The problem of calf specialization, of molding massive lower leg size and definition, is one that never fails to intrigue instructors and fill both beginners and advanced men with despair.
I have seen men with calves that were absolutely gigantic in size and shape, yet who had never once made any particular efforts to develop them. I have known other men who sweated blood in their efforts to bring the lower leg up to par with the rest of their development - they worked and worked and got NOTHING in the way of results.
In my gymnasium I have listened to complaints by the score - of small arms, stubborn thighs, and vain attempts to induce the chest to grow, yet I think it is safe to say that at least 80% of the tears have been shed over the obstinate refusal of the calves to enlarge.
One can listen to all sorts of theories and viewpoints, but for my part this so-called problem is one of SPECIALIZATION. That's all - no long words, no phony theories - just good old plain specialization, and I don't mean increasing the number of exercises or sets or reps.
What I do mean is sitting down and examining the situation from every angle, asking yourself questions and trying to ferret out the answers - and if anyone accuses you of talking to yourself - well, it's a welcome change to talk to a guy with some sense.
Any bodybuilding instructor who attempts to cover a question with a load of flowery phrases and plain bull is doing one thing - covering up his lack of knowledge of the subject. Any authority who beats around the bush, skirts around your question without giving a direct reply is little more than ignorant of the theory and practice of weight training.
There is only one way to deal with bodybuilding problems and that is the straight from the shoulder, no nonsense approach.
Note: The basis of those three paragraphs above apply to a helluva lot of the situations we face in our lives, don't they.
It is amazing the number of excuses guys can come up with in order to escape a session of lower leg training. There they are, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent from the knees down and to hear them speak you would think nothing could be done about it.
The popular alibi is "small calves are hereditary." Well - so are small arms and chests and necks, but do you see anyone walking around with grossly underdeveloped examples of these body parts ONCE they make up their minds to get working on them? Or course you don't!
Yet this doesn't explain why so many bodybuilders fail to improve the size and shape of their calves. It's because the majority of them use exercises in their workouts that closely approximate the movements of the calf muscles in everyday life - during their working hours and during the time they spend in relaxation at home, or wherever they happen to be.
I had an illustration of this the other day when a young fellow told me he had tried all the usual calf exercises with absolutely no results. I asked him about the muscle movements he used. "Oh, the usual stuff," he replied. "Toe raises."
That's just the trouble - the "usual stuff" is ONE reason why people fail to make progress. It's the UNUSUAL exercises which produce results when all else has failed. There are other and less important factors but the CHOICE of calf exercises is the major one. After the orthodox exercises fail, then the unusual ones WITH HARD WORK succeed.
Another point worthy of consideration is the enthusiasm bodybuilders put behind their workouts. When confronted with a difficult task, they immediately choose the smooth path, which inevitably proves to be the longest way to where they are going. The majority of weight trainers don't spend sufficient time on calf development, and if they do, then they use too light a poundage, treating the muscles to endurance movements rather than power and bulk efforts. And that, my friend, does NOT build up larger calves. The calves need heavy work, complete and powerful contractions over their extreme range and these contractions are NOT always supplied by TOE RAISES.
So now let's get down to brass tacks. Let's start on a routine that will make those skinny calves of yours grow in shape, size and definition. Here is what you must do to start off your calf specialization course.
First, the flexibility of the ankle must be obtained. The function of the calf muscle is to rotate and bend the foot in every direction, to point the toes - turn them UP and press them BACK - to curl them. So do just that. At any convenient time during the day, twist and turn the foot. Point the toes and try and touch the backs of your calves with the toes. Of course this is impossible, but make the effort. Stand high on your toes, holding onto a door or back of a chair to maintain balance. Hold the position for as long as you can - ever notice what huge and deeply cut calves ballet dancers have?
Keep up this ankle loosening routine for a couple of weeks, and then start to use Iron Boots. Using the same ankle twisting, foot rotating and toe pointing routine, gradually add weight to the Iron Boots but make sure that every motion is complete and thorough. Perform AT LEAST 10 perfect repetitions in all these movements. Keep on this iron boot routine for at least a month. The amount of time is not in itself too important. What IS important is that the joints and the calf muscles are loosened and made as supple as possible in order to make ready for the more powerful stimulating movements that will follow.
I am giving you four calf exercises to regularly perform with your ordinary routine. You will use 3 sets of each exercise - one set with the toes pointed well out, one set with the toes pointed straight to the front, and one set with the toes pointing in.
In the first set, the toes will be away from each other, with the heels nearly touching. In the second set, the toes and heels will be at equal distance from each other. In the third set, the toes will almost touch each while the heels will be well away from each other.
Use a HEAVY weight in each exercise. Start off with 10 reps and FORCE EACH AND EVERY ONE. Squeeze out each repetition until it is absolutely impossible for you to get out another and then hold that final rep at its peak of contraction. HOLD IT until the muscle aches and burns. Then lower and relax. Learn to utilize this final contraction - make full use of it by forcing out the last rep and keeping the muscular contraction on until compelled to relax. After the last set of every calf exercise massage the muscle, and at the end of the four exercises given here go right into your Iron Boot routine.
Exercise One - Toe Press on Leg Press Machine. Keep the legs straight throughout the entire movement. Push up with the toes as hard and as high as you can, feeling the weight every inch of the way. DON'T fire off the reps rapidly. Feel that contraction every fraction of an inch you raise the weight. At the peak of the contraction HOLD for a slow count of three, then lower as slowly as you can. Start off with 15 reps and work up to 30 reps for 3 sets, with the toes and heels in the positions previously explained. DON'T FORGET to hold that FINAL rep of every set for as long as you can. Massage the calves after you have completed this exercise.
Exercise Two - Standing Calf Raise on Machine. Stand on a block of wood AT LEAST six inches high. Lower the heels to the absolute rock bottom, and raise them as high as you possible can, attempting to stand on your toes. Again perform each rep slowly, feeling it every inch of the way, holding the raise at its peak for a slow count of three and lowering again as slowly and steadily as you can. Use the three foot positions and work from 3 x 15 to 3 x 30 reps. Use as heavy a weight as you can handle, and massage the calves after your last set of these.
Exercise 3 - One Leg Seated Calf Raise - Follow the same procedures as with the two exercises above.
Exercise 4 - Calf Jumps. Hold the barbell across the shoulders and back and pull down slightly on it so that the bar does not leave the shoulders when you start jumping. During the entire exercise THE KNEES ARE KEPT LOCKED. Allow the heels to touch the floor but they only do so to get that initial upward thrust. Raise the heels suddenly and swiftly with a vicious contraction. Use as heavy a poundage as you can, follow the same rep progression as above, and make sure that every repetition is performed as perfectly and strongly as possible. Massage the calves once again after your final set of these.
Now rest for 10-15 minutes before performing your Iron Boot routine. Work HARD and concentrate on what you are doing. Don't just go through the motions quickly. You will succeed.
Enjoy Your Lifting!