T Nation

Running for Calf Hypertrophy?

I have a hard time adding size to my calves, yet I have pretty strong calves (I frequently work them out and with heavy weights for 10-20 reps). However, I have noticed they do not get as sore as when I run for 5 miles/session.

So this leads me to ask…is my calf soreness from running a sign of possible calf hypertrophy?

Below is a snapshot of what I do for my calves

Single Calf Raises
set 1 - 135 (3plates) 10x SuperSet with Double Calf Raises of 180 (4 plates) 20x
set 2 - 135 (3plates) 10x SuperSet with Double Calf Raises of 180 (4 plates) 20x
set 3 - 135 (3plates) 10x SuperSet with Double Calf Raises of 180 (4 plates) 20x

HackSaw Squat Calf Raises
set 1 - 490 20x
set 2 - 490 20x
set 3 - 490 20x

Im 6’1 195
comparable lifts
bench - 265 7x
squat 275 8x (I know squats weak)
deadlift 345 6x

I kind of adopted a similar DC style of training calves. The gastroc muscles are used to a fast contraction and relaxation when running/walking. If you train your calves slow holding the contraction at the bottom of the movement for 15 seconds and at the top of the movement for 5 seconds you will feel a better burn and IMO get better results.

I pick a weight where I can do one set to failure with the style of reps outlined above. I usually fail between 12-15 reps to give you an idea of how much weight you should be using. This is done after a few warm up sets of 12 reps or so w/out the pausing at the top/bottom of the contractions.

Running a lot will keep your calves small as well :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: lol

Calves will hypertrophy from running but you will not build massive calves from running. I’ve never seen anybody build a massive amount of muscle anywhere that ran a lot.


if doing calves once a week (not sure how many times a week your training calves); go to twice a week or even 3 times a week; calves have very good recuperative powers and the training effect for some people may be lost on a once a week program.

I like heavy standing barbell calf raises in a squat rack with a one second hold at the top position. Sets between 8-20 reps, worst part is the cramping, especially when you just start them. Just make sure you transition onto you tippy tows without rotating your heel outward. Usually performed once a week.

Gerdy, you will hypertrophy your calves by running? I thought that the force production requirements were low(comparatively) and the excessive amount of volume is actually a catabolic stimulus. There is no real overload or stimulus requiring larger stronger calves by running, unless you are essentially untrained.

I think calf training is very misunderstood. I say this even though I have small calves.

I dont want to get branded as one of those “functional” types, but I think if people trained their calves in a more functional way, they would be much bigger. Im not against traditional calve training, but would recomend a heirarchy of calve training.

Heres some key points

*Include both high volume and low volume (or high intensity, and low intensity)

*Long distance running, or anything over 1 mile is probably insufficient intensity to gain any size. Otherwise marathon runners would have huge calves.

*So calve training would range from 1 rep being the most intense, to sprints. When i say 1rm I mean more likely the stimulus you get with plyometric training or o-lifts.

*Also, you should train in the gym both standing and sitting.

*Train explosive, and train slow, with reps from 5-30+

Lastly, and I think this is an important one. People dont tend to realize that concentrically your calves are not a very strong muscle. But they perform very well eccentrically. Even when jumping, your calves produce very little force compared to your hip muscles. Think of how high you can jump with an ankle hop, vs. just knee and hip extension.

Your calves are similar to your forearm muscles. They are great with speed and isometric contractions, but cant produce much strength concentrically. Think about how far you could throw a baseball with just a wrist motion, But you can grip a heck of a lot of weight doing deadlifts.

So isometric training and explosive training should be a major focus of training.

Isometrically, i’d say sprints and car pushing/sled dragging would be great.

Explosively, id say o-lifts, and plyometrics are enough.

Hope this helps, a little off topic of what you were asking but not completely.

I’ve found that training both calves and forearms against what is natural for them is best. By “against what is natural” I mean that both of these muscle groups are designed for quick and explosive movements. So I train them with slow and steady movements. Try it for yourself and see the difference.

I also agree with Defekt and the philosophy of just switching things up with the different ways of going about things.


OK i have good calves… and it has definitely been working in rep ranges of 30-100 that has given me the calves i have.

Go heavy and rep out for a 10-12 rep set, 20 secs rest and rep out, 20 secs rest - rep out. done. Aim for 20-30 reps total like this on the calf machine or seated calf, for sets of 3 - 4. Its agony (i mean it) but works very well.

For DB, smith or leg press calf raises use a lighter weight and fail around 40-60 reps, adding a drop set if you like or can bear the excruciating pain these high rep calf sets bring!

For 1 leg/BW Calf raises/Standing calf jumps(skipping without the rope) use a range of 100 reps. Just 100 reps, varying the tempo to get though it (it is near impossible, and is unbelieveably painful - can also cause compartment syndrome so you must build upto it) - and as you progress, do multiple sets.

I promise, these are proven calf growth methods. I am proud of my calves even when walking down the street in shorts. :wink:


I’ve grew my calves from 13" (I know) to 16" now which looks quite good on me considering I have small ankles/knees. It was only in the past year or so though that they grew well (14" to 16" in a year).

I personally found that they only really grew when I had incredibly painful DOMS after I trained them (deep heat helps a lot with this)

Now in the past I did lots of crazy stuff, like ellington darden’s routine for calf training, but that didn’t really do anything, I got some doms but nothing too major.

One day I did a fairly simple calf routine, 5x10 on a hack squat calf raise machine and 5x15 on seated calf raise. The day after I was in fucking agony, I don’t really know why but I’ll tell you what I did:

The hack squat calf raise (http://www.nationalfitnessproducts.com/images/product_images/sm_product_66.jpg) is the best exercise I have ever done for calves, you can get such an intense stretch on the bottom portion (hold for 2 second) which I think is key for the painful DOMS.

As for the seated calf raise, I never really felt this much until I used very little weight and really focused on squeezing it up with the soleus, once I got that down I added weight and did 5x15.

So what worked for me for adding 2" to my calves in a year:
5x10 hack squat calf raise machine - 2 sec hold in full stretch
5x15 seated calf raise

about 30 sec rest between sets.

done that 3x week and calves finally started growing :slight_smile:

edit - also started doing about 5 mins on the treadmill running at full pace with plimsoll shoes on ( http://www.mkmuseum.org.uk/history/xcount/plimsoll.jpg ) and that gives me really bad DOMS in my soleus, so not sure if that will help but i’ll see.

I know what helped my calfs. Rope jump, jump high, 20 min, 3 times per week.

i love how everyone has their own method to calves its like trying to solve a puzzle lol.

im doing something i thought of myself right now. basically if you look at the people with the biggest calves they are almost always fat people, or people who were fat then dieted down. obviously if a muscle has to support a heavy weight like that constantly its going to have no choice but to grow. so i figure take a heavy weight (min of 4 plates) and just hold it in the top contraction for at least one minute. if youre going to use the seated id suggest taking some weight off when you do the stretch at the bottom because if you cant get it back up you may find yourself in a very awkward posistion, so just do like 4 sets of the top hold then 4 sets of the bottom, keep rest relatively short.

ive only done this twice so far and ive gotten a good pump and DOMS each time so i figure its doing something. im not sure how long its going to take before results will show but im hoping withen 2 months ill see results. im also going to probaly start hitting them twice a week.