Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A New Approach to Calf Development - John Grimek

It is generally conceded by all weight trainers who strive for muscular development that the most difficult region of the body to develop is the lower leg. These muscles, the calves, are known to be the most obstinate muscles of all muscles to develop, and usually defy the standard means of training.  Because of this many bodybuilders give up trying to acquire a better pair of calves and accept defeat without really trying. This defeatist attitude only encourages further neglect of the calves and complete development in this area may never be realized.

It is also agreed among those who studied various principles of muscle development that no matter what kind of calf shape one possesses improvement is possible to some degree, providing one is willing to work towards that goal. It is further agreed that if the calves are not favorably shaped from the start, the task of achieving outstanding development will not be an easy one. But the fact remains that whenever direct effort is devoted to a specific calf-developing program, definite changes do materialize. 

Naturally when one assumes a hopeless, dejected attitude because the calves fail to respond, then on finds it very hard to apply himself to the task, thus failing to obtain the results that should accrue from persistent training. With this in mind it is necessary to any person seeking better leg development to approach the problem with strong determination and see it through. Vigorous application of this sort will encourage growth even in the most stubborn cases and should produce desirable results eventually.

One perplexing aspect that has puzzled bodybuilders in connection with calf development is that for several decades very few if any new training ideas for calf development have been advanced. Yet during this time many new ideas and training methods for other parts of the body have been made public. Numerous bodybuilders, particularly those who seek to improve their calves, complain that instruction articles relating to the calves are sadly neglected, while articles on other body areas were being featured extensively. Even writers who deal exclusively with certain body parts often omit the treatise on the calves, they complain. Of course the answer is self-explanatory. The fact that the calves do present a developing problem, and since very few new training ideas have been advanced along this line, most writers, many of whom lack outstanding development in this region themselves, hesitate to tackle it because they feel they cannot do justice to the subject. Nevertheless, York did develop such an apparatus some years ago which is known as the Calflex.  

This calf device has excellent developing qualities but only when it is used correctly. When used incorrectly, which it usually is, the results leave something to be desired. The fact that each calf is worked individually against adjustable spring tension makes it difficult for some people to understand its working principle. However, for positive results the action must stem from the ankle and pressure must be exerted by the calf muscle. But too often the individual uses his bodyweight to work the device instead of making the calf and ankle do the work,which is the secret of success when using this apparatus.
In trying to ascertain the reasons for failure to acquire better calves after years of training, I find five faults:

1) Not enough exercise employed to stimulate growth, and lack of persistence on the part of the trainee.

2) Lack of ankle flexibility which prevents complete contraction of the calf to induce further growth.

3) Stretching of the calf muscle is neglected by all who fail to improve their calves.

4) Failing to include an occasional 'jarring' type of exercise to shock these stubborn muscles.

5) Neglect of the new isometric system of sustained contraction, which should help because it stimulates the deeper seated muscles not generally involved in just ordinary action. So this addition to a calf routine should help.

From the foregoing it's suggested that any calf-developing program should include a combination of exercises rather than exercises that contract these muscles only. Of course full contraction of the gastrocnemius and the soleus is desired. But for favorable results all contracting movements must be followed by a stretching exercise to induce speedier growth. And since the calves are of denser tissue that other muscles of the body, consequently they require harder work and of greater variety to fully break down. The calves remain firm and muscular due to our daily activity. And regardless of bodyweight, many a fat man has relatively muscular calves which partially proves that these muscles rarely get fat.

Though these muscles require a lot of work to make them grow, many bodybuilders think they give the calves enough work. Most bodybuilders are afraid to overwork them, but let me assure these fellows that the calves can stand harder work than any other part of the body and chances of overworking the calves are slim indeed. Proof of this are ballet dancers who, as a whole, have better developed calves than almost all other groups. These dancers practice raising up on toes by the hour! If anyone is apt to overwork the calves its the ballet dancer - not the bodybuilder. This example also stresses the inclusion of more exercise for the lower legs in variety and repetitions.

Additional questions on calf development are always prompted whenever ballet dancers are mentioned. In this connection long distance runners and walkers are invariably compared. If a ballet dancer can improve his calves with all that work, why aren't the legs of long distance runners and walkers better developed? The answer is not hard to understand if some thought is given it. Everyone does agree that long distance runners and walkers do include a lot of leg work, and many overwork their calves and also their thighs. But while ballet dancers do include countless repetitions in their repertoire they frequently take rest breaks between dance practice and actual dancing that allows their calves to recover. Runners and walkers, on the other hand, do not get such resting breaks and often continue to trod for hours. What's more, these walkers and runners do not use their calves in exactly the same way as ballet dancers. Dancers, as it can be noticed, derive direct action from their ankles and calves that aids development. Ankle flexibility, of course, imparts peak contraction to the calves which stimulates growth and aids shape. This further proves my contention that ankle flexibility is a factor in calf development. Naturally, heredity and bone structure also play a major role in calf development, although too many fellows come to accept ankle size as the criterion of calf development rather than working them rigorously to induce growth.

Ankle flexibility can be acquired by sitting on a bench and extending the leg. With leg extended the foot, from ankle only, is rotated and moved around in all positions. For progression an iron boot is attached to the foot and the movements repeated. Try to get more twist and turn in all directions, and continue until the calf and ankle begin to tire. This is a good way to relieve congestion of the calf area, which is contrary to a theory advanced a few years ago; that of maintaining a state of congestion for a long time to produce faster growth. This theory failed for obvious reasons . . . the calves failed to respond any faster. The obvious fact is that fresh blood contains the nutrients that the cells need to nourish and rebuild the broken down cells. So it's important to induce freer circulation, not to stymie it. Of course the most asinine theory regarding this system suggests that a sort of tourniquet be applied to the thigh just above the knee while doing calf work. This idea was suggested to hasten complete congestion of the calves and to keep the blood localized. This is a dangerous approach and could easily result in ruptured blood vessels and even invite gangrene. My own theory is that if enough repetitions and variety are used, calf improvement will result.

Here's something else that is overlooked. Whenever the calves are thoroughly pumped up they congest to such an extent as to hinder movement, making further effort very difficult. But if, when this state of congestion is reached, the calves are stretched with foot rotations, calf stretches, toe presses under a leg pressing apparatus, etc., the muscles continue to be worked but with freer action. That's why a variety of congesting and decongesting exercises will prove better for calf development than when only congesting exercises are used.    

Also, certain individuals find they can attain a fuller contraction by bending the knees than by keeping them locked. So an exercise like sitting on a low bench with a weight held over the knee and raising up on toes has advantages. It eliminates the pull on the hamstring muscles of the thighs, yet the bulk of the calves can be thoroughly exercises. But whatever type of exercise helps you to achieve peak contraction, by all means include it.

Stretching exercises react favorably upon the soleus muscle, the large section the calf underlying the gastrocnemius. Stretching is particularly good for those with high or short calf muscles. But best results are obtained when stretching is done after contracting exercises. Of course all types of jumping help to jar stubborn muscles and should be used occasionally.

In regards to repetitions, the lifter should determine which number reacts best for himself, and how quickly he can congest his calves. Some fellows are capable of producing a thorough congestion with 12-15 reps. Others require more sets and reps. However, never do less than 10 but always continue until the calves are fully congested. Then a stretching exercise should be done, and this movement followed again by a contracting exercise and continued in an alternate fashion until the calves feel very full and firm to the touch. To complete the program some static contractions should be made on the power rack. This latter movement should continue for 10 to 12 seconds and repeated if necessary to conclude the calf program.

Following is a list of outstanding exercises that will develop and shape the calves:

Congesting Exercises -
Raise on Toes, one and two legged.
Seated Raise on Toes.
Straddle Hop, weight on shoulders.
Jumping up on Toes by ankle action.

Stretching Exercises -
Calf Stretch with toes on block.
Stiff Legged Deadlift standing on box.
Good Morning exercise.

General Activity -
Broad Jumping, standing and running.
Stair Climbing on toes.
Heel and Toe tap dancing.
Rope Skipping.
Mountain Climbing.
Most Sports.

Static Contraction -
Rise on Toes in power rack.
Start of Leg Curl Exercise, both exercises to include as heavy a resistance as possible. 

 - Article courtesy of Bob Adams - 

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