You have everything in place, shoulders, Chest, Arms, Back, Abs, and even your Quadriceps and Hamstrings. But one thing which simply refuses to grow, no matter what you do, are your Calf Muscles.
What do you do? Are you the kind of person who is really frustrated looking at your calf muscles? If yes, then this article is for you. It will primarily focus on breaking the plateau of your calves.
Here are 5 ways by which you can improve your calves’ musculature, but before that let us know about the major calf muscles.
Calf muscle types:
There are two major calf muscles named Gastrocnemius and Soleus. Both of them combined are called the ‘Tricep Surae.’
The tip here is, if you want to grow your Gastrocnemius, do your calf exercises with knees locked out or in simple words, keep your knees NOT bent. To grow and target your Soleus Muscle, keep your knees Unlocked or rather just keep your knees bent during your calf exercises.
5 ways to break the calf plateau:
1) Rep Ranges and the timing of your calf workouts:
So are you one of those who always does his/her calf workouts after doing all the leg workouts and still not getting any output?
Try this. Begin your leg workout session with a calf workout. Go hard in your very first exercise when you are still fresh and less fatigued.
So should I always do high repetitions in my calf workouts? No.
The Gastrocnemius is majorly a Fast twitch muscle fiber which responds better to lower reps and heavier weights.
Soleus is majorly a slow twitch muscle fiber which response better to more reps and lesser weights.
In fact, there is a research which says that muscle protein synthesis of Soleus muscle is very poor when it is put under micro trauma using the same number of sets and reps which you would do with other body parts.
That surely means you cannot train the soleus muscle the way you train your other body parts.
2) Frequency in training:
Many people make a mistake of training their calves just once a week.
The calf muscles recover very soon and there is no point in waiting for 6 more days to train them.
I would say train them twice or even thrice a week.
3) Best Exercise for your calves:
This is debatable, but let me list down best exercise for each calf muscle
- a) Smith Machine Calf Raises or Standing Machine Calf Raises:
This is hands down the best exercise according to me for your Gastrocnemius.
Go heavy here and keep the rep ranges 8-10. A tip here is to lock your knees out and not let it bend. If it’s bending during your movement, probably the weight is too heavy.
Never ever bounce the weight here. Many people do the mistake of bouncing the weight off which can potentially lead to an injury to your Achilles’ tendon.
Do the movement being in control. You can add some elevation under your feet for better muscle contraction.
- b) Seated Calf Raises
This primarily targets your Soleus muscle.
You can go for higher repetitions here like say 20-25.
If your gym doesn’t have seated calf raises machine, you can improvise smith machine or DB calf raises. Only Perform Dumbbell/Smith machine calf raises for Soleus if seated calf raises option is not available.
When you are performing DB/Smith machine calf raises, very important is to make sure not to lock your knees out and keep a slight bend, so that the micro trauma happens right at your soleus muscle.
Irrespective of your number of repetitions, always add number of sets, i.e. more Volume.
4) Blood Flow Restriction:
If you are training your calves for years and still don’t see any improvement, one way to shock your muscle fibers is to perform BFR training for your calves.
BFR training has shown to improve and promote muscle growth is multiple types of research even without lifting crazy amount of weights. It has also shown to increase your GH by 290 times above your baseline.
5) Break the Rules:
Now if you are one of those who tried all the above four methods and still cannot see your calves grow even if your nutrition and your patience level is on point, then the time has come to break some conventional rules.
As opposed to what I mentioned in the first point, try doing something different here.
Select a day on which you have planned your calf workout, start your exercise session with a calf workout but go crazy here with a number of sets you will do. You can try this at the end of the workouts too.
For example, try doing 30 sets here for each calf. Say 15 for Gastrocnemius and 15 for the soleus.
Go for heavier weights and lesser reps for first 7-8 sets and in rest of the sets go for very light weights and reps till failure. The idea is to traumatize your calf to the core.
Try this once a week, and another day of the week you can carry on with the regular calf workouts and watch your calf muscles grow like crazy.
Happy lifting. Stay Healthy.
Article Credits – Matin Sheikh
3) ISSA CFT Course book 9th Edition.