The calves are some of the muscles in the human body that need to be worked on and trained over time. Patience and long sets are the best techniques to avoid ending up with chicken legs.
Let’s be clear from the very start! There aren’t a lot of you who are going to read this article that regularly work on your calves in the gym. But if you do, well done you. But are you doing it correctly? Not sure? Not a lot of us have such solid calves that mean we can stand up for hours and hours and it’s not that rare to come across people with real chicken legs, because all they do is work on their arms with the bench press.
The anatomy of the calf
What you have to know is that the calf is made up of not one, but two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles. The gastric is what people generally call the calf, since it is the part that contracts when you bend down to touch your toes. The soleus muscle is a lot smaller and is attached just under the knee. Therefore, you have work in various positions and angles to be able to get solid and balanced calves. To compare them, we generally say that the calves are the biceps of the lower body. But why? Because they are generally the muscle that we see first when your legs are exposed and also, they develop naturally for some people, whilst others really have to work on them.
How do you train your calf muscles?
Before we reveal a few exercises, it is crucial to make sure you your technique is correct, so you make progress and don’t waste your time. Bearing in mind that these muscles have slow-twitch fibres, there is no point putting lots of weight on them and just doing short training sessions. Instead, you should be working on these muscles for a longer amount of time, and with lighter weights and slower movements. You will see, after a few movements, your calves will start to burn. As is the case with every muscle, when you change positions, you’re going to change the angle you’re working at as well and this will require your muscles to work in different ways. To work your calves, you could even just come up on your tiptoes and go back down.
Don’t forget that your calves are always supporting you, often during the day as well. To avoid weaknesses, it is just as important to work on these muscles as it is to work on your pecs.
Standing calf raises: 2 sets of 20 reps
Standing on a step or a raised surface above ground level, position yourself with your foot on the step so that your heel dips into the gap between the floor and the top of the step. Lower your heel towards the floor and then lift it up as high as possible by pushing up with the ball of your feet. Stay in this position for two seconds and then start again. Maybe do this exercise in front of a wall or a stable infrastructure so you have something to hold onto to keep your balance.
Stairmasters: 5 sets of one minute with a 30 seconds break in between
There’s nothing better than climbing the stairs to strengthen your calves. On a machine or even on your own stairs at home, go up and down making sure your heel never touches the floor. In other words, go up and down by just using the balls of your feet. Don’t use your arms to help you up either, your collective body weight should be just on your calves.
Seated calf raises: 4 sets of 20 reps
Get back in the same position as you were in for the standing calf raises, but seated, with a weight on your knees. Lower your ankles and then lift them back up as high as possible. Once raised, stay in the position for a second and then lower again, controlling your speed and technique as you do so.
Calf raises on the leg press: 4 sets of 20 reps
On a weighted leg press, position your feet at the very bottom of the pad so that your heels aren’t in contact with it. The balls of your feet should be towards you when you start moving. Push the pad away from you using the strength of your calves (not your legs). Control the movement when pushing away and repeat. This is the same movement as seated calf raises, but with an inclined press.