Building Bigger Calves

Question

I want to grow my calves, but nothing’s working. I read an article recently which said they won’t grow anyway, no matter what you do. On the other hand, my friend says he put 2” on his calves from prioritizing them first in his training.

Who’s right?

Answer

When it comes to calves, there’s an element of truth in all that you heard.

First, it’s probably fair to say that of all muscle groups – calves respond the least to training.

It’s also fair to say that if you picked the right parents, you probably won’t have to worry much about training them very hard.

If you didn’t (like me), then your calf development will probably be limited to where the muscle balls up when flexed.

So if you have “high” calves, your ability to hypertrophy them and what lies beneath them (your soleus) will be negligible vs. someone who’s calves attach closer to the ankle.

I absolutely, positively do NOT subscribe to the notion that they won’t respond AT ALL to training.

I think it’s far more accurate to say they need a special training stimulus, vs less stubborn muscle groups.

What does that mean?

Special Training Stimulus

It means you have to build up to extreme poundages and look for other “unorthodox” methods to get them to grow.

I’d also tell you that one of (maybe the) best ways to get bigger calves is to build a bigger you. They’re going to be much bigger carrying around 250lbs than 150, and you need only look at obese people to see this truth.

When I started training, my calves measured 13” around at their biggest point. So skinny, I wore sweatpants in the summer.

Started training them like everyone else, nothing happened.

Did note that as my squats and deadlifts went up, my calves got better too. That, likely due to my increasing bodyweight.

But I also got them to grow another 3 ½ to 4” more with the following methods.

Very heavy static holds, both seated and standing. Hold a maximal weight in the fully contracted position. 2 such holds for 5 seconds for 3 weeks, then work with 30 second holds for 3 weeks. Continue alternating until such time as you figure out which works better.

Kaatsu aka Occlusion training: If there’s one method that pairs well with the calves, it’s this one IMO.

Strength shoes: Formally known as jump soles, these transfer 9x your bodyweight onto your calf while jogging. NOTE: Go SLOW with these, as you don’t want to rupture your achilles tendon

Bottom Line

If you weren’t born with them, you need to use extremely heavy weights and/or explore various intensification techniques to get calves to grow. Regular calf raises or whatever else you see in the gym just aren’t going to cut it.

Work hard, heavy and don’t be afraid to do it frequently. Your calves carry you around every day, they’re used to a lot of work and need a lot to grow bigger.

Hope that helps.

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Coach Rob Regish

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to Superhumanradio.net for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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