The Science Behind Building Bigger Calves

by in Training February 27, 2018

This is going to be the ultimate calf training guide based on scientific research and practical experience.  But before we get into details, it’s important to understand that consistent training, tracking progress and progressive overload [1] is the foundation of the growth of any muscle. 

Let’s start with the anatomy of the calf (swipe left).  The gastrocnemius lateral head (LG) and medial head (MG) are the two main calf muscles most people see, so in this post, let’s focus on those.

Calf raises done in the standing position (first picture) activate the LG and MG better than the seated position. [2, 3] Foot positioning during a calf raise can further target the LG or the MG.  Toes pointed out prompt greater MG activation, whereas the internal foot position (toes pointed in) cause greater LG activation. [4]

Since calves are smaller muscles that require less recovery time than large muscles, training them 2- 4 times a week is a good idea.  Also, using different rep ranges, i.e. 8-10 and 12-15, can also be beneficial [5] with a focus on adding more weight and reps over time. [1]

Last but not least, 3 second pause/stretch at the bottom of each rep.  The type of muscle growth that results in the loaded stretch position is different than when in the contracted position. [6] So a stretch at the bottom might be the change you need from the usual bouncing up and down and time spent in squeezing in the middle and top of the rep.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11828249
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12173959
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20581696
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20581696
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26332783
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2711371/

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