How to build big calves… it's a question that I pondered for many years as a kid, being born with calves like string beans. After much experimentation, what I finally realized was that high volume works great for calves. They are probably the hardest muscle to build. Just doing a few sets for them never did anything for me. Since I had no desire to train them and preferred to focus on strength, athleticism and bigger compound lifts they stayed that way for years.
The only time they finally responded was when I hit them with very high volume. I usually do this for about a month and then I am bored to tears and stop training calves again for another year. Also, you can't really tolerate the high volume loading for too long before you will start to develop some ankle/achilles problems. If you are an athlete and run or jump a lot, don't even consider doing high volume calf work.
But if how to build big calves is a question that you obsess over, and you just want to get them jacked then you need to really increase your volume and frequency. I once put two inches on my calves in just over a month! Now, don't get me wrong, my calves are still nowhere near huge, but the point is you can add significant size to your calves if you really want to.
They were Arnold's worst bodypart and he dedicated all his time and effort to bringing them up. He even cut all of his pants off at the knee so he had to suffer the embarrassment of having his calves exposed wherever he went.
One option is to do a set of calves between every set of every exercise you do at each workout. Be sure to go heavy, get a good, deep stretch and hold it for a second (and up to ten seconds) at the bottom and get all the way up on your big toe at the top while flexing your calves hard. When you do standing calves your knees should be slightly bent on the way down and then locked out on the way up.
Another option is to start each workout (or each lower body day) with calves. One day per week would be heavy standing calf raises for 5-10 sets of 5-8 reps and the other day would be seated calf raises done for 4-5 sets of 15-30 reps.
You should also consider training the tibialis anterior muscles. These are the muscles that run down the front of your shin. Some people develop imbalances from too much ankle extension and not enough ankle flexion. When this happens and becomes a problem, the calves will not grow. So train these muscles by hanging your feet off the end of a bench and holding a dumbbell or DARD device between them and flexing your feet up toward you for a few sets of 10-20 reps, twice a week.
After you finish up with standing, seated and donkey calf raises and the tib raises, try doing farmers walks for up to five or even ten minutes while remanining on your toes the entire time. This will absolutely smoke your calves.
Finally, finish up your workouts with 10-20 minutes of jumping rope.
The above strategies should definitely get anyone's calves to grow rapidly in a couple of months. Just be sure to ease into the extra volume slowly and gradually and take a step back if your ankles start to bother you.
If you are currently doing only 3-4 sets of calves twice per week you should slowly add a set or two at every workout until you get to about 10 or so. Ten hard, heavy sets plus the farmers walks and jumping rope should be more than enough for most people to add an inch or so in a month.
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