Many people think that calf muscles stubbornly defy the laws of hypertrophy, and that they are simply an open-and-shut case of genetic predisposition hmm hmm Omar isuf #teamnocalves. Small calf syndrome can be a true burden in someone’s life, can make you the center of bullying, and a roadblock to getting chicks. I hear tales of tragic calves all the time, so today, I am going to provide you with a step-by-step guide to building a nice, meaty set of calves that will have your boots bursting at their seams in due time.
After watching this video, test your knowledge with a short quiz at the end for a chance to win some sick Hybrid Apparel swag. Then, make sure you head to my YouTube channel for Part Two of Hybrid’s Guide to Growing Your Calves where I lead you through specific exercises geared toward growing this elusive muscle group and a deeper dive into the all too common existential question of “why won’t my calves grow?”
We will start off Part One by exploring how genetics play a role in the shape of the calf muscle complex, as they do with essentially all of the muscles in the body. While some may say that blaming genetics for small calves is somewhat of a cop-out or an excuse for neglectful training, we are all born with some predetermined structural differences that do influence the topography of our lower legs to a certain degree.
For example, there is a stark difference between athletes who have naturally “longer and lower” calf muscles versus those with a “higher and shorter” calf musculature.
“Long and low” calves tend to have longer muscles that insert closer to the ankle with shorter tendon lengths. This gives the appearance of a generally thicker calf and ankle. Someone with a longer, lower calf insertion may also have a greater capacity for muscle growth due to the naturally greater lengths of the muscles.
On the contrary, “high and short” calves have the inverse proportions. In this case, the calf muscles are shorter in length and the tendons tend to be much longer, giving the appearance of a thinner leg and ankle. This larger tendinous distance typically gives the ankle joint a more “springy” quality, which is great for high velocity movements like jumping and sprinting.
Now look guys, I love a big meaty set of calves just like the next guy, but I’m a firm believer that ALL calves are beautiful. There isn’t one type that is better than the other, because they both have their own unique strengths-- so stop it with the calf bashing!
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s start working on a plan to help you maximize your potential in calf muscularity-- regardless of how small or large your God-given gastrocs might be.
I think a lot of the misleading information about training the calves comes from an overly simplified take on the anatomy of the gastroc and soleus, speaking only to the fact that they are two- and one-joint muscles, respectively, so therefore if we train one with our knee straight and the other with our knee bent, we will cover all of our bases.
Additionally, we tend to rely heavily on the concept of progressive overload to increase calf muscle mass, focusing on performing heavy loaded heel raises until we are blue in the face. This approach may be effective to a certain extent, but depending solely on progressive overload does not ensure that you are directly isolating the calf muscles and maximizing their mechanical tension and/or physiological stress.
That’s why part two of this guide focuses on technique, as well as hitting the muscles from various angles and a variety of intensities with novel exercise modalities.
As you can likely see, there is a lot more to it than a watered-down approach of 3 sets of 10 heel raises. That just isn’t going to cut it.
If you or any of your loved ones suffers from small calf syndrome, please call omar isuf at the support hotline #team no calves hotline, where you can bond with other small calf individuals and share your small calf experiences. Or if you actually want to learn how to grow thick, meaty, juicy calves and sculpt a couple of softballs into your lower leg, head over to my yt channel where I'll be going in depth into the scientific nuances of calf training.
~*Test Your Knowledge*~
1. What is the action of the gastrocnemius?
2. What is the latin name for the calf muscle complex?
3.Which calf muscle shows increased activation with seated heel raises?