For those who don’t know, calves are actually genetic. I know, I know, you shouldn’t blame your body on genetics .. however, this one can’t be ignored. If you have huge calves then you probably inherited them. If you have bird legs then those were also handed down. After being a trainer for over 13 years I have heard my share of “my calves are too big,” and “I want bigger calves.” Well I am going to give you the secret formula to get the calves YOU want!
I come from the “bird leg” breed. I have fought long and hard in the gym to get the legs I desired and the proportion I want. Here is my personal break down for bigger calves.
Hit Your Calves from ALL Angles
This means you must do all 3 different positions. Shoot for Medium – medium high weight and lower repetitions. Watch the video below to get instruction on how to use the seated calves raise machine
Toes Turned In – Turn your toes in on the seated calve raise or a standing calve raise and do 10- 12 reps, medium to medium high weight
Toes Turned Out – Turn your toes out on the seated calf raise or a standing calve raise and do 10 -12 reps, medium to medium high weight.
Toes Straight Forward – Toes point straight forward. Do 10 – 12 reps – medium to medium high weight.
Personally, I have found the seated calve raise machine to be more beneficial for building muscle than the standing calve raise. It also takes the pressure off of the spine since you are in a seated position.
If you have larger calves it is still VERY important that you do calf raises. Why you might ask?! Doing calf raises actually allows the muscle to go through a full range of motion. This aids in stretching the muscle. A lot of times, short bulky muscle are the product of shortened muscle tissue. If you want longer leaner muscle you must condition them to stay in a lengthen position.
Another important fact : As you age these endurance based muscle lose their flexibility they become tight and tense which shows in your walking pattern, stride and gait. You will notice that inactive people and older seniors have this issue. They begin to shuffle instead of actually walk. They lose the ability to flex and extend their toes and ankles. SO if you want to move like you’re young and avoid the senior shuffle above, you MUST work on calf flexibility and strength!
If you are looking to lengthen your bulky calves then focus on long motions that stretch the calves. Use lighter weight and do more repetitions which are aimed at stretching the calf instead of increasing size. You can still do all three foot positions.
Chances are, if you have big bulky calves, you are dominant in those muscles (they do a lot of your moving when it comes to walking and running). To counter act this, try using a hard foam roller to release knots in the muscle. This will aid in flexibility and help the muscle lengthen out and relax. The foam roller ALSO benefits people who are trying to get bigger calves. If your muscles are too tight they don’t grow as well because they can’t flex and extend completely so make sure your rolling before and after each intense calf session.
Dominant Calves??? If your body has HUGE calves and small thighs. You’re most likely favoring your calves over your quads, and hamstrings (thighs). If you want to balance it out, try making your calves tired before you start your leg routine. Do 2 -3 sets of calves before doing your other exercises such as squats and lunges. This will FORCE your body to use the muscles that aren’t tired and avoid using the muscle that are already exhausted!
Find the knot and hold the position for 20 -30 seconds OR until the pain decreases by 70%. Then move on to the next knot.
Since calves are an endurance muscle, you can exercise them more often. If you are looking to build, fit them into your routine 2 -3 times per week. If you are looking to lengthen them (shrink) focus on 1 -2 times a week with light weight, daily stretching, and 3 -4 times a week of foam roll work. If you know someone who needs calf help forward them these fitness tips, they will be glad you did! 🙂