They aren’t the most prominent muscles that a lifter works on but make no mistake. Calves are every bit as important to having a complete physique as any other muscle in the body will be. When you are wearing shorts in the gym or anywhere else, the calves are the only leg muscles that are visible so if you want to announce to passersby that you are a person that takes your physique seriously then we need to go blast some calves…now!
What Beginners Do – Standing Calf Raise
When people go to the gym for the first time, they are taught by the local trainer to make sure they train each muscle group – including the calves. The standing calf raise is the simplest exercise to show beginners because they can be done anywhere from a step to a specific machine if the gym has it. I’m not knocking this exercise at all. Matter of fact, I am telling you to keep this exercise and not to discontinue it. Read on.
Try This: Seated Calf Raise
I’m not recommending you substitute this for standing calf raises – I’m saying to add this exercise to your routine. This article is going to be a little different than the others in this series. The issue when it comes to calf training isn’t that beginners do this exercise. The problem is that it is the only exercise that they do. Why is this a problem? Let’s look at the calves in more detail.
The gastrocnemius is the larger muscle that most people think about when it comes to calves. When it is developed properly, the result is a rounder and more pleasing look to the entire lower leg. The gastrocnemius is the part of the calves that are targeted with straight leg movements – like the standing calf raise.
The soleus is the smaller muscle that lies behind the gastrocnemius and runs from just below the knee to the Achilles tendon. Although it isn’t as visible, the soleus works with the gastrocnemius to provide all the functions that we know the calves to provide. The only way to effectively train the soleus is to use movements with a bent knee – like the movement I recommend to step up your calf game.
How to Do It: Sit in the machine and make sure the knee pads are flush on your knees before unracking the weight. Unrack the weight and make sure the weight is secure and your feet won’t slip. Lower your heels as much as you can to get a good stretch at the bottom. After a brief pause, raise your heels and the weight until your calves are contracted. Squeeze at the top of the movement for a brief pause and continue for the desired number of reps.
So when you train calves make sure you include both the standing and seated calf raises. To keep the calves guessing and producing results you will appreciate, switch back and forth between which exercise you start with. So if you do standing calf raises first on your next workout, then make sure you begin with seated raises on your next calf day. Within a couple of months, those calves will become steers.
Point to Remember
Regardless of which calf exercise you do, the stretch at the bottom is even more important than the contraction at the top of the movements. Not only will the flexibility benefit you in the short run by making more room for blood to get into the muscles but it will also help prevent injury long term.
About the Author
Roger “ROCK” Lockridge is a writer whose work has been seen all over the world. He is most known as a writer for Iron Man Magazine and Bodybuilding.com. In 2009, he was named Bodybuilding.com Male Writer of the Year which along with the Female award is the highest award for writers in the bodybuilding/fitness world.
Roger is also known for his work against child abuse and domestic violence and he was featured as a part of the domestic violence documentary “30” as the only child survivor and the only male survivor in the film.