Training the Calves

Of all of the bodyparts that bodybuilder types want to grow, calves have traditionally been one of the most difficult.   In fact, in the field, calves are often thought to be one of the most genetic muscle groups, you either have them or don’t have them.

And, for reasons you’ll see below, there is certainly an element of truth to that.  Individuals with great calves often don’t train them at all while others toil away (sort of) at training their calves with little to show for it.

What’s going on?

Well, a number of things.  In this article, I want to look first at some of the underlying physiology of the calves as well as examining why the calves seem to be so resistant to growth.  Then I want to look at common training errors that simply contribute to the problem.

 

Calf Anatomy and Fiber Typing

The muscle group referred to as the calves actually include several muscles although most only focus on two: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.  The primary function of these muscles is to act as plantarflexors (pointing the toe) although the gastroc also has very weak knee flexion activity (which is why some people will catch calf cramps on leg curl type movements).

This is also why doing calf work with the knee bent (e.g. seated calf raise) tends to work the soleus preferentially, since the gastroc crosses the knee, if the knee is bent, the gastroc can’t contribute as significantly to force output.  Put differently, if you do a straight legged calf movement, both the gastroc and soleus get trained, if you do bent-knee work, only the soleus really works.

Anatomically, the soleus essentially lies ‘underneath’ the gastroc but both give the calf its distinctive diamond like shape (when developed).   As I sort of alluded to above, the soleus doesn’t cross the knee, the gastroc does (why it can function as a weak knee flexor).

Many people seem to still think that the calf is a primarily slow twitch muscle but this is incorrect.  The gastroc is actually a fast twitch muscle and is involved in explosive type movements.  This is actually part of what is colloquially referred to as Black Man’s Calf Syndrome.

Black bodybuilders have commonly been completely unable to develop calves and the function of the calves is part of why.  High/short calves are excellent for jumping and sprinting but have little potential for growth, they are simply too short.  Black bodybuilders (or white bodybuilders for that matter) who have a short/high gastroc with a long tendon will make fantastic jumpers and sprinters; but great calves they will never have.

In any case, the soleus is predominantly a slow twitch muscle as it is more involved in overall stability (what rehab types often call a tonic muscle) of the ankle complex.  The difference in fiber type between the gastroc and soleus has implications for training that I’ll get to at the end.

I really should note another issue with the calves and that has to do with the very tiny lever arm of the achilles tendon relative to the ankle (the axis of rotation).  Because of the specific anatomy of the calves, a rather small muscle can actually generate a massive force (technically: torque) around the ankle.  This is one reason that many people can use such absolute massive amounts of weight on calf work (in addition to something I’m going to talk about below).

 

So Why are the Calves So Stubborn?

I haven’t honestly ever seen anything to suggest that the calves are genetically resistant or prone to muscle growth but there is one lesser well known biological fact about calves that contributes to the difficulty in making small calves into big cows (see what I did there?).

I’m assuming that everybody reading this knows or has heard of androgen receptors (AR).  The AR is what testosterone and related molecules bind to and one of the effects is to stimulate protein synthesis.  In men, there is a distinctive pattern of AR whereby there is a higher AR density in the upper body (especially the traps and shoulder girdle which is why steroid users tend to have their shoulders BLOW up when they take anabolics) decreasing as you move down the body.   If you think about it, this makes sense, since the typical wide shouldered v-shape is sort of the ideal ‘male’ physique, and we evolved like this for a reason.

By the time you get to the calves, the AR density is very low.  So even if you train the absolute hell out of them they simply don’t get the same training effect because testosterone can’t exert as much of an effect.  Even the legs of most men don’t have the same androgen receptor density as the upper body; yes, I’ve just given you guys an excuse for chicken leg syndrome.

On this note, my friend and altogether too smart guy Bryan Haycock once hypothesized to me that he thought that modern bodybuilders had better legs and calves than guys of old due to their essentially year round anabolic use.  By constantly bombarding even the low AR number of the legs and calves with constant dosing (not to mention that studies show that steroids actually upregulate the AR number), he felt that this contributes to better leg size (compare for example, the size of Lee Haney’s legs to that of Arnold in his prime, despite all that squatting with logs, Arnold had proportionally smaller legs compared to his upper body).

In any case, this is a big part of the reason that the calves are so hard to develop.  I’d note, and this is purely an empirical observation on my part, that some people seem to have somewhat reversed patterns whereby AR density seems to be higher in the lower body and lesser in the upper body.  These folks develop legs easily but the upper body never seems to catch up.  Women, especially those carrying more weight seem to have this happen but I’ve seen it in men too.  Again, no research on this, just an observation over the years.

 

What We can Learn from Kangaroos

There’s another aspect of calf function that most ignore but that I think contributes massively to most people’s complete inability to develop their calves.  Everyone reading this at some point been in the weight room and seen the absolute skinniest of folks bouncing enormous amounts of weight on calf exercises without appearing to be working very hard.  They couldn’t do this on any other exercise, did you ever wonder what was going on?

To understand what I’m going to explain, I need to talk about elastic tissue and how it stores and recoils energy.  Tissues like tendons are termed elastic tissue (meaning that they can stretch/deform and come back to normal afterwards), if you load them quickly (e.g. through a fast eccentric), they actually store energy which you can then get returned to you if you move quickly enough.  This is part of why it’s always easier to bench out of a bounce than with a pause (there are other reasons that aren’t relevant here).  So just remember that: elastic tissues can store energy and return it if you move quickly enough.

And that brings us to kangaroos.  Ever seen a kangaroo hop, ever notice how bouncy they are?  As it turns out, when kangaroos hop for distance, they do it in a very certain frequency.  And research has shown that this frequency allows them to load the tendon on the back of their leg to get a massive amount of elastic recoil; this allows them to keep going and going without using much muscular energy.  It’s massively efficient because tendons don’t really get tired.

Do you see where I’m going with this yet?  The human achilles tendon, the elastic tissue connective the calves to the bottom of the foot works similarly (not to nearly the magnitude of the kangaroo mind you).  This is an adaptation for human locomotion, when you walk and the shin moves forwards, it loads the achilles which gives you a bit of energy return, it saves energy for walking and running

Quite in fact, running shoes have tried to build mechanical versions of this, spring type cushions in the heel of shoes that return energy when you run so that less muscular energy is required.

What do you think is happening when people do bouncy bouncy calf work?  That’s right, they are basically using the elastic energy return potential of their calves to move enormous amounts of weight without performing much muscular work; and since the combination of tension and work is what stimulates growth…biology isn’t the only reason most people’s calves don’t grow.  Most people just train them terribly.

I honestly think this is where the idea of doing massively high reps on calves came from: when you bounce, you use such a tiny amount of muscular effort with each rep, that you have to do hundreds of reps to get the muscle to feel anything at all.

Of course, there’s a much easier solution; you’ve probably guessed what it is but this brings me to the next section: how to train the calves.

 

How to Train the Calves

First, let’s sum up what I’ve covered:

  • The gastroc is primarily a fast-twitch muscle
  • The soleus is primarily a slow-twitch muscle
  • If you do calf work with straight legs, you work both the gastroc and soleus
  • If you do calf work with bent legs, you work only the soleus
  • When you bounce, the achilles tendon does much, if not most of the work and the calf does little

I didn’t mention the androgen receptor density thing because, short of taking steroids year round, there’s nothing you can do to control that.  But with proper training, we can take all of the above into account.

First, here’s my standard go-to calf routine.

A straight legged calf exercise: 5 sets of 5 done in the following fashion.

From a dead 2 second pause, explode up, squeeze for 1 second at the top, 3 second eccentric (for tempo freaks, this would be written X/1/3/2: explosive concentric, 1 second squeeze at the top, 3 second negative, 2 second pause at the bottom).  Take 3 minutes between sets and GO HEAVY.   When you get all 5 sets of 5, add weight at the next workout.  The gastroc is fast twitch, it responds to heavy loads.  The explosive concentric out of the pause will maximize tension, the squeeze makes sure that you’re controlling the weight, the slow eccentric is critical for growth.  Note: be careful on the pause, don’t overstretch the calves or you can give yourself plantar fascitis.  But don’t cut range of motion either.  You want some stretch on the calves, don’t try to drop your heels as far as possible.

Follow that up with:

A bent-knee calf raise: 3-4 sets of 8-10 done in the following fashion.

From a 2 second pause, take 2 seconds to squeeze the weight up, brief pause at the top, 2 second eccentric (so 2/1/2/2).  60-90 seconds rest and use as much weight as you can in good form, you may have to drop weight after each set due to fatigue.  Being slow-twitch, the soleus will respond to longer sets and more of a fatigue stimulus. This should hurt like hell.

Putting it a little more clearly:

  • Straight leg calf raise: 5X5/3′ rest on a X/1/3/2 tempo
  • Bent knee calf raise: 3-4X8-10/60-90″ rest on a 2/1/2/2 tempo.

That’s it, do the above twice per week (once every 5 days if you have poorer recovery) either as specialization or after legs.  Oh yeah, and you need to be gaining weight to grow calves (or any body part).  You’re not going to build muscle out of thin air and wishful thinking and if you’re not gaining weight while doing the above, you won’t grow anything.

Do the above for an 8 week cycle, take the first 2 weeks sub-maximally (you won’t be able to walk the first week if this is your first time dead pausing calf work) and then push the weights as much as you can (especially on the heavy sets).  After 8 weeks, drop the weight for 2 weeks and either hit it again or move on to something else.

I can’t guarantee that the above will turn your piddle calves into cows but compared to how 99% of people train calves, the above coupled with a slight caloric surplus can only help.

Comments

comments

34 thoughts on “Training the Calves

  1. Lyle,

    If you have access to a DARD and/or something like an Atlantis dorsiflexion machine, would you include a set of one of these for each set of standing and seated calf work that is performed and in antagonistic pairings (if gym setup and level of busyness permits)?

    I found the following quote from an old article by Don Alessi.

    “I’m finding that the trainees with higher gastroc insertions (you know, the ones blessed with explosiveness but who lack mass) are the ones preferentially using the “toe point” and not the heel raise. To test the toe point versus heel raise disparity, remove your shoes and perform a five-rep max machine calf raise with a straight knee. Use the toe point. In other words, flex and use the toes to grip and push.

    Next, rest four minutes, unload 50% and repeat. This time, however, extended the toes away from the platform during the exercise. This will inhibit the toe flexors and force the work to be done primarily by the targeted “big three” ankle flexors. Most will note that they can’t even initiate the load without the assistance of bending the knees, rocking forward or flexing the toes.”

    Do you think that this toe point versus heel raise issue makes much difference in the ultimate scheme of things provided the other guidelines you suggested are respected?

    In that same vein, do you think altering foot positioning, either pointed out or in, (and the subsequent subtle effect on inversion and eversion of the feet as calf raises are executed ) has any significant impact on calf development?

    And on one final note, can use of ALCAR have a noteworthy impact on andrigen receptor content in muscles or is this rather insignificant, especially when compared to the major impact of anabolics?

    I apologize for asking so many questions after a calf article. As always thank you for the knowledge and for sharing with us.

  2. DARD works the tibialis which wasn’t the topic of this article. Training it is not a bad idea.

    The length of the calf tendon is genetic and has nothing to do with training or toe point vs. heel raising or any silly shit like that. What he’s suggesting is like saying that a short biceps (long tendon) is due to training, not genetics. Or that you can lengthen the biceps with Scott curls. Total bodybuilding nonsense.

    Most of the change in foot position occurs through hip rotation, and affects calf recruitment not in the least (you’re still doing pure plantarflexion, just in internal or external hip rotation). You can get slight differences in medial vs. lateral gastroc if you try to roll to the inner or outer part of your foot respectively; this is not a good idea with heavy weights. With heavy enough weights, this is irrelevant.

    I’ve seen nothing to suggest that ALCAR affects androgen receptor number and a Medline search turns up zero hits. Two small studies suggested that l-carnitine tartrate increased androgen receptor number, I have no idea if the magnitude is significant enough to impact on anything. Research is cited in The Protein Book

  3. > […] some people seem to have somewhat reversed patterns whereby AR density seems to be higher in the lower body and lesser in the upper body.

    That’s definitely the case for me. I have a hard time to build any mass in the upper body but to make my legs grow … it seems like I just have to look in the direction of the squat rack.

  4. Would you agree that “bouncing” weights in most ANY exercise, regardless of the muscle involved, uses a lot of stored elastic energy, thereby minimizing the actual work performed by the target muscle?

    And that the guys bouncing weights around on pulldowns, bench-press, etc – like chimps on speed – are really fooling themselves as to how hard their muscles are working?

    Personally, this is why I lean heavily toward smooth and controlled rep speeds on all exercises.

  5. That was a great article. I’d like to see your thoughts on shoulders, as that is another muscle group that seems to be both challenging to grow and where genetics play a large role in actual development.

  6. Jeff: yes, but the calves are more sensitive to this due to the incredible force return of the achilles tendon. Other tendons don’t return as much energy which is why you can still find guys with decent muscular development who bounce, they still have to use muscular work.

    David: Shoulders, by and large, and problematic in my experience. I think it’s mostly that people train them poorly.

  7. Lyle,

    I am unaware of any evidence to suggest that multiple sets are required for maximizing lean mass for any muscle or muscle group. Could you provide some evidence to support your multiple set approach to training the calves.

    Also, FT and ST refer to a muscles fatigue characteristics – not the speed at which they should be trained.

    FT fibers are not recruited until the bitter end of a set – this is proven by the orderly recruitment theory.

    Could you also provide some evidence to support the need for explosive movements for training FT fibers?

    Thank you.

  8. Of course you’re unaware of it, Fred, Superslow cult members are unaware of all research or information that doesn’t fit their biases. And when presented with the overwhelming research about the inferiority of Superslow training, they simply stick their head in the sand and go lalalalala.

    Or perhaps you’d like to explain why it’s inaccurate to include gravity in the force equations again, like you did in Hardgainer. That was a real hoot and simply demonstrates the level of absolute ignorance among the SS folks.

    So how about we make a deal? I won’t waste your time presenting information you’re going to dismiss out of hand and I’d suggest you don’t waste mine making inane irrelevant comments on my site. I’m interested in giving people information that produces results.

    All Supserslow has ever generated is a bunch of small, weak excuse makers who blame genetics rather than inferior training for their lack of progress.

    The end.
    Lyle

  9. Lyle,

    Before I comment on Fred’s perplexing pot-shot, I wanted to thank you for finally explaining to me why I have the kind of calves I have and why I shouldn’t feel the need to monkey-slap the guys in my gym who laugh at them. I am Exhibit A regarding the “Black Man’s Calf Syndrome.” While I am considerably quick, fast and plyometrically gifted my calves are laughably small compared to the rest of my anatomy. My white guy friends (I’m Black) only have to lift up a pant-leg to one-up me under normal circumstances. As a football player, would you advise me to forego mass development in my triceps surae and focus on power potentiation as a way of increasing athletic performance? Is there a relationship between increased athletic ability (specifically in power sports like football) and large calves?

    Now to Fred. Are there ANY training factors or principles that you are aware of that could possibly motivate people like Fred to ascribe to the Superslow philosophy? I perused his website and I found that he has publshed a book espousing the view. Are they completely wrong, or have they taken a single principle and established it as the only means of achieving real results? Frankly, the fact that the Specificity Principle stipulates that I train specifically for the mechanical work involved in my sport rules out SS training theory for me.

    Thanks,
    J. Richardson

  10. Here ya’ go. Apparently you’re unaware of all of this. Because it took me nearly 15 seconds to find on Medline. The Wernbom review is an excellent look at volume and hypertrophy. Sufficed to say: 1 set doesn’t get it done. The end.

    And now we can watch you dismiss it out of hand

    ***
    J Strength Cond Res. 2004 May;18(2):377-82.
    Related Articles, Links

    Maximizing strength development in athletes: a meta-analysis to determine the dose-response relationship.

    Peterson MD, Rhea MR, Alvar BA.

    Department of Exercise and Wellness, Arizona State University, Mesa, Arizona 85212, USA. mdpeterz@hotmail.com

    The efficiency, safety, and effectiveness of strength training programs are paramount for sport conditioning. Therefore, identifying optimal doses of the training variables allows for maximal gains in muscular strength to be elicited per unit of time and also for the reduction in risk of overtraining and/or overuse injuries. A quantified dose-response relationship for the continuum of training intensities, frequencies, and volumes has been identified for recreationally trained populations but has yet to be identified for competitive athletes. The purpose of this analysis was to identify this relationship in collegiate, professional, and elite athletes. A meta-analysis of 37 studies with a total of 370 effect sizes was performed to identify the dose-response relationship among competitive athletes. Criteria for study inclusion were (a) participants must have been competitive athletes at the collegiate or professional level, (b) the study must have employed a strength training intervention, and (c) the study must have included necessary data to calculate effect sizes. Effect size data demonstrate that maximal strength gains are elicited among athletes who train at a mean training intensity of 85% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM), 2 days per week, and with a mean training volume of 8 sets per muscle group. The current data exhibit different dose-response trends than previous meta-analytical investigations with trained and untrained nonathletes. These results demonstrate explicit dose-response trends for maximal strength gains in athletes and may be directly used in strength and conditioning venues to optimize training efficiency and effectiveness.

    Publication Types:

    * Meta-Analysis

    PMID: 15142003 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    2: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Mar;35(3):456-64.
    Related Articles, Links
    Click here to read
    A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development.

    Rhea MR, Alvar BA, Burkett LN, Ball SD.

    Department of Exercise and Wellness, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ 85212, USA. matthew.rhea@asu.edu

    PURPOSE: The identification of a quantifiable dose-response relationship for strength training is important to the prescription of proper training programs. Although much research has been performed examining strength increases with training, taken individually, they provide little insight into the magnitude of strength gains along the continuum of training intensities, frequencies, and volumes. A meta-analysis of 140 studies with a total of 1433 effect sizes (ES) was carried out to identify the dose-response relationship. METHODS: Studies employing a strength-training intervention and containing data necessary to calculate ES were included in the analysis. RESULTS: ES demonstrated different responses based on the training status of the participants. Training with a mean intensity of 60% of one repetition maximum elicits maximal gains in untrained individuals, whereas 80% is most effective in those who are trained. Untrained participants experience maximal gains by training each muscle group 3 d.wk and trained individuals 2 d.wk. Four sets per muscle group elicited maximal gains in both trained and untrained individuals. CONCLUSION: The dose-response trends identified in this analysis support the theory of progression in resistance program design and can be useful in the development of training programs designed to optimize the effort to benefit ratio.

    Publication Types:

    * Comparative Study
    * Evaluation Studies
    * Meta-Analysis

    PMID: 12618576 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

    3: J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Nov;16(4):525-9.
    Related Articles, Links

    Three sets of weight training superior to 1 set with equal intensity for eliciting strength.

    Rhea MR, Alvar BA, Ball SD, Burkett LN.

    Exercise and Wellness Research Laboratory, Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85212, USA. matthew.rhea@asu.edu

    The purpose of this study was to compare single and multiple sets of weight training for strength gains in recreationally trained individuals. Sixteen men (age = 21 +/- 2.0) were randomly assigned to 1 set (S-1; n = 8) or 3 set (S-3; n = 8) groups and trained 3 days per week for 12 weeks. One repetition maximum (1RM) was recorded for bench press and leg press at pre-, mid-, and posttest. Subjects trained according to daily undulating periodization (DUP), involving the bench press and leg press exercises between 4RM and 8RM. Training intensity was equated for both groups. Analysis of variance with repeated measures revealed statistically significant differences favoring S-3 in the leg press (p < 0.05, effect size [ES] = 6.5) and differences approaching significance in the bench press (p = 0.07, ES = 2.3). The results demonstrate that for recreationally trained individuals using DUP training, 3 sets of training are superior to 1 set for eliciting maximal strength gains. Publication Types: * Clinical Trial * Comparative Study * Randomized Controlled Trial PMID: 12423180 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Sports Med. 2007;37(3):225-64.Links The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Wernbom M, Augustsson J, Thomeé R. mLundberg Laboratory for Human Muscle Function and Movement Analysis, Department of Orthopaedics, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden. Strength training is an important component in sports training and rehabilitation. Quantification of the dose-response relationships between training variables and the outcome is fundamental for the proper prescription of resistance training. The purpose of this comprehensive review was to identify dose-response relationships for the development of muscle hypertrophy by calculating the magnitudes and rates of increases in muscle cross-sectional area induced by varying levels of frequency, intensity and volume, as well as by different modes of strength training. Computer searches in the databases MEDLINE, SportDiscus and CINAHL were performed as well as hand searches of relevant journals, books and reference lists. The analysis was limited to the quadriceps femoris and the elbow flexors, since these were the only muscle groups that allowed for evaluations of dose-response trends. The modes of strength training were classified as dynamic external resistance (including free weights and weight machines), accommodating resistance (e.g. isokinetic and semi-isokinetic devices) and isometric resistance. The subcategories related to the types of muscle actions used. The results demonstrate that given sufficient frequency, intensity and volume of work, all three types of muscle actions can induce significant hypertrophy at an impressive rate and that, at present, there is insufficient evidence for the superiority of any mode and/or type of muscle action over other modes and types of training. Tentative dose-response relationships for each variable are outlined, based on the available evidence, and interactions between variables are discussed. In addition, recommendations for training and suggestions for further research are given.

  11. Hi Fred:

    I was curious about your post, so I googled your name, and it sure does seem like you get around in the fitness industry 🙂

    Your ideas are really interesting to me, but I wonder about the results: do you have an example of the gains you’ve made since you’ve started lifting with your “Slow Burn” method? Or anyone you’ve trained?

    Thanks for your help! 🙂

  12. Jamaal

    SS guys don’t understand basic physics. That’s it. The creator mis-understood the basic principle of F=ma (forgetting to include gravity) and concluded that anything faster than a 2 second concentric was damaging to the joint. As an engineering buddy of mine pointed out in the pages of Hardgainer, this is incorrect. This was what led Fred to argue that it was incorrect to factor gravity into the equation.

    Let me translate what this means Fred is suggseting: if gravity doesn’t apply, it takes an identical force to push 200lbs horizontally across pins in the power rack as to bench it. Does that seem correct?

    The SS guys refuse to accept that this is true; like all religious zealots and flat earthers, they ignore all real world data.

    Lyle

  13. Lyle,

    Yeah it seems to me that enough research has concluded that moving a weight slowly doesn’t maximize muscular tension and the quality of the overload the muscles receive is commensurably lessened. Muscular hypertrophy, correct me if I’m wrong, is determined by the amount of tension forced upon the muscles and this is best achieved through compensatory acceleration.

    Then again, I might be wrong. Lol

  14. Lyle,

    I found your discussion of androgen receptor distribution patterns fascinating. I was wondering if you could provide some of the references for those studies, as I’m keen on getting my hands on them for further reading.

  15. Ed, I can remember the symposium I read, it was in one of the Acta series of journals, but for the life of me I can’t turn them up on medline right now. I’ll keep looking but I know that they are out there. I held them in my hands.

  16. HI. thanks for the article,i was wondering if this way to train calves apply to biceps too, i mean, slow repetitions and weight load.( 5 x 5 ) and a 4 sets of a second exercise?
    thanks again.

  17. i was thinking that biceps, hamstrings and calves can be somehow group in this sort of training, can you please tell me the diference and how to apply it in the workout?? thanks a lot !!!!
    ps: i know i can be complicated and long, but a couple of tips will do,,, 😉 thanks lyle

  18. Nice article Lyle,

    one question. Are you saying people with long tendons and short/high gastroc will never have decent calves? Or they will just never be able to have massive awe inspiring calves?

    can you clarify?

    thanks

    matt

  19. If I remember correctly, you said that overweight individuals might have higher amounts of androgen receptors in their lower body (legs), and therefore has an easier time growing their quads. Not to critisize what you said, the stereotype of steroids users DOES have much larger torso in comparison to the lower body. But when your are overweight, you constantly walk around lifting quite a lot (ofcourse this depends on how much your weight is) with your legs. Might this have something to do with overweight people having large (muscles) in their legs?

  20. Actually, what I said was:

    “I’d note, and this is purely an empirical observation on my part, that some people seem to have somewhat reversed patterns whereby AR density seems to be higher in the lower body and lesser in the upper body. ”

    I said nothing about it being specific to overweight people because that’s not what the word ‘some’ means.

    But commonly overweight people do have very big calves and lower bodies. For exactly the reasons you mention: their entire life is one big progressive overload on the calves.

  21. A standard seated calf machine will put them around 90 degrees. There aren’t many other ways of doing it short of resting a barbell on the thighs and even then,since you’re seated, knees will be 90 degrees or close to it.

  22. 90 degree bent knee heel raise is not bio-mechanically correct and should not be done. The knee bend has no effect on how the soleus works. If you especially have a bad soleus then you will probably be putting more weight on the foot then it is worth. The seated heel raise puts the gastric in active insufficiency and you will be missing out on the soleus being worked properly in this exercise. If you want to actually do this right. Do a standing heel raise with your knees slightly bent over to where your toes are and straighten the legs at the top of the movement.

  23. What I actually wrote was “As I sort of alluded to above, the soleus doesn’t cross the knee, the gastroc does (why it can function as a weak knee flexor).”

    What this means is that bending the knee puts the gastroc in a poor biomechanical position. So the soleus has to work harder to move the same load (b/c the gastroc contributes less). As to the rest of what you wrote well….if you say so.

  24. Hey Lyle (or anyone), I am wondering how the Donkey Calf fits in. Either via a specific machine, or how many perform it via a leg press machine.

  25. Hi lyle, thanks for the article. Quick question though:
    Why do both standing and seated if standing works both the gastroc and soleus? Why the need for the added soleus isolation?

  26. I enjoyed the article and it was very informative. Could you possibly dumb it down for us that have not been working out ten years and do not know the lingo. Such as; 3 eccentric, 3 second negative and explosive concentric..?.

  27. All I can simply say is ….Wow!! I have read and researched tons of material about stubborn calve growth but this is the most accurate information that I have ever discovered. Thank you for making this content very simple and easy to follow. I believe this will work for my situation. Thank you.

  28. Hi Lyle, great article. The gastrocnemius both plantar flexes the foot and flexes the leg. For maximum hypertrophy it is usually best to stimulate muscles from multiple planes of motion. For this reason, why isn’t a form of knee flexion included in the calf workout? Of course the hamstrings are the prime movers for knee flexion, but it seems to me that this is an under-emphasized calf movement.

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