T Nation

calves

I’ve seen Poliquin’s, King’s and various other explosive calf routines, just wondering if anyone has any unique, effective routines.

Yes, I have a routine. I’m quite proud of it, and I’m showing fantastic results. I honestly wish I could transfer some of the principals to other body-parts.

First off, calves are stupidly strong and stupidly high-endurance. They’re almost impossible to “shock”, but that’s what you have to do to them. Lots of weight and lots of reps are hard to do, and they adapt so quickly that it’s usually the foot pain that makes you back off.

I currently do “both” calves (sitting and standing) every three days, but that’s just to fit into my routine. I’ve also done them every day (by alternating the focus group) and responded really well.

To get calves to grow, you have to cause microtrauma to the muscle cells. One of the best ways (in my opinion) is to stretch out the muscle (under pressure) after the muscle has been forced to contract in a fatigued state. Muscle is like a gun. It takes ATP to force the muscle to contract, but the muscle can’t relax properly (stays contracted) if it currently doesn’t have enough ATP to relax it. So, what you want to do is stretch the muscle after it’s been drained of energy. That’s the theory. I’ve used information from here (it was summarized in one “Short Topic” quite nicely) as well as Bryan Haycock’s HST writings to develop it.

Here’s what I do. I get the calf machine set up on a “medium” weight setting (10-15 reps) and do the 10-15 reps. Then, I wait 10 seconds and bang out another set of as many reps as possible, sacrificing form for more reps. Then, when I can’t possibly do another rep, I hold the calves in a contracted state for as long as I can (avoiding cramping though).

When I’m too fatigued to continue, I release the weight and quickly increase the weight to a 3-4 rep range. I do as many as possible (uh, 3-4) and hold the last rep in a contracted state for as long as I can. This is designed to drain the energy from the contracted muscle as far as I possibly can. THEN, I slowly lower the weight to a full strech over 4-6 seconds and then sit in the fully-weighted fully-stretched position for at least an 8 count. This part is agony.

That will hit one muscle group (standing or sitting calves) and will generate growth for 2-3 days before it needs to be done again. This system is rather hard on the feet, and should be only used for 1-2 weeks at a time, with 1-2 weeks (I find equal treatment works well) of high-rep, high-set calf exercises to aid recovery of the tendons.

I know that it’s very quick - five minutes is spent on each calf group. That’s all it needs. My calves have been growing non-stop using this technique. Remember, to shock the calves, you need to do something unique.

Check out Don Aussi’s, worked a lot better, for me, than Poliquin’s (although Poliquin’s made my calves strong as hell), sorry I haven’t tried King’s. Oh, and it was listed in a Q&A colum. Best of luck.

You said you’ve “seen” these routines. Have you tried them? If not, why not?

El Machinae - You calve routine is brutal. I tried it tonight. My calves are still pumped and I am walking like I have to take a dump. If your ears are burning it is because I cussed you out for an extended period during the seated raises portion of my workout. Thanks…I think.

This is simple, and may sound too simple, but it works for me… do the following superset:

First do HEAVY calf raises, with a seated or standing calf raise machine preferably, with dumbells in hand if those aren’t available. Put the weight so high you can just squeeze out 6-10 reps. IMMEDIATELY following this, do unweighted standing calf raises until you cry. Then stretch, rest, and repeat for 3 sets. The heavy raises put on mass, the unweighted give a great pump, and definition/endurance.

Thanks Hedo - er, I think. Yeah, seated calves are funny too, because I sit (in pain) in the stretched position - not moving (in pain). It looks like I’m the biggest gym dork. THEN, I can’t even rack the weights again, so I have to just dump them on the floor.

The first time I did it, I hadn’t thought it through, and totally panicked when I realized I couldn’t rack the weight. Luckily, squirming eventually freed me. Now I’ve learned how to squiggle out without risking myself.

El thanks a ton for the info! Can’t wait to taste the pain. TEK, of course I’ve tried them, or I wouldn’t be so damn frustrated.

ive always had problems with my calves. i did waterbury’s 100 reps for a while, and that got my calves to a state where i could train them up to 4 times a week (yes, back to back days, they recover very fast), and bomb them each day. one of the most painful ones i did looked like this. 4 sets of a drop set of 4 on leg press calf raises (ie wide stance, 270-250-230-200 at a 10-8-6-6 rep range, minute rest, then narrow stance, then toes in, then toes out), then i put 80 pounds on the seated calf raise, and did reps for 2 minutes straight. i definetely started to hate life about 45 seconds into the “set”, and those last 15 seconds drag on, and feel like someone shot you in the calves. but hey, thats what we love.

DAYUM, El!..and as always…I agree with you 100%…the calves are truly unique…


Larry Scott pointed out once that the “problem” with calves is that everyday, since we were 1 year old or so, we have walked around essentially doing 1/4 calf raises!(That’s what walking involves). You simply can’t treat them like any other muscle and expect them to grow…they truly have to be “blasted”…


Boy, EL…your program scares me as much as Christian’s Ab Program!..but this is the the type of thing that you’ll have to do to make them grow…THANKS!

Ken, which t-issue had calve workout by Don Aussie, I was trying to search for that didn’t find it.

Try working them outside the gym. After all the years of lifting, I think that our calves get used to it, so you need to get away from the weights to really shcok them. I found that running up hills really gave me a shock, and playing soccer day after day really jolted them into growth.

by don aussi do you mean don alessi?

My bad, I meant to say Alessi…

Sorry guys, I kan’t spel wurth a krudd. Anyways, yes it is Don Alessi, and it is listed in “Iron Dog”, issue #188. Best of luck.

I have found to really get your calves to grow you have to make them hurt. High reps is the way to go. My workout usually starts out like this:Ex.1 Heavy leg press calve raises(toes pointed in)4 sets x 15-6 reps
Ex.2 Single leg heavy donkey calf raises(toes pointed out)4 sets x 15-6 reps
Ex.3 Seated calf raises; 4 sets x 15-6 reps
Ex.4 Reverse calf raises; 4 sets x 15 reps

One of the main things is to really work out the soleus muscle first, because it fatigues quicker, then go on and do the seated calf raise to really isolate and work deep into the gastrocnemius muscle. Also, make sure your movements are strict. Get that stretch at the bottom and pause at the top to get that pump.

Just like any other bodypart, try mixing up your rep schemes and loading patterns. Don’t do the same workout for weeks in a row. That being said, the “two minute set” or hundreds of reps, or unweighted reps, don’t do a thing for me. Except maybe build endurance, which is not why I lift weights. Try going heavy, and doing slow, controlled, full movements. Also, the pseudo “donkey” calf raise on a leg press (which elongates the hamstrings, I believe) is bad-ass. But go heavy, full range, and slow (meaning nothing over 15 reps) in my opinion. My 3 cents…

Thanks for the kudos. I’ll notice that both you and Hedo have at least dabbled in HST, and so the principals I’m using are a little bit familiar.

You touched on a really good point. We do a LOT of 1/4 rep (walking) and 1/2 rep (jumping) movements for calves. But rarely in day-to-day do we fully stretch the calves under a load (ie. where the heels go below the toes). That’s what I’m trying to hit with this routine (and I’m showing great results as I’ve said before).

I’m not using Christian’s ab routine, but I’m certainly incorporating some of those movements! I’m really careful with ab routines, and try to err on the side of low volume, because I don’t want ab fatigue to influence my other lifts! For the same reason, I never do calves before the Olympic lifts!

wrote something up that im gonna start next phase that you might like. im using your “static-hold at the end” principle, but im putting in a little twist. for example, you said hold after you finish that last rep. well what im going to do is something like this: say 15 reps on seated, hold the 15th for 30-60 sec like yours, then strip off about 10-20 pounds and rep out 5-10 more. (its not written yet, but if you want ill post it after i write it.) just a little something new.

That sounds like a very willpower-intensive system. With that volume, it doesn’t sound like you’ll be causing much microtrauma to the myosin fibres, but BOY does it look like a good system for increasing glycogen and anaerobic threshold in the calves! They should be heavily drained of glycogen and just burning with lactic acid. Then, your body will realize that it doesn’t have enough glycogen in the calves to live to your demands and SLAM more sugar in. I think that’s a great variation. Plus, you could probably do it decently frequently if your post-workout supplementation was good enough.