Thursday, March 9, 2017

Building Your Calves - John McCallum (1967)

Originally Published In This Issue
February 1967

Last month we touched very lightly on the theory of calf development. 

This month we want to convert theory into practical application. In short, we want to outline a routine that will force your calves to their maximum shape and development as rapidly as possible.

Like all out specialization routines, we'll tie the calf work in with a general bulk producing
course for your entire body.

There's two reasons for doing this. First, even though you've decided to specialize on your calves for a while, you still want to make continued improvement on the rest of your body. Second, and most important of all, your gains on the specialization area will be infinitely greater if you're gaining weight during the time you're specializing. 

This business of gaining weight is one of the real keys to progress. Too many men make the mistake of trying to beef up one localized area - calves for example - without giving sufficient attention to increasing their overall bodyweight. You might make it this way if you're an easy gainer, but the chances are overwhelming that you'll fail miserably. 

I was talking to one of the big Mr. winners about this one time. He was specializing on his calves. I went down to the gym to watch him work out and for an hour all he did was bulk and power stuff.

"I thought you were specializing on your calves." I said.

He wiped the sweat out of his eyes. "I am." 

"Good grief," I said. "All you've done so far is bulk stuff. When do you do the calf work?" 

"Pretty soon," he said. "Soon as I finish the bulk part." 

I sat down on a bench. "That looks like a pile of hard work. Why don't you just exercise your calves." 

"Because it wouldn't do me any good," he said. "I wouldn't gain." 

"You wouldn't gain on your calves?" 

"No," he said. "I've tried it before. All I get is a little definition. I've got to be gaining weight to add muscle anywhere." 

"So you do a weight gaining routine along with your specialization work," I said. "Is that right?" 

"Right," he said. "It's the only sensible way. Specialize if you have to, but tie it in with an overall bulk program." 

Let's start with the overall bulk program.

Do the following routine two days per week. Mondays and Thursdays, for example. Or Tuesdays and Fridays. 

1) Press Behind Neck - 3 sets of 10 reps.
2) Curls - 3 x 10.
3) Rowing - 3 x 15.
4) Bench Press - 3 x 12.
5) Squats - 2 x 15.
6) Pullovers (alternate with squat sets) - 2 x 20.
7) Stiff-Legged Deadlift - 1 5.
8) Leg Raises - 1 x 25.

This is a very basic weight gaining program. There's nothing complicated about it and there's no fancy frills. It's simply a matter of very hard work on a few exercises. 

Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the program. You read a lot of hullabaloo in other magazines about miraculous training programs and it's easy to become confused by it all, but the above program, for all its simplicity, is still tops for the average trainee who wants to gain solid muscular weight as quickly as possible.

Do the squats heavy and in breathing style. Take three big breaths between each repetition. You should be completely gassed when you finish them. Add weight every workout. Figure on reaching at least 350 lbs. for 15 reps. 

Keep your deadlift poundages at least as high as your squats and 10 or 20 pounds more if you can. Do them standing on a block so you can go way down with the weight. Let the bar go right down to your toes. Concentrate on your lower back when you're coming erect. Straighten up and roll your shoulders back at the completion of each rep.

The stiff-legged deadlift (or straight-legged, whichever you prefer) is a badly neglected exercise. It's too bad it is because it's also one of the very best moves for bulk and power. It's doubtful if any exercise, other than the squat, exceeds it in value and importance. It'll add bulk and power from the back of your neck right down to your heels.

It's notable that two of the most massively built men of all time - John Grimek and Maurice Jones - made great use of the stiff-legged deadlift. Jones in particular used it extensively. He handled well over 400 pounds for 15 reps in immaculate style.

Jones gives great credit to the deadlift in conjunction with the type of program listed earlier for his own herculean development. Give it your maximum effort and maybe you'll equal his accomplishments.

Now we come to the calf specialization. If you think you aren't doing enough work on the basic program, you can more than make up for it here. 

You've probably heard that your calves can stand a terrific amount of work. That's just a nice way of saying that they need a terrific amount of work. You've got to work the heck out of them if you want them to grow. You've got to drive them to the limit. You've got to grind out every last possible repetition. You've got to pump them till they scream for help.

Remember that your calves are a tough muscle group. They get a lot of exercise just packing you around all day long. You've got to really jolt them to force big gains. Make up your mind right now that you're going to work them like they've never been worked before.

The one nice thing about calf work is that it doesn't burn up much energy. You can work your calves till they're ready to fall off and it won't deplete your energy reserves as much as one heavy set of squats. Be prepared, then, to give it all you've got.

You should work your calves at least five days per seek and you should try to get in two calf workouts per day. It's almost impossible to overwork them.

Start your calf workout with the regular calf raise on the calf machine. If you haven't got a calf machine, then either buy one or build one. There's no sense fiddling around with half the equipment you need. If you're serious about building your body, then get the necessary equipment and do it properly.

Do the calf raise for 5 sets of 20 reps. Use as much weight as you can while still doing the exercise properly. Use very strict style. Drop all the way down at the bottom and stretch your calves to the limit. Raise as high as you can at the top and try to cramp your calf muscles. Try to get right up on your toes like a ballet dancer. [Note: Pointing your toes when you've reached what you think is the top will help with that. Really. My niece showed me that a couple decades ago.] 

The big stretch at the bottom of each rep is important. This stretching action builds the muscle bulk low on your leg where you want it. [Just like the held contraction at top, you can also hold the bottom stretch for a count or three or four on any type of calf raise exercise.] Generally speaking, the lower the calf is the better it will look. Certain hereditary factors come into play, of course. You can't alter the natural shape of your calf completely. You can alter it enough, however, if you exercise properly. Remember to drop as low as possible and stretch all you can.

The second exercise will be the rough opposite of the first one. Place your heels on the block this time and raise and lower the front part of your foot. Use the calf machine. You'll cramp the muscles on the front of your shin if you're doing it properly. If you're not used to it you'll get pretty tender around this area at first. Tough it out. Sore shins never killed anyone. Do 5 sets of 20 reps the same as the first exercise.

The third exercise will be the calf raise while seated. Hold the bar across your thighs for resistance. You'll work up into heavy weights on this and the pressure of the bar can become quite painful. Use a lot of padding. Make it as comfortable as possible so you can give all your concentration to the calf action. [If you don't have access or don't want access to a seated calf machine doing them one legged with a heavy dumbbell can be a plan.] 

Use a 3" block under your toes and get the maximum stretch out of it for 5 sets of 20 reps.

The fourth and final exercise is the donkey calf raise. If you've never done this before it'll take a little getting used to. Stand on a block with your heels jutting out over, the same as in the other exercises. Then bend forward from the hips so that your upper body is approximately parallel to the floor. Support your upper body by hanging on to a bench or support.

Have your training partner sit astride your back. He should sit as close to your hips as possible so your calves are doing all the work. Now grind out the usual 5 sets of 20.

If you train alone, put on a hip belt or a dipping belt and suspend weights from that. [Again, if using adequate weight with two legs gets problematic, try doing them one leg at a time.]

The donkey calf raise is probably the best single calf exercise of them all. The position is comfortable and the calf action is localized so you can apply maximum effort and concentration throughout. Bending forward from the hips helps put the required stretch on the calves. Most of the top men work on this one. It'll give you the results you want, but you've got to concentrate on it and you've got to work very, very hard. You should have difficulty walking properly for a few minutes after completing the exercise.

A couple of guys down at the gym were beefing about their lousy calves one day. They were usually beefing about something. They never worked hard enough to even stay warm on any exercise, but I thought I'd give it another try so I showed them how to do the donkey calf raise.

One of them gave me a funny look. "What'd you call it?"

"Donkey calf raise," I said. "Why?"

"Nothing," he said. "But it's a funny thing to call it."

"What the devil do you care what they call it?" I said. "Just do it. Five sets of 20 and quit complaining."

I watched them working their calves a few days later. They were dawdling through the donkey calf raise for about five reps in sloppy style.

"For goodness sake," I said. "That's not the way I showed you. Why don't you do it properly?"

One of them gave me a little grin. "It's the name," he said. "Donkey calf raise. I feel" - he smirked - "I feel like an ass doing it."

His partner giggled.

"Listen," I snarled. "Get back to work and do it properly or you'll get it."

He blinked. "Get what?"

"A good swift kick," I said. "Right in the donkey."

Good nutrition is just as important in building your calves as in building any other muscle group. Pay special attention to your diet. You've got to keep your protein way up if you want fast gains.

Get a good protein supplement and mix it into a weight gaining drink. Take it in huge amounts. Take a vitamin mineral supplement and some form of germ oil concentrate. Remember that you are what you eat. If you don't eat properly, then you won't gain properly.

Give each repetition your undivided effort and concentration. Do each rep moderately slow with very, very strict style. This is no place for cheating.

Don't rest too long between sets. You'll lose the pump effect if you do. Your calves should be pumped to the limit and burning when you finish. They should even feel tight and swollen the next day.

Give it all you've got. Other men have built herculean calves on this type of program. You can do it too.              

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