In life, there are two ways of doing things if you really want to see some new levels of changes. For many situations, slow and gradual is the way to go. You don’t just spin around a cruise ship – you plan a very slow and gradual turnaround. You don’t just ‘shock’ a corporate culture into a new direction – you develop and implement a measured and control shift in resources and tasks. For many of the established, well-grounded institutions in life, the only way to create new change is to slowly alter small items until the big item points in a new direction.
Then, there are other situations, in which the only way to truly affect any sort of new changes is just to blow things up! If you need to demolish a building, you don’t do it brick by brick. Rather, you load up the TNT and make it a very loud morning. If you need to end a relationship, you can’t just slowly withdraw your heart inch by inch over a series of months. It’s far less painful to just tear off that Band-Aid and get it over with. And when you’re looking to spurn some growth in your stubborn, underdeveloped calves, the tried and true method of “slow and steady” simply isn’t going to work. You have to shock those baby cows if you want them to grow!
Attacking your lower legs with a combination of higher repetitions, more weight, and unique set & repetition schemes is going to be your best play for making those small, unimpressive calf muscles morph into something which makes you want to show off your calves. Let’s check out a few angles of approach which you can use to shock-bomb your calves into some new and immediate muscle growth and strength gains.
Most trainers in the gym have a body weight of 150 to 220 pounds. And on my calf exercises, they will utilize a weight somewhere in the ballpark of 100 to 250 pounds. In other words, after subjecting their calves to the daily tasks of walking around, climbing stairs, and standing for hours at a time, they will enter the gym and expect to see radical changes to calf size by moving the exact same amount of weight. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Go heavy on calf day, like you never have before. Use a buddy, load up on caffeine, or just plain drop the belief you can’t train with more weight. Heavy repetitions with fewer repetitions is something your body hasn’t seen, and it will force your calves to grow. Lifting your body weight over and over has gotten you this far… are you satisfied?
You’re going to be using more weight, which means your current sets of “8 to 20” repetitions are quite possibly going to be much shorter (in the 4 to 8 repetition per set ballpark). However, this doesn’t mean you are going to be completing any fewer repetitions each workout. Compensate for the reduction in repetition volume by pumping up your set volume! Instead of three sets of each movement, you can bump that up to 5 sets per movement. Toss in a new exercise or two. Aim to continue the same amount of repetitions per workout, with more weight and shorter sets.
This detail is one which is overlooked in many of the perpetual “stay ripped year round” crowd present in many gyms. Abs are nice when you have them 365 days each year. However, by adding just a bit of weight to your frame, you can spurn new muscle growth all over the body. New inches of calf mass will weight several pounds. Consuming 500 additional calories each day ends up totaling 3500 calories per week, which is the equivalent of one pound each week. Your calves will show the bulk of this new muscle gain if you’re training them hard and furiously.
Most people train hard, eat right, and sleep regularly, but fail to stretch their calves on a regular basis. What they don’t realize is that a great deal of waste can build up in the lower legs when training in a brutally heavy manner. Lactic acid can cause pain while training, and a buildup of waste byproducts from training can make DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that much worse for days to come. Spend a few minutes massaging and stretching your lower legs each day, and you’ll likely notice you recover much faster from training. This may even allow you to squeeze in a few additional calf workouts each month, which can lead to some serious new growth!
Never complete the same calf workout twice. Always find a way to force your lower legs to do something which was different from the last time you entered the gym. A new angle on calf raises, a new 1 pound added to the bar, a new rest duration, a new stretching pattern, or just a new spot in your weekly training. Mix things up any way you can to keep your calves continually guessing. Muscles will adopt to ever changing workloads remarkably fast, so you should record each effective change and use it again, down the road!
As with all things lifting, patience is a major key in realizing new gains. At the same time, however, slow and gradual adjustments to your calf training simply won’t allow you to see monster changes, no matter how patient you are willing to be. Snap out of your current calf rut and shock your calves into new size, shape, and definition with more weight, more repetitions, and a training schedule which always keeps them guessing. Good luck!