TURN YOUR CALVES INTO COWS - Tips for calf training PDF Print E-mail

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Let’s face it ... calves are the bane of most serious bodybuilders. More than any other body part, calf size and shape seem to be determined by genetics. How many times have you seen guys or girls who obviously never train, yet have well-developed, diamond-shaped calves? Yet go in to just about any gym in any country, and you will see hardcore gym rats with huge upper bodies and calves like a chicken. Great, hard-working bodybuilders with underdeveloped calves are almost a cliché.


One of the problems is that many bodybuilders treat calves as an afterthought, training them at the very end of a leg training session. To maximize your calf development, you need to separate them from the rest of your leg training. As most bodybuilders will tell you, quad and hamstring workouts are generally the most gruelling, especially when heavy squats and leg presses are involved. Training calves at the end of such a physically taxing workout is going to adversely affect the energy and focus you can put into your calves.


Try doing your calf workout on a day other than when you train upper legs. Combine calves with some upper body part, or better yet, do like Arnold did and reserve a workout specifically for calves and nothing else. This will allow maximum focus and energy on this most difficult body part. If you do combine calves with another body part, try training them first. For some reason, the tendency is to train calves last. Don’t. Do it first, before you go on to other body parts. This will ensure that when you are training calves, you are the freshest, mentally and physically, and this is the way to get an exceptional workout for your calves each and every time.


There are two main muscle groups in your calves. The gastrocnemius is the two head outer muscle - the muscle you see when you flex your calves - and underneath the gastrocnemius, the soleus. The gastrocnemius is worked more when the legs are straight, such as when you are performing standing calf raises, or calf pushes on the leg press. The soleus is worked more when the legs are bent, such as seated calf raises. As the soleus represents about 60% of the total muscle mass of your calves, you must combine standing and seated calf raises in your workout if you want maximum development.


When performing calf exercises, do not push with your toes - always use only the ball of the foot. Every rep should be a smooth, relatively slow continuous movement with no jerking, or pushing with your upper legs, or knees. You can move a very large amount of weight with your calves, so it is best not to lock-out the knees, but keep them ever-so-slightly bent, but rigid throughout the rep. This should prevent strain and injury to the knee joint.


You should try for the maximum range of movement in every rep. This means letting your heels sink down as far as possible at the bottom, and then going up on the balls of the feet as very high as you can possible go, without pushing with your toes. When you have done as many reps as you possibly can, try a little trick that Arnold used to do, and perform several mid-range half or quarter reps - rocking up and down on your calves for a few times right at the very end of the set. The pump and muscle burn from these few half-reps right at the end of the set are unbelievable.


Other ways to ramp up your calf training is to do drop sets or super sets. A drop set is where you do a set to failure, then lower the weight and immediately do another set to failure, then lower the weight again and immediately do another set to failure. A super set is where you combine two different exercises in a single set, such as standing calf raises to failure, then immediately jump on the leg press to perform calf pushes to failure. Drop sets and super sets will help put your calf development into overdrive.


One other thing that may help is something not a lot of trainers think about. Work boots and high-top basketball shoes are common in gyms, but these types of shoes may not give you easy, maximum range of ankle motion, which is critical for getting the most out of your calf workouts. Aside from the ankle support, boots and high-tops often have rigid insoles which limits how high up or down low you can go on each rep. When working calves, use shoes that permit maximum ankle and instep flexibility. The soles should be flexible (but not too thin because of the amount of weight you will be pushing), and either low around the ankles (like tennis shoes), or very flexible around the ankles (like boxing shoes). Kai Greene is one of the IFBB pros who advocates choosing the proper shoes for calf training.


As with training any body part, you should know a variety of exercises for calves, and combine different exercises every workout. Don’t get stuck doing the same calf routine every workout, or your calves will get used to it, and growth will slow. Mix things up. Common exercises for calves include:


● Standing calf machine

● Seated calf machine

● Standing calf raises with barbell (usually done on a Smith machine for balance)

● One leg standing calf raises while holding a dumbell

● Seated calf raises with either a barbell or dumbells on the knees

● Calf pushes with the leg press machine

● Calf raises on the hack squat machine, facing the pad


As far as sets and reps, this depends on your goal. For maximum calf development, four sets ain’t gonna cut it. Typically IFBB pros combine three different exercises for a body part, and usually do a minimum of 3 to 4 sets per exercise, for a minimum of 9 to 12 total sets per body part. For calves, most pros tend to do somewhat higher reps than they would for other muscle groups. Because calves are very difficult to grow, they concentrate not so much on pushing the maximum weight, but maximizing the burn in the muscle. For calves, 12 to 20 reps per set seems to be the most common. The pros train each major muscle group about once per week, and this is generally recommended if you are training very heavy. When you are young and your recovery time is faster, or if you are training lighter, you can train a muscle group twice per week. But you should never train a part more then twice per week, because you are not giving the muscle enough time to recover.


So for a wicked calf workout, choose three different calf exercises, and perform 3 to 4 sets of each one, with a weight that allows you to perform maximum reps somewhere in the range of 12 to 20. Do this a minimum of once per week, or a maximum of twice per week. And, as with any workout, warm-up first to reduce the risk of injury. For calf training, you want to warm up the knees on the stationary cycle, and warm up the calves with a few very light reps.


Here is a summary of the main points:


● Don’t train calves with upper legs

● Do calf training first in your workout session

● Combine standing and seated calf raises

● Don’t always use the same exercises - mix things up

● Always try for maximum range of motion

● Reps should be a smooth and continuous motion, with no jerking

● Try drop sets, super sets, and half-reps at the end of a set to ramp up your calf development

● Wear shoes that give maximum ankle and instep flexibility

● Perform three different exercises for 9 to 12 total sets per workout

● Use higher reps to maximize the burn

● Train calves at least once per week, but not more than twice per week

● Always warm up, and don’t lock-out the knees


Thursday, March 20, 2014