I got a question from the lovely Miss Dana Schultz asking for tips on training her calves “’cause my calves looks like an 80-year old woman’s. aka NEED SOME WORK.”
If anyone has ever called you chicken legs, you need to train your calves. If anyone has ever told you you have cankles, you need to train our calves. Strength training is the only way you can change the shape of your body- don’t like something? Change it by changing the shape of your muscles.
There are two muscles in the calf: the Soleus and the Gastrocnemius. You can tell the difference when you stretch them. If you stretch with your knee straight, you are hitting the Gastrocnemius , or the most superficial muscle that creates a knob in the back of the leg. If you stretch your calf with your leg bent, you are hitting the Soleus, a deeper muscle that runs underneath.
The thing with calves is that there aren’t very many ways to train them. Just do calf raises. You can do different variations, but the general effect is the same.
I always train my calves the same way, and I adopted it afterP90X. Work your calves with 3 different toe positions: pointing in, neutral, and pointed out to ensure all the muscles are hit. And use heavy weights- I use two 35 pound dumbbells.
Other variations are off of a step for a little more range of motion, or doing one leg at a time. The calves are integral in jumping, so plyometric training will shred them. Running and stairs are great ways to hit your calves, too.
Make sure to stretch them- I usually stretch my calves after each set of raises while they are warm to loosen them up as my calves are perpetual ropes. (I have flexibility issues I blame on years of competitive gymnastics- you would think it would make me more flexible, but since quitting it’s seized me up into a knot.)
There is a calf machine you may have noticed at your gym, but I’m not a big fan. I prefer to not use machines anyway (functional exercise, like using free weights, better produces the results most people are looking for) but you sit on the machine so the knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. This isn’t the ideal position of the leg for training calves because you can’t work the calf through the full range of motion, but if you are going for heavy, heavy weight, use the machine for safety reasons.
Calves are one of those muscles you use constantly, so to overload them to change their shape and strength, you have to be diligent. Add training your calves into your everyday routine and your stems will be shapely from top to bottom.
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