Training for Bigger Calves

Let’s get the ball rolling on this forum!

After the NY Pro result, calves are a bit topical around here.

What do you recommend for those people who can’t seem to get them to respond? On the other hand, those that are naturally blessed, how should they approach their calves? I know some people don’t train them at all but I’m not sure that’s a great idea.

1 Like

The 20-20 Calf Routine

Here’s a calf routine that I’ve been using on my trainees for the last several years. Use a standard calf machine that is performed standing on a four-inch block.

  1. Perform 20 strict reps keeping the knees locked, going from a deep stretch to the tiptoes.

  2. Then, without rest, do 20 cheating reps in faster style by bending the knees.

  3. Perform one set, two or three times per week, and your calves will be stimulated to grow.


Any thoughts on how long to hold the bottom position to not have the achilles tendon contribute meaningfully to the concentric portion?

If you’ve had achilles problems, then you’ve got to be careful with excessive stretching or fast reps. Normally, I would have a trainee spend about 1 second at the bottom.

1 Like

I have used the double-50 routine you advocated in your Nautilus Advanced Bodybuilding book. It’s a scorcher!

You’ve got that right, a real scorcher!

1 Like

I’ll give this 20-20 method a shot!! I like the simplicity and love efficient trainjng

1 Like

More Intense Calf Routine

Now if you calf conscious guys want to go a step farther than 20-20, up the reps to 25 on each set. Then, after 3 or 4 calf workouts, go to 35-35.

I’ve then jumped to 50-50. At 50-50, if you can accomplish that for 4 sessions, your calves will probably be as big as they will ever be.

But at that point, after such a workout, you’d be wise to soak both lower legs for 5 minutes in a waste can full of ice-cold water.

So I’m guessing load stays the same and you’re just pushing your reps further? Also, are these high rep sets what I’d call “loaded rest” sets? Kinda like 20 rep squats where you stop and rest while holding the bar and grind a few more out?

I’m pushing the reps forward, but after the new session, I also add a little more resistance. “Loaded rest sets” are a nice description of the concept. Thanks.

1 Like

Ell, years ago you wrote an article for Weider on a calf routine. “Twisting Calf Routine”. On the multi exerciser with the hip belt. First set, start at the bottom, weight on the outside of the feet, up in 2, weight on the front toe, down in 4. Fail, then, bend at the waist, second set ASAP. Fail, then use the pull up bars for negatives. Shake the calves out, repeat, only this time 1 up/2 down cadence.
One day, I hadn’t done it for months, did it on a Sunday morning. Monday, got up, got on bus for an hour commute, could not stand up straight my calves had locked up so bad. Got to work, working with orthopedic surgeons at the time, they dragged me into an exam room for the students and residents to poke, prod, test.
So at least it wasn’t for nothing;)

Yes, I remember that routine. You were guaranteed sore calves for at least two days.

I bet you enjoyed those nurses squeezing and poking your calves.


Hello Dr. Darden,
If I understood correctly, this new routine is different from the double 50 routine from the Nautilus Advanced BodyBuilding book.
In the original routine, 20-25 reps were performed with strict form and then 25-30 cheating reps until one reaches 50 reps in that set.
With this new routine the goal would be to reach 100 repetitions (50 strict-50 cheating) in one set. Right?
Do you find this routine more productive than the original double 50?

Best regards,

Yes, I believe the new routine is better. Look for it soon on T-Nation.

Thanks Dr. Darden.
Looking forward to your article.

Since I found DC-style reps for Calves, they went to a new level. DC prescribes a 10-15 second stretch static. My DC “style” is about 3-5 seconds. From there, start slow and accelerate to the top. Hold for 1 second and do a slow negative. An 8-10 rep set usually lasts 1:20-1:40.
I only hit the calves directly every 2 weeks – 1-2 sets. I alternate between Toe Presses* and Seated CRs. The Seated CRs are immediately followed by a high-rep BW set of standing CRs.
(*On a Leg Press machine, or if your gym has one of those ‘Rotary Calf’ machines, I highly recommend them!)

1 Like

I believe my new calf article will be posted tomorrow, Tuesday, December 1, on T-Nation. Look for it.


There is an interesting article elsewhere on this site regarding the a link between larger calves and a reduced risk of a heart attack. Looking forward to the article.

Great article, I can feel the pain my calves just reading it