It is a well established but little known fact that man is capable of outrunning a horse over a distance. Although a horse can reach a speed of 40 mph while an Olympic sprint champion like Carl Lewis can barely muster 20, a man can outlast a horse. At a once popular event that matched men against horses in a race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, believe it or not, the man usually won.
On certain four-legged animals that a designed for running, like the horse and the antelope, the lower portion of the leg (corresponding to our ankle and foot) is greatly lengthened and has no large concentration of muscle. For example, the horse has a great mass of muscle bunched at the top of the leg close to its torso, whereas the lower portion of largely bone and tendon. This combination produces speed in running - a small contraction of the distant muscle swings the thin, light lower leg through a wide arc.
Man, a two legged creature, can also run fast; however, the bone construction of the human foot is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is arched. And unlike that of the horse, the human lower leg contains a significant mass of muscle - the calf. Of the human body's more than 600 skeletal muscles, it is the calves, with their tremendous leverage, that can generate speed, extraordinary power and surprising endurance.
When the calf contracts, the heel is pulled upward. The ball of the foot acts as a fulcrum, with the weight of the entire body centered about halfway between the ball of the foot and the heel. This conformation allows man to high jump close to eight feet, long jump more than 29 feet and triple jump almost 60 feet.
The gastrocnemius and the soleus are the superficial muscles that form the powerful muscular mass referred to as the calf of the loeg. The primary muscle of the calf, the gastrocnemius, has two heads that attach to the femur (thigh bone) just above the knee. The soleus attaches at the upper ends of the tibia and fubula (the bones of the lower leg) and lies underneath the gastocnemius. Both muscles are located on the back side of the lower leg and insert on the calcaneus (heel bone) by way of the Achilles tendon, the thickest and strongest tendon in the body. They extend the foot downward (plantar flexion) at the ankle joint and are used in standing, walking, running and leaping. These muscles enable you to stand on the tips of your toes and tend to be highly developed in ballet dancers.
There are several other muscles that assist in plantar flexion and dorsal flexion (upward movement of the foot and ankle joint) and that contribute to ankle stability in kicking, swimming, hiking and some gymnastics movements. These muscles - the peroneus longus, peroneus brevis, tibialis anterior, tibialis posterior, plantaris, flexor digitorum longus and flexor ballicus longus - serve other purposes, such as maintaining the arch of the foot, inverting and supinating the foot and flexing the big toe.
Weaknesses at any one of the calf muscles can result in an injury to the foot, ankle or knee or even contribute to hip and back problems due to compensation. Triathletes, in particular, will benefit greatly from resistance training for the calves in preparing for a maximum effort. Marathoners, too, will see improved performance after some calf training.
Steve Reeves developed his magnificent 18-1/2 inch calves the hard way. When he was a teenager, he had a newspaper route and pedaled his bicycle, loaded with newspapers, up steep hills. Steve credits a lot of his calf development to this tremendous exercise. He deliberately pedaled in a way that provided his calves with the greatest amount of exercise. When I was a 16-year old beginner, I tried to copy Steve's method, riding my bike to Fremont High School, which was three miles from my home. My calves grew almost two inches in three months.
I learned something else about calf development from Reeves. Steve was never too busy to help skinny would-be bodybuilders like myself with some exercise tips and would even let us have a free workout at Bert Goodrich's Hollywood Gym, where he was the manager. Steve had a special way of walking to aid his calf development. He would lift his foot high on his toes before "pushing off" for each step. He practiced walking and running on the sand at Muscle Beach, pushing hard with his toes and getting as much spring into each step as he could. You could always see his fabulous calves pumped and gorged with blood after his daily run.
Reeves loved to run. When I won the Muscle Beach Mile run - finishing in under five minutes - Steve invited me to run with him and his training partner, fellow actor Herb Lamb. We would meet in La Cienega Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Steve ran like a thoroughbred, and as fast as I was, I could never beat him at a mile, his favorite distance. When Steve went to Italy to live (and make 17 movies), he ran three days a week with Brad Harris and Gordon Scott. To this day, at age 64, Steve Reeves still has amazing calves. [article published May '91]
Although I never developed great calves like Reeves', I did build them up from 13" to 17-1/2 and managed to win a couple of best legs awards, and I don't mean just the Outstanding Men in Hose Shows at Man & Manny's after hours club. Running definitely helped.
Most bodybuilders think that the calves are the hardest part of the body to develop. Though heredity plays a part in an individual's development potential, poor calves are more often the result of insufficient and incorrect training than of heredity. The calves, as with many other muscle groups, require specialized training to make them grow.
Since the calf muscles are used constantly in walking and running, their muscle fibers are more dense than those of muscles in other parts of the body. In addition, according to Gray's Anatomy, the intramuscular temperature of the calves is about four degrees lower than that of muscles elsewhere in the body. -- THAT'S NEW TO ME! The temperature below knee is 94 to 95 degrees, while that of the thigh is 97 to 98 degrees. This lower temperature in the calf muscles is, in part, the result of less blood circulation in that area - the pull of gravity makes it more difficult for blood to return to the heart as it travels uphill. Generally, the less blood circulation, the slower the muscle growth.
The fact that professional dancers and athletes who train daily are constantly stimulating their blood circulation may be one reason why they develop such outstanding calves without using a great deal of resistance. Some bodybuilders, like Rory Leidelmeyer
- his massive calves tape almost 21 inches - do a lot of free weight (bodyweight only) toe raises at odd times each day, although Leidelmeyer also blasts his calves four times a week in the gym. In addition, Rory keeps them stimulated by standing on his tiptoes for up to 10 minutes each morning as he shaves and grooms his hair.
the 1966 Mr. America and Sergio Oliva's one-time training partner, did a set of one-legged heel raises every hour on the hour every single day for two months and put more than an inch on his already well developed calves.
Blasting Your Calves
Improperly or inadequately contracting the calf muscles while exercising usually results in no progress. Many people use too much weight and try to make a strength event out of calf work. They "bounce" through each exercise with short, partial contractions.
Calves must be worked through their full range of movement - full extension and complete contraction - to promote growth.
Here are several effective calf exercises and training programs that work. Remember, however, no training program will work if you don't.
The following exercises will strengthen and develop the muscles of your calves from every angle, which will help prevent injuries and improve both the size and shape of your lower legs.
1) Calf Machine Heel Raises. Position your shoulders comfortably on the shoulder rests of the calf machine. Stand erect and place the balls of your feet on the foot pad below. Keep your back straight, your head up and your legs locked during the entire exercise. Don't allow your hips to move backward of forward. Lower your heels to the lowest possible comfortable position, then inhale as you rise up on your toes as high as possible. Hold this position for a second, exhale and return to the starting position.
Perform the first set with your toes facing outward and your heels together. On the second set your toes should face inward and your heels should be about 10 to 12 inches apart. For the third set place your feet about 8 inches apart with your toes and heels facing straight ahead. Perform 15-20 reps on each set, resting about 60 seconds between sets.
2) Standing No-Weight Heel Raises. To finish off your calf work, here is a fine exercise that gorges the calves with blood and builds stamina and endurance in the lower legs. Use the same block as in the previous exercise, but place it about 24 inches from the wall. Stand erect with the balls of your feet on the block, your back straight, your head up and your knees locked. With your toes facing out (about 10-12 inches apart) and your heels almost touching, place your hands lightly against the wall for balance. As you rise up on your toes as high as possible, try to let the big toes do most of the work. Hold for a second at the top and then lower your heels down as far as possible.
Do 15-25 reps or as many as you can until your calves begin to ache, then do them until you can't perform another repetition. Do only one set. Afterward sit down and knead and massage your calves for 30 seconds or so, or you may find it difficult to walk for a few minutes.
3) Seated Barbell Calf Raises. Place a 4-inch high block of wood about 12 inches from the end of a flat bench. Sit on the edge of the bench and put a a barbell on your thighs about 3 inches above the knee. Placing a folded towel or some foam under the barbell makes it more comfortable on your thighs. Position the balls of your feet on the board, keeping your back straight and your head up. Inhale as you rise up on your toes by lifting the heels as high as possible. Hold this position for a second, then lower your heels as far as possible while exhaling. Once again, change the position of your toes, (out, in, and straight) for each of the three sets. Do 15-20 reps on each set with one minute of rest in between.
- If you don't have a seated calf, do these in the rack. Especially if you're in a public gym. Do these in the rack. Even if there is a seated calf. After that, go to the change room and pile up a heap of dirty towels, soak them in gas and toss a match on them on your way out. Did I mention the benefits of doing calf raises while wearing flippers yet?
Don't mind me, this silly blog is going to break the 10-million page view mark in the next hour or so and I'm all giddy, Girl. But yeah, that towel fire in the change room.
Calf Training for Beginners
Since calves are very dense muscles, doing higher reps - in the 15-20 range - works better for them than the 8-12 repetitions normally used for other muscles. A word of caution: Start with one set per exercise, as the calves can become extremely sore due to the accumulation of lactic acid from this intense workout.
Take a couple of weeks to work up to the full program.
You might wanna apply that to a whole lot of your other programs too, when you're not busy setting fire to various public gymnasia.
You might wanna apply that to a whole lot of your other programs too, when you're not busy setting fire to various public gymnasia.
Osoi Hito (2004)
A wheelchair bound man goes on a killing spree to ease his hurt when a local college coed rebuffs his amorous advances.
I shit you not.
Big news this week in the eyeballs-on-a-small-screen department is the fifth season of
This will be the second last season of Better Call Saul, and it's inching closer to Breaking Bad every episode now.
Calf work can be tedious. I know, eh. Otherwise I wouldn't have brought up the movie and that series. Rather than neglect your calves or skimp on the program, you might prefer to work them first in your routine. Three workouts a week with a day of rest in between should produce excellent improvement.
Calf Machine Heel Raise - 3 x 15-20
No-Weight Heel Raise - 3 x 15-20
Seated Barbell or Machine Calf Raise - 2 x 15-20
No-Weight Heel Raise - 2 x 15-20
Begin with only one set of each for the first week; add the second set to the first two exercises the second week and the second round of the second superset on the third week; then add the third set of the first two exercises. Stay with this program for at least three months.
Intermediate Calf Training
4) Leg Press Toe Raises. For this program you need two additional exercises. Lie on your back on a leg press machine and position the balls of your feet under the foot pad. Keep your legs straight and your knees locked. Get a full stretch and a complete contraction on each rep. If you turn your toes out and your heels in, it will affect the inner calf more. If you keep your feet straight, it works the central mass of the calves. if you turn your toes in and your heels out, it works the outer calf more. Perform 15 reps and simultaneously quote McResearch studies that "prove" changing the foot angle makes no difference whatsoever. That's the spirit, Champ!
5) Donkey Calf Raise. Just about all top bodybuilders like this one for adding mass to the calves while enjoying the pony girl experience in public. If you don't have a training partner you can use an inflatable sex doll wearing a dipping belt and plates, or a leg press machine, or one of the many other methods you can easily find online. Just be sure that the weight is positioned over your hips and you go all the way up and down on each rep. Perform 15 reps. In between sets, instead of resting, do 20 reps of no-weight toe raises. Keep those calves pumped!
Leg Press Toe Raise - 4 x 15
Donkey Calf Raise - 4 x 15
No-Weight Calf Raise - 4 x 20
Advanced Calf Training
1) Frank Zane's Favorite:
Seated Calf Raise - 6 x 15
Standing Calf Raise - 6 x 15
One Legged Calf Raise - 6 x 15
Note: Zane said that 15 reps is most effective for him. When working heavy, go no lower than 10 reps and occasionally do as many as 20 or 25 reps for a fast pump.
2) Bob Gajda's Continuous Circulation Blaster:
Bob did a compound set of one legged calf raises every hour on the waking hour. You'll need a heavy piece of foam rubber and block of wood beveled on one edge. Without wearing shoes do 25 reps for the right leg and then 25 reps for the left on the rubber covered block. Immediately do another 20 reps for each foot. The working leg should be completely stiff throughout the compound set, so brace yourself on something. Do this routine on the hour every single day for a minimum of 10 sets. Always keep your toes pointed out and your sunny side up disposition-wise.
3) Bob Birdsong's Torture Bombing Routine:
Pardon me? Uh, yeah.
Calf Machine Heel Raise (heavy) - 6-8 x 15-25
No-Weight Calf Raises* - 6-8 x 15-20
Donkey Calf Raises - 5-6 x 25-30
Seated Barbell Calf Raise - 5 x 15
Leg Press Toe Press - 4 x 25
No-Weight Calf Raises - 4 x 20
* He did these between sets of all exercises except the donkeys.
Note: Birdsong did the above routine three days a week. On the other three days he did a total of 10 sets in the following manner: He divided his workout into five breaks and did two sets of calves on each break. He says this tremendous amount of work suited him, but he advises others to start with a moderate amount of calf exercises and gradually increase the sets. Birdsong also used as heavy a weight as possible on each exercise but did them in strict form. Full contraction at the top. Get a full stretch at the bottom - try to touch the floor with your heel on each rep, although the block should be high enough so that you can't. Yes, the height of the block will thwart your efforts but try, Try . . . TRY nonetheless, mighty Sisyphus, tho your rewards shall be respected by only the few. Yes, Sisyphus came to a realization so immense it left no room for sanity. Oh well, merrily we roll along . . .
10,000,000 page views now.
10,000,000 page views now.