.
The typical approach to calf training revolves around high rep machine work, which bodybuilders believe is great for isolating the muscle and training it as hard and heavy as they want. But does this really yield great results? Judging from the calf size of most guys we see around the gym, we would say it certainly doesn’t. And the biggest reason behind this is that most bodybuilders seem to magically forget about the importance of weight progression when training their calves. The notion that the calves will only respond to a high rep stimulus is pretty stale and unreasonable, and instead of employing this method and reaping only frustration, we’ll show you how to hit your calves the right way for some impressive strength and size gains.
#1. Low Rep, Heavy Weight
Pick a weight that’s approximately your 10RM (10 rep max) for a certain calf exercise. Then, perform 10 sets with 3 reps each with 30 seconds of rest between sets. The next week, add 1 rep more and perform the same exercise with 10 sets with 4 reps each and 30 seconds of rest between sets. A week later go for 10 sets with 5 reps, and the week after that aim for 10 sets with 6 reps each, adding more weight at this point. You get the drill. Gradually increasing the number of reps and amount of weight will allow you to build bigger calves much faster than the traditional high rep training.
#2. High Volume Step Ups
Whether you like it or not, the fact remains that step ups are one of the best basic exercises for building your butt and calves. They are highly effective at improving stability and strength and allow you to work each leg individually. For optimal results, perform step ups 3-5 times per week for 20 to 30 minutes. The height should be somewhere between 6 and 12 inches, but no more than that. If you find step-ups excruciatingly boring, high hill climbs are an amazing alternative that provides the benefits of both intensively taxing your calves and enjoying nature.
In addition, we encourage you to go heavy on your calves in terms of weight – these muscles can take more than you think, so work them to their full potential. Use standing barbell calf raises for building explosive strength and power, and perform the reps off the ground and not standing on a wooden block.