Calves seem to be the most hated and ignored bodypart. Most of the time a bodybuilder's calf routine begins at the end of the workout, encompasses one exercise, few reps and even fewer sets. As Roy Callender used to put it, "I'd do a few sets at the end merely to ease my conscience."
Even the pros have trouble getting up for calf workouts. Yet very few bodyparts are as important to a complete physique as calves. How many bodybuilders would be winners right now if they had the calf development of Chris Dickerson (photo above)?
I just saw the NPC National Championships and calf development (or lack of it) played a major role in the outcome. Even on the local level calves make or break a competitor. Yet it seems unless you were born with long full calves, getting them to grow or keep growing is a never ending lesson in frustration and futility.
The most common problem with calves is the high calf. For this person, even if the gastrocnemius (the calf proper) is developed it still looks terrible, especially from the front. Roy Callender did wonders with his high calves by spending one hour per workout on the seated calf machine, focusing on soleus development to emphasize width.
It seems everyone these days is saying heavy weights and low reps are the solution to any muscle size problem but with calves this doesn't always work. The gym where I used to train had a standing calf machine that was regularly loaded to 600 pounds. I could hammer out sets of 6 to 10 reps, but my calves rarely pumped and they never grew, even though I was getting much stronger.
The solution involved two separate workout routines that hit the calves with high reps and negatives, shin raises and seated raises to emphasize width and soleus development and a goal of a full, complete, deep pump. I wanted my calves to feel as pumped as my biceps did after a workout!
The negative accentuated reps really pumped them up. This involves using both legs to raise up on the toes, and then lowering down to a full stretch, very slowly with one leg. I tried to SQUEEZE the calf as i lowered. I also held the stretch position as long as three seconds. What a burn! Using both legs I went up on my toes as high as possible, and I always worked to get higher.
I also do the workouts separate from my regular training so that I'm not tempted to rush the calf workout to get to my arms or chest. This is also a priority principle. I also made sure to include different exercises for all angles. What other bodypart is only worked with one exercise?
The high reps hit the muscle deeper than I can describe. After each set I had trouble standing. The calf would stay pumped for hours also. Deciding not to finish the workout until the calves felt this way I knew was right helped hurry things along also. I took each set seriously.
Standing Calf Raise, 2 x 25 reps, vary angles
One DB Calf Raise, 2 x 25 positive, 25 negatives
Shin Raises, 2 x max reps to burn
Seated Raises, 2 x 15.
Bodyweight Single Leg Raise, 2 x 50-100, max positive reps, max neg-accentuated reps
Shin Raises, 2 x max reps
Two Leg Bodyweight Calf Raise, 1 x max reps (pos-neg)
That's it. Take day three off and blast them again the next day.
If you can.
Enjoy Your Lifting!