T Nation

Help Adding Size to My Calves


Is there anything I can do to help improve the size of my calfs?

when i flex they look great, they tie in high so its like i have a nice ball at the top of my leg but they just arent big when compared to the rest of my upper leg

i mean they are strong as shit, ive went heavy weight, (700 pounds on calf raises) for 10 reps, to as much as huge supersets of 75 reps with 500 pounds, they never seem to grow they just get and stay rock hard and strong as shit.

i know certain things are genetic but there has to be a way to break past genetics? anyone can help with any hints or idea that I could possibly try.


Day 1............................

Standing calf raise Machine

10 x 10
2 minutes rest between sets

Skip Rope for 5 sets of 2 minutes

1 minute rest between sets

Day 6.............................

Seated calves raises

4 sets of 15 reps,
3 minute rest between sets

with 3 second hold at top, 2 second stretch at bottom.

Day 11......................

Donkey Calf raises

5 sets of 5 reps

Supersetted with barbell jump squats

5 sets of 8

3 minute rest between sets.

Repeats cycle 6 times....


This is one of the few things I've used by Charles Poliquin that actually worked very, very well. Prepare to be limping for the next week or two:



I agree with Nate Dogg, this program works BIG time but I'd like to add a warning.

Take the first two weeks to "ease" into the program otherwise you wont limp. you'll need a wheelchair. Trust me , I KNOW.


How would you do donkey calf raises if you train alone? It requires additional weight, right?


Remember to think of the function the calves serve. They are constantly being used in a high rep plyometric manner. CT has written how the achilles tendon is the most effecient tendon in the body for converting PE into KE. Therefore, one must negate those effects to stimulate the gastroc.(triceps surae) to grow.

A deep 4-5 second stretch in between reps with a maximal contraction coupled with very heavy weights should do the trick. Apply these little tricks to the exercises people are suggesting.



This one is good too.


There is a machine you can do them on, but I doubt every gym has one (mine did). You could always get someone to sit on your back and perform them the "natural" way. Or use a dip belt and put a ton of weight on it, stand on a board or the calf machine, and do them off that.


What's the real difference between a standing calf raise and a donkey calf raise? Does it place different emphasis on your muscles? Does it allow you to work them differently?


thanx for the replys, ill give it a try today in my leg workout


Wondered that as well. From the info below it seems, 'not much difference at all'.

Some info below:

The Gastrocnemius

The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two major calf muscles and it gives shape to the rear lower leg. It is located at the top back of the lower leg and it extends from the knee joint to the ankle joint. It is composed of two heads (medial and lateral) that lie next to each other. The gastrocnemius can be easily seen when it is well developed and accompanied with low body fat. This muscle portrays that well-known diamond shape or the appearance of an upside down heart.

Best Targeted

The gastrocnemius is best targeted with straight legged-heel raises, such as donkey calf raises and standing calf raises. Some people put a slight bend in their legs to relive some pressure, but this will only target the soleus more, putting less emphasis on the gastrocnemius. If you are going to train the gastrocnemius, lock your knees to target it solely. Don?t bring other muscles into play.

Donkey raises are superior to standing calf raises due to the position it puts you in. The gastrocnemius ties in with the hamstrings at the back of the leg. When you are in the bent over position, the hamstrings and gastrocnemius are stretched out, giving the donkey calf raise an advantage over standing calf raises, due to the intensity and localization.

The gastrocnemius muscle responds well to heavy poundage, using more sets and fewer repetitions, due to the great number of fast-twitch (white) muscle fibers.

The Soleus

The soleus is the smaller, yet slightly wider, of the two major calf muscles. It is not visible because it lies under the gastrocnemius. The soleus muscle gives width to the back of the lower leg.

The soleus comes into play in many endurance activities. The gastrocnemius usually has a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers or an equal number of fast and slow-twitch fibers. This allows the soleus to take over in many cases when the gastrocnemius becomes fatigued.

Best Targeted

The soleus can be best trained with any bent-knee exercises, such as seated calf raises. The gastrocnemius is not strongly involved in this movement.

The soleus responds well to light weight, fewer sets, and more repetitions since it is composed mainly of slow-twitch muscle fibers (red).


The anterior tibialis is located at the front portion of the lower leg. A well-developed anterior tibialis adds more depth and symmetry. It will make your calves appear larger from the front and side.

Best Targeted

This overlooked muscle can be best trained with toe raises. Simply place the heel of your foot on a platform, such as a weight plate placed on the floor. Place a dumbbell across your foot and raise your toes as high as you can in a controlled fashion. Lower and repeat.


Gastrocnemius - donkey calf raises and standing calf raises

Soleus - seated calf raises

Tibialis - toe raises

And another source:

"Data indicated that there was no significant difference between the main exercise effects on the gastrocnemius for the donkey calf raise (80) percent) and the standing one-leg calf raise (79 percent). There was, however, a significant difference between the main effects for those two exercises and the standing calf raise (68 percent) and the seated calf raise (61 percent).


The results show that donkey calf raises and standing one-leg calf raises produce the greatest amount of muscular electrical activation for the gastrocnemius. Although there's no significant difference between the two exercises, donkey calf raises still produce 1 percent more activation.


% EMG Max
1) Donkey calf raises
2) Standing one-leg calf raises
3) Standing calf raises
4) Seated calf raises


Both emphasize the gastrocnemius and I want to say the exercises could be interchanged as long as you keep your legs straight. However, it is very easy to cheat at the end of a standing calf raise by shrugging the weight. Luke may have used Donkey Calf Raises on the high volume day because keeping strict form with low weights is imperative while calling for Standing Calf Raises on the low volume day allows you to sacrifice a little bit of form for a greater muscle overload.

...that's all


So...if you don't have access to a seated calf raise machine, could you do standing calf raises with you knee reall bent as a substitute?


Rather than doing that, I would sit on a bench with my toes elevated on a plate and place another plate across my knees.


You don't need to train your calves.
It is much easier to get really fat and stay that way for about 2 years. Then lose the weight and you will have big calves.

Why Tan when you can just get high blood pressure.


Strength training shoes. They are a bit uncomfortable, but if worn everyday, they will add some size to your calves. I have skinny calves and after a week of wearing them whenever possible, my calves seem a bit stronger and they "look" bigger. I'll have to measure to keep track of progress on them.


Jump roping also builds pretty nice calves.


Could you use a smith machine with a pad and load it up in place of a donkey calf raise?

Just a thought.


I think that with Donkeys, because the hamstrings are stretched, they signal the gastroc to flex harder.