Perhaps one of the most overlooked muscle groups - the calves are essential to your success in many of your traditional lifts. From the deadlift to the squat, strong calves will help to accelerate your strength potential.
Training the calves is relatively simple - but let’s discuss basic anatomy first to understand how the system works.
For the purposes of this training guide, we are only going to focus on three main muscles. These are the gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis anterior.
Big, bulky muscle on the posterior calf with a unique innervation. You will notice that the fibres on the calf come together in a “V” shape, rather than being straight, like most other muscle fibre. This is the main reason you see massive power from the calf - this innervation helps to create more power in less stretch.
Largely avoided by most bodybuilders, yet this is the muscle that does most of the stability work. This muscle is hard to see, as it is deep to the gastrocnemius.
To see this muscle on yourself you can point your toe to the ground and look on the outside of your calf - you will see a long line just behind the gastroc - this is your soleus.
Large, stability muscle on the front of the shin. Although not traditionally thought of as a calf muscle we want to include it as a tight tibialis anterior will limit your squat, deadlift and even your lunging ability.
Tibialis anterior can be seen by sitting down and pulling your toe to your face. You will notice a small bulge just to the outside of the knee - this is your tibialis anterior.
Now that we know what the muscles look like and how they work, training is relatively simple. The basics of calf training is to overload the muscles with high volume - this can be done either through higher weight (not recommended for beginners) or higher reps.
The first exercise is as simple as getting into the position you would for a traditional squat, but instead, you will do a calf raise. To make the exercise more difficult you can try to have a slight pause at the top range of motion.
If you are struggling to raise up you can slightly roll off the balls of your feet to gain some momentum. Keep in mind the weight is high - if you don't have strong soles this is an easy way to get injured. Start with 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps at the same weight you would squat (maybe an extra 30-50 lbs).
A silly exercise, but an effective one. Take a bath towel, spread it out on the floor (lengthwise), place a weight on it and sit in front of it. Place your feel on the towel and attempt to pull the weight in by clenching your toes against the floor and towel. This is a great exercise for targeting the soleus.
Possibly the silliest exercise you will do, but it's great for strengthening the tibialis anterior - especially through movement. Check out this video for tips on duck walks.
The last important note to make is your total frequency. In order to spur growth in the calves, you will need to hit them 3-4x per week with a relatively high intensity.
This will cause stress on the joints and muscle so be sure you are supplementing accordingly.
One of the best supplements you can take to ensure you are growing stronger, especially with a high frequency of training is a clean protein powder, potent with amino acids for quick recovery. For best results, try supplementing FUEL X30 after each workout.
Find FUEL X30 here.