Difficulties with calf training and tips how to overcome them

Stuck with small calves? Jolt some growth with these 2 quick tips.

David Barr, CSCS, USATF Exercise

Building strong and impressive calves is a goal for many bodybuilders and athletes, but to acquire them, you will have to pay the price: pain and discipline. Do you want to have the same calves as Schwarzenegger does? Well, for you to know, these great calves cost him 600 hours of painful training!

The importance of working on having good calves can’t be overstated. If you want to have a great body, you have to work on all groups of muscle and if you have small calves, it will really detract from the rest of your physique.

Calf training is not that difficult or exhausting, but I really don’t like it. The problem is that working my lower leg I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel satisfied with myself and my result. I just exercise standing in front of a mirror and I don’t see anything happening. Well, of course, I can see that my ankle is bending and my body is rising, but in fact there is no muscle contraction. Even the burn that I used to get as a 160-pound teenager is gone.

Force your calves to grow

All movements are controlled by the brain. The first step towards muscular contraction is a signal sent by the brain to your muscles telling them to contract. You might say that when the mind meets the body, mind-muscle connection occurs. This mind-muscle connection is crucial for any kind of muscle adaption, and is usually the first thing to appear when you begin training. But somehow, after a decade and a half my calves seem to have become only “dumber”.

And then the bilateral deficit falls down on your head. In this phenomenon the total force production of a bilateral lift will not be greater than the sum of individual efforts of a single limb. It means that doing unilateral work, you’ll be more successful in activation of mind-muscle connection and you will be able to force your calves to grow.

The following tips will help anyone, who faces difficulties developing calves.

1. How I’ve finally got muscle contraction

The calves are the most arduous muscle of the body to develop. Getting results in calf strength requires strong mental fortitude. You will have to work a lot to get the strong calves.

One of exercises that you might find useful is donkey calf raises. It sounds silly, but it’s a classic workout. And by the way, it’s a favorite of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s.

But somehow it didn’t work out for me. Everything what I’ve tried (exercise, foot position, varying weight, etc.) was useless. And a couple of weeks ago, on the advice of my friend, I decided to use the donkey calf machine. And I was really surprised and impressed by the machine, when I hopped on and felt a muscle contraction in my calves!

I did five sets at once, which is practically double I’d do on any exercise. But that was it! I’ve felt the muscle contraction I had been seeking for many years.

This begs the question: Why does this exercise induce such a strong contraction in the superficial muscles of the gastrocnemius? The answer is simply due to a stretch in the hamstrings, which carries over to the calves. And when a muscle is not fully stretched, it doesn’t really work. You have to fully stretch your calves between set and after trainings immediately. It will increase your mobility, boost the pump and, as a result, you will achieve growth in your calves.

2. Exercise two joints

To achieve more progress in your calf training, you have to work not only with one joint, but with both of them. And I would like to show you some exercise for this. I’d do leg curls (which is the other movement we’re concerned with), I’d point my toes down (plantar flex), essentially taking my calves out of the movement.

To activate gastrocs and make the exercise easier, someone would prefer do this exercise with toes pointed up. Try going through a full calf-training session and then some heavy leg curls (toes pointed up). You’ll notice the leg curls will be much more difficult if you pre-exhaust your calves. To mix it up, do the initial sets with a short range of motion at the peak-contracted phase, followed by partial sets using full range of motion.

Leave a Comment

Translate »