In a country like India where men are obsessed with bigger arms and chest (no matter how putrid the rest of the body looks), the importance of a strong and muscular lower body has been largely undermined. It is not uncommon to see guys with flat hips and chicken legs wearing tight t-shirts to show off their biceps and chest. In countries like the US, UK and other European nations, stronger quadriceps, calves and hips indicate the mark of strength and rightly so in fact, hip and calf implants are becoming as common as breast implants in these nations.
One can spend years working on building a muscular physique, but one would look asymmetrical and disproportionate without the set of well-balanced calves. Yes, genetics does play a big role in calf development, but words like “I have bad genes,” from the mouth of a person who shies away from the pain of a good leg work out or just does three sets of calf raises at the end of his leg workout, just doesn’t sound good.
Did you know?
Arnold Schwarzenegger, during his younger days in bodybuilding, got his full body pictures clicked with his calves immersed in water because of their underdevelopment. Though he learned it the hard way, but thereafter his calves became one of his best parts. Reg Park, who Arnold considered as his mentor, told him not to take calves training at the end of a workout, but to train them first and as hard as any other body part.
Have you seen the calves of dancers, sprinters and footballers? They have some of the best calf development out of all sports. Reason is that they are constantly on their toes, working their calves.
The calf comprises of three main muscles:
Gastrocnemius: It is divided into medical and lateral head and is the most visible part of the calves. It consists more of fast twitch fibers than Soleus, so they respond best to lower reps in workout. Primary function of the Gastrocnemius is to raise the heel. Gastrocnemius receives best stimulation when the knees are extended (standing calf raises, donkey calf raises).
Soleus: It is muscles that help us in standing up from a seated position. It is most active in seated position, in fact at this time gastrocnemius is almost inactive and Soleus bears the entire load (seated calf raises). It consists of mainly fast twitch fibers, so higher rep workouts will be the best for Soleus.
Tibialis Anterior: It is the muscle in the front leg and it is activated most when you lift your toes higher than your heels, e.g. walking up a slope or marching. Most of us neglect this part, but a well-developed Tibialis Anterior makes the leg look larger.
Points to remember before doing any calf exercise:
• You need to work out the calves in three different ways, standing for Gastrocnemius, seated for Soleus and reverse for Tibialis Anterior.
• For any calf movement, do not do partial reps or fast bouncy reps, you should stretch your calves in both extremes i.e. while coming upon toes and while going down on heels.
• The movement has to be very slow and concentrated. Try using the 2121 tempo i.e. 2 second to go down in the stretch, 1 second hold at the bottom, 2 second to come up and 1 second hold at the top for stretch.
• According to legendary fitness guru Vince Gironda, the ways to work out the calves are barefoot. You can instead use thin-soled shoes for maximum contraction.
• A good calf workout should comprise both high (12-20) and low (4-6) reps with heavy and medium weight and in all positions.
5 Best Calf Exercises:
• Standing calf raise (calf machine/smith machine
• Seated calf raise
• Donkey calf raise
• Calf rise on 45 degree leg press machine
• Bent leg calf raises
Do the first two exercises in superset fashion i.e. one exercise after the other without break. After each superset, take 90-120 seconds break and then do two more supersets in the same manner.
Exercise 1 – Standing calf raises (three sets of six repetitions each).
Exercise 2 – Seated calf raises (three sets of eight repetitions each) on a lighter note, please call for a stretcher for carrying you home after this workout; you will not be able to walk back home.
Exercise 3 – Donkey calf raises (three sets of 10 repetitions each) take a three-minute break and do these two exercise in superset form, three sets each with 120 seconds rest between each set.
Exercise 4 – Calf rises on 45-degree leg press (three sets of 15 repetitions each).
Exercise 5 – Bent leg calf raises is similar to the standing lag calf raise but with the knee flexed about 30 degrees, 3 sets of 12 reps, slow and controlled.
Jumps in the form of skipping, single leg hops, jump squats, box jumps etc. Static stretching after every workout holds the stretch for at least 30-45 second. Self myofascial release using foam roller or tennis ball or massage by a massage therapist. There are literally hundreds of very effective calf routines.