The calves can be one of the most frustrating muscle groups to train, and if you are one of those unfortunates that have always been cursed with skinny calves, this article may just hold the answers to your training success.
I have known more than a few bodybuilders in my time that have suffered the skinny leg and calve syndrome, many of them looking as though they should be in a comic strip, with their massive upper bodies that taper down to stick calves. It makes you wonder if they ever do any leg or calf work at all. I also know that these same bodybuilders do train their calves…like madmen in fact. It's not like they don't know that they have an imbalance, they just can't seem to spark the necessary growth.
Often the cry is, "I just don't have the genetics". Well here's the thing…if you have any calf muscle at all you can build them. Granted, those with the genetics for calf growth don't have to work as hard at it, but hey this isn't restricted to just one body part, genetics plays a role in the body as a whole. I am sure there is a body part that you train that seems to grow without trying.
Calves and Symmetry
Having well shaped and appropriately sized calves is important to a bodybuilder's physique and balance. The Greek ideal for symmetry is something close to having your calves, biceps and neck all the same size.
The Key to Growth
Your calves are stubborn, but you are just as stubborn and with this mindset you smash them with straight sets, super sets, descending sets, and you training them every day of the week. You feel at this point you have tried everything.
So what is the key to breaking down and building up those stubborn calves? It just may be something called the burnout rep.
Burn Out Reps
The basic principle behind a burn out rep (also known as a flushing rep) is to engorge the muscle with blood as well as stretch the underlying fascia, which allows the muscle more room to grow. Increased blood flow to the muscle helps deliver more oxygen and other factors that aid in recovery and muscle growth.
A burn out rep is done at the end of your regular set of an exercise, and is done with very light weight or body weight only. The reps are typically done to failure, but going to failure may not be necessary but ensuring that a high enough amount of reps are done to fully engorge the targeted area.
You should also train your calves 2 times per week with this method. You may notice a couple of changes early on, like increased vascularity. This is good, this means that your muscles are getting increased blood flow and able to absorb more important nutrients that help reducing recovery time which translates to more muscle growth.
Some Calf Training Tips
1. Ball Of The Foot & Toe Position
In order to place the resistance onto the calf muscle, make sure you focus the weight throughout the ball of your foot. To help isolate the different parts of the calf you can try pointing your toes outward for inner calves, and point the toes in for the outer calves.
2. Slow Controlled Reps
To avoid too much tendon involvement, make sure to perform all calf exercises with slow and controlled movements. The Achilles tendon is very strong and will take all the pressure from the muscle if this movement is performed too quickly in a protective response to avoid injury to the muscle.
A good guideline, is to do your reps with two seconds on the negative (downward portion) and one to two seconds on the positive (upward movement).
3. Burn Out
As an example, after doing some standing calf presses, do the burn out reps standing in the same position from the floor, this is done with just your body weight. For seated calf press, stand on the floor once again, only this time imitate the position of the seated press by bending the knees at a right angle holding onto something that supports you safely in this position.
For your calf training you should aim to do 2 exercises per calf workout. Combining exercises such as seated and standing for example.