T Nation

'Feeling' the Calves vs Higher Load


I'm a keen, younger (21) gym lover and was after the opinion of the vets on a calf training issue.

The scenario:
I'm due to push out 8-10 reps on the standing calf raise machine.
I can load it up to a max of 140kgs and push it up, hold, and come down and stretch, and make this rep range.
Alternatively, I can load it at 90kgs and make the rep range and feel the calves contracting and burning more by the time I finish the same rep range, with the same tempo, but I could push out 4 or 5 more reps if I wanted to.

The question:
If I am going for pure hypertrophy, in your opinion; is it better to feel the calves less but have them loaded with more weight, or use less weight and really feel them squeeze, assuming the range of movement and tempo are equal. Both alternatives mess with my gait when I leave the gym.

-I have this dilemma with a few other exercises, but none more obvious than the calves


I love the way you worded all of that. Using the words "keen" and "due" are great. Nothing bad at all, just very pleasant to read.

Anyway, on topic, I'd say always try to move the heaviest weight.

I've heard also that you can do 4 or 5 sets with really heavy weight (you can only complete 7 or 8 reps) then do a final burn out set that is lighter and with a weight you can do about 12 to 15 times. They say that trains ALL the muscle fibers.
Also I've heard this would work for other body parts too... 4 or 5 heavy sets with a burn out set after.


Why compromise for either particular aspect?

There's nothing that pisses me off more than people who want bigger calves and aren't willing to give DC-Calf training a chance, just because of the name that comes before it. Take a heavy weight on standing calf raises... squeeze the FUCK out of that weight with yout calves for a true 5-seconds. Then lower it slowly until your calves are fully extended with just your toes on the pad... and hold that for a full 15 seconds. Do 12 reps of this.

If you can't feel the shit out of your calves while training them with extremely heavy ass weight, and can walk fine afterwards, you're not doing it right.

But hey, what do I know, my calves are only just under 19".


But hey, what do I know, my calves are only just under 19".[/quote]

Yea but I think doing it that way turned your head pink. Don't look very cool with 19" calves and a pink head now do ya?

On another note that seems like a really long hold at the bottom 15secs really. I'm willing to give it a try...


Psh, everything you do looks awesome when your calves are big.




I also don't understand why each method is being treated as mutually exclusive. I use heavy weight, as well as full stretches and tight contractions. Heavy Weight doesn't have to mean sloppy, fast,or jerky reps. You should put the same mental focus into every rep with a heavy weight as you would if you were doing a lesser load, thinking that you had more in the tank after each one.



Agreed with Stu.

You don't have to pick a method and be married to it.

Personally, I would probably alternate weeks(or sessions depending on your frequency) of very heavy 6-10s and maybe 15-20s. Throw in intensity techniques if you want to keep things moving when the straight sets come to a stand still.

Doing them DC style ain't half bad either. You will certainly "feel" the calves that way and eventually work up to very heavy weights(if you can tolerate the pain at least). It's just 1 set...


I've tried the DC-style calf raises but everytime I did them my feet would slide off towards the end of the set due to the extended stretch at the bottom.

How do you guys keep this from happening?


I don't think that with the heavy weight option my reps are sloppy, fast or jerky. I probably should have elucidated that I am already using DC style rather than how I described my technique. I still find that, despite doing it DC style, if I really load the weight up I do not feel the calves squeeze anywhere near as much as when i use a lighter load and perform the exact same full range of motion.
As if there is some other muscle responsible for moving the load, which obviously there isn't.

Perhaps I'm the only one who experiences this, or I just can't explain it.

And thanks Akuma, I've already read your bodypart specific threads and got plenty of tips from them


THat's odd that the squeeze isn't as noticeable with a heavy weight,.. for most people I would imagine that the point of the ROM would be the easiest as far as bearing the actual load, and being able to consciously contract your muscle forcefully before reversing the motion. Still, I guess if I had to make a choice as far as your two options, I'd go for feeling the muscle actually doing the work over heavy weights every time.



We all ramp our sets, right? I concentrate on the squeeze during the work-up sets and then just pound the heavy weight for the last set or two. I've been training a bit differently than this lately, but I'm going back to this for calves.

Ramp with 12-rep sets until you can't get 12 reps on the last set. Focus on squeezing as hard as possible on all sets. It's next to impossible to squeeze with the top set or two, but try anyway. Then finish them off by dropping down to 60-70% of your top weight, and go to failure while once again concentrating on the squeeze.

I've added 3/4 of an inch to mine since... June, I think? May, maybe? Anyway, it hasn't been very long.


I did DC for a while. The calf protocol was the only thing that I flat out couldn't do, simply because of the pain...


If you're using a weight that you can't squeeze hard enough for long enough to fit the protocol then you're definitely using too much weight. Drop the go a little bit... unless you're Eric Frankhouser, of course.

Plus, are you doing the "double pop?" So when you're standing flat from foot-to-toe, you should be able to go up onto your toes with a slight contraction in the calves. Now POP it up one more time from there, and squeeze the fucking fuck out of them.


I've never read about the double pop. Where can I see info about this? I've seen one guy at the gym do it. He used to be the most jacked dude there weighing 210 lbs at 5'6".


Me too man. It was the most dreaded part for me. I wonder how many actually followed the tempo when they said they did it DC-style... I did the full-blown 15 secs stretch, 5 secs down, for 10-12 reps. Was fucking brutal, it felt like sometimes I was going to piss myself. I have no idea about the physiological reason for that but I'm not joking.

For calves, I like Joe DeFranco's input. Basically do 2 sets of calves for one minute long each, and make sure each rep is not just bouncing out of the bottom (i.e. really feel your calves working for a minute, and go conservative on the weight at the beginning).


I'm not sure if you're necessarily going to find any kind of information about it seeing as I'm really not sure if that's the technical term for it or not. But let me try to visualize it for you,

Stand up straight, feet flat on the floor and extend an arm upwards towards the ceiling. Now get up on your tippie-toes (without really contracting and squeezing them) and try to touch the ceiling. Now, squeeze the SHIT out of your calves trying to go up even more. For instance, if you can touch the ceiling with your fingertips, try to put your palm flat there. If you can't reach it, try to touch it with your tips. Does this make sense? A lot of people do calf-raises DC style with too much weight, thinking they're getting a good contraction when in actuality they're stroking their ego... training calves (speaking in terms of brutality) should come from the dynamic between the full contraction/full stretch, NOT using colossal amounts of weight.

Like, for instance, when I count out the 5 seconds I start counting when I achieve a true and full contraction, not a half-ass "I'm up on my tip-toes" type of deal. If I can't contract fully, then I know I'm using too much weight.

Sure, calves can be genetic, but people would have a lot meatier calves if they didn't train them like fucking retards all the time... looking like they're having a seizure on a calf raise/extension.


In Akuma's calves to cows thread they talked about the double contraction with calves, its near the top. This started giving me DOMS in the calves for the first time ever, I don't think i was ever properly contracting them beforehand.

Thanks you for the responses, everyone


I know what your talking about it happens to me too...maybe something to do with the achilles?


Ankle flexibility and mobility will/can have an impact on calf training. To what degree I can't really say.