6 Calf Training Mistakes That Limit Your Growth

There’s no other muscle group more stubborn to grow than the calves and this can be very frustrating for the average lifter who doesn’t like training his legs anyway – how long can you keep doing something that doesn’t produce any visible results?

Just before you call it quits, you should know that your problem could be caused by a few training mistakes that can be easily fixed once you spot them!

Read this article to understand what you’ve been doing wrong and discover how you can beat your calves into submission and build the powerful legs you want.

#1. Training Calves Last

If you’ve been saving calf work for the end of your leg workouts, your calves probably aren’t receiving enough training stimulus for growth. To really fatigue the muscles and achieve optimal hypertrophy, you need to hit them with the same intensity and focus as you do your quads and hamstrings.

Keep in mind that the calves are used to frequent low-intensity work throughout the day, so you won’t get a good training response if you only treat them with a couple of half-assed sets. To make sure they receive enough attention, put them first in your regular leg workout, or, if that’s not enough, add an extra calf day into your split.

#2. Stuck in the 10-15 Rep Range

Many guys are guilty of applying the same set and rep pattern to more body parts, which can be very ineffective and thus limit the gains they make. When it comes to calf training, you need to go out of the conventional rep range to exhaust the muscles and encourage new growth. Get out of your comfort zone – pick a lighter weight and aim for at least 25 reps per set!

#3. Not Targeting All Muscles Equally

Are you always training your calves in the same way? If yes, then you’re not effectively training all parts of them. Your calves are made up of the gastrocnemius muscle, which represents the inner and outer head of the calf, and the soleus, which runs underneath the gastrocnemius.

When you perform standing calf exercises, the primary movers are the gastrocnemius muscles, and when you do calf exercises with your knees bent, the soleus muscles take over. Make sure your routine includes exercises that train both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle, and you’ll quickly notice great improvement.

#4. Using Too Much Weight

While it’s true that you need to target your calves with heavy weights to stimulate maximum hypertrophy, there is a fine distinction between adequately heavy and too heavy. Using excessive weight won’t promote better gains – instead, it will decrease the muscle-building potential of the movement and increase your risk of injury. How can you know if you’re going too heavy?

Check your form. If your ankles are getting out of line with the rest of your leg during any part of the movement, you’re unable to complete each rep with proper form and without needing assistance from the quads, and you often feel pain in the arch of your foot or the Achilles tendon, you’re using too much weight. In this case, your calves won’t get optimal training stimulus while your joints and tendons will receive unnecessary stress, which is really bad news!

Form should always come before weight, so reduce the poundage and focus on completing a full range of motion and achieving a full contraction at the top of every rep.

#5. Failing To Isolate And Fully Contract Your Calves

Regardless of what you’ve read on the internet, completing a full range of motion is a key precursor to significant muscle growth, and there’s literally tons of scientific evidence that support this claim.

We don’t have anything against partial reps when they’re used correctly, but most guys with skinny calves tend to perform partial reps in the midrange of the movement and fail to achieve both a full, hard contraction at the top and a full stretch at the bottom of the rep.

This way of training will bring you the same amount of gains that regularly bouncing the weight would, which is zero! To get maximum benefits, you need to focus on doing the exercises the right way: full contraction, slow negative, full stretch. Keep the tension on the muscle all through the movement. At the top of each rep, get up on the balls of your feet and push as high up as you can while squeezing the muscles as hard as possible, then really stretch the calf at the end of the rep.

#6. Extreme Toe Angles

Having your toes pointing straight ahead will equally target the inner and outer heads of the calves; pointing your toes in will primarily train the outer heads, and pointing your toes out will help you better exhaust the inner heads. That being said, less is more.

You don’t have to point your toes in or out more than an inch to achieve strong emphasis on different heads of the muscle! Anything more than that will place your legs in an akward position that reduces calf activation and cause undue strain on the joints and ligaments, thus increasing your chance of injury.

Now that you’re aware of the major don’ts of calf training, try this highly-effective calf workout!

The Monster Calves Workout

  1. Standing Calf Raises: 6 x 20-30
    – The last two are triple dropsets; use weights that make you fail at 10 reps.
  2. Seated Calf Raises: 6 x 20
    – The last two sets are dropsets; use weights that make you fail at 10 reps.
  3. Calf Press On The Leg Press Machine: 4 x 30
    – To maximally activate the gastrocnemius and soleus, maintain a slight bend at the knees.

Perform this routine twice per week for 3-6 months and watch your calves grow!

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