Calf Training 101
I wish I had a pound every time I heard someone in the gym say that they have “stubborn calves”, I’m pretty sure I would be a rich man by now, 7 years into my career! The problem when it comes to calves is that people don’t give them the same attention as other muscle groups. Guys will spend a whole hour training arms, doing 20-25 sets, drop sets, super sets, you name it, throw the kitchen sink at arms to make them grow. When it comes to calves, the average gym-goer will do 2-3 sets at the end of leg day when they are exhausted and then expect their calves to grow!
Newsflash…your calves are the same as every other muscle in your body and they need the same attention. Below I have given you 6 of my top tips to get your calves exploding into NEW GROWTH!
If you have weaker or “stubborn” muscle, you need to increase the frequency you train that muscle. I have had the most growth and success training my calves x3 a week – Monday/Wednesday/Friday. I suggest you start each workout with calves and then go onto train whatever your split is that day. Initially you’re going to be suffering from some brutal DOMS but your body will soon adapt to the frequency. Maintain this higher frequency for 6 weeks (18 calf sessions in 6 weeks) and then drop back down to 1-2 sessions per week.
The Perfect Rep Range
There is no right answer when asked, “What is the perfect rep range for calves?” I always say the answer is to put your calves through an almighty variety. This means going heavy for as low as 3-4 reps and then doing high volume sets going up to 100 reps. For example; if you are now training calves 3 times per week, have one heavy session which you work in the rep ranges of 3-5 reps, have one session hitting 15-20 reps and then in your last workout go high reps and shoot for 50-100 rep sets with a light load.
This can be a great way to force new growth into your calves. Next time you’re in the gym try the following; perform 4 sets of 12 reps but with each rep you must pause in the stretched position (heels at the bottom) for 5s. This is a great way of extending the time under tension but be warned, leave your ego at the door because you’re going to have to lower the weight to complete these sets.
This is my number-one favorite training variable for calves and it can be used for any other muscle group too. Pick a moderate weight, something you will reach complete failure at around 30 reps with. When you reach failure take a 10s rest, and then get straight back on and keep chipping away at the reps. Your goal is to complete 100 reps in as few a sets as possible.
Flip Reverse It
As well as “Flip Reverse” being a tune from Blazing Squad back in the day, what I actually mean by this is flip your workouts around. 99% of the time calves will be performed at the end of your workout when you’re the most tired and fatigued mentally as well as physically. Try starting each workout with calf training when you’re fresh so that you can put more into your sets. This will be the simplest change you ever make to your training but can make a huge difference.
You don’t always have to stand feet shoulder width apart with your feet pointing straight. If you have 4 sets, change your foot position each time. Try toes in heels out, toes out heels in, feet wide and feet narrow. Every time you change that foot position you are hitting those calves from a slightly different angle.