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StuKE

Over the years I've read a lot about calf training and one thing is particularly apparent: opinion varies wildly on how calves should best be trained. Here are some of the methods and thoughts I have read about:

Calves need high reps
We walk using them all the time so they are more suited to high reps.

Calves need low reps and heavy weight
We walk using them all the time so they are used to high rep, low intensity work, we need to shock them with heavy, low reps

You can't do much about it, it's all in the genes

They need training everyday

They need rest like every other bodypart

Ultra intensity works best

It's all about range - super stretch, contract right up onto tips of toes

And so it goes on. I'm always drawn to the fringe stories, routines and ideas that are a bit out there or unexpected and three ideas I read about over the years have stayed with me ever since.

In another forum. A guy told how he was resigned to the fact that his calves were not going to grow to any degree, so he decided to do two days a week, one to two sets of single legged calf raises but with tons of intensity.. Full, slow reps, partials, extra resistance at the top and on the negatives, basically way past failure and into the pain zone.
He did this for months and the pics of his calves showed some crazy looking calves, I like any I had seen before or since.

One person said how he had an issue where the skin on his heels was very thin, which meant Ealing normally was very painful. As he grew up he had walked with his heels a few millimetres off the ground and he believed years of this constant but low pressure on his calves had been responsible for their considerable development and jumping ability.

Lastly, against what we usually hear, one theory suggests that lowering the heel bellow parallel Ie the stretch shifted the tension onto the powerful, spring like tendon. This preloaded the tendon and it is that release of energy which does all the work. By not going below parallel, doing calf raises from the floor, we coul make the muscle do the work. That is not to say we can't stretch the calves,just between sets, not during. The suggestion is that more efficient athletes have a great tendon / Spring which helps them I their sport, whereas those with bigger calves may rely on the muscle more than the tendon. This tied in with the man who never put weight on his heels.

I am not saying these are the best methods, or even that they work, but food for thought.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

In regard to the spring-like action, maybe a person needs to avoid bouncing during calf raises... if a person were to lower under control (can be done in 1-2 seconds) and pause for a half-second before focusing on the calves flexing and squeezing up, then there is no issue in going below parallel and into a stretch.

It's no different than telling people to avoid the stretch in a chin/pulldown, or a pec flye, or a French triceps extension, etc., because the spring (BOUNCE) will help you. Well, don't bounce!
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hit4me

Florida, USA

could not have said it better Brian, its amazing that I see individuals in the gym bouncing the weight all over the place and they wonder why they injure themselves or do not make any progress and what kills me more is the trainers instructing people to do so, even the seniors....just to want to walk up the trainers and slap them silly


Brian Johnston wrote:
In regard to the spring-like action, maybe a person needs to avoid bouncing during calf raises... if a person were to lower under control (can be done in 1-2 seconds) and pause for a half-second before focusing on the calves flexing and squeezing up, then there is no issue in going below parallel and into a stretch.

It's no different than telling people to avoid the stretch in a chin/pulldown, or a pec flye, or a French triceps extension, etc., because the spring (BOUNCE) will help you. Well, don't bounce!


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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

My best calf jump, since my beginner days, came when I instituted a static stretch a la DC training.

Instead of the prescribed 10 seconds, I find 3-5 secs plenty. From there, I start slow and then accelerate to the top. I contract for a second there and lower under control to the static stretch.

I saw a size jump, plus increased separation and vascularity, in a month doing this with only 1-2 sets per week.
_____________________________

Considering the weights used, I do a similar thing on heavy squats and leg presses.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

simon-hecubus wrote:
My best calf jump, since my beginner days, came when I instituted a static stretch a la DC training.

Instead of the prescribed 10 seconds, I find 3-5 secs plenty. From there, I start slow and then accelerate to the top. I contract for a second there and lower under control to the static stretch.

I saw a size jump, plus increased separation and vascularity, in a month doing this with only 1-2 sets per week.
_____________________________

Considering the weights used, I do a similar thing on heavy squats and leg presses.


Mine was doing one-legged calf raises with a dumbbell so heavy that I could barely do 5-6 reps. I then used my other leg (calf) to give forced reps and negatives until having completed 15 or so total. That led to some serious calf soreness (one time I could not walk the following day); but it worked very well to boost them a good half-inch in only a few workouts.
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StuKE

I'm well aware that we should not bounce, the suggestion is that perhaps that is the body's intended and preferred use of the lower leg. It might be different to say pecs etc. It might not.
The article used ballerinas as an example of often great calf development and they do not go below parallel as they are not stood on blocks! Now, I have had no cause to look at ballerinas and their calf development, but perhaps if we do calf raises from the floor (slow) then maybe we can use heavier weight and that may be more productive than this stretch past parallel we always read about. After all, there is a three about quarter squats being better than full squats and how many of us do extreme range squats as in. backside to heel?
I agree that a good pause should help disengage the stored energy in the tendons during calf raises, but maybe there is something in this spring like ability.
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HeavyHitter32

Calves have always been one of my weakest body parts, but I did make good progress from where I started.

For me, I have found strip sets work well; starting with a heavy weight (maybe 10 rep max - 2 or 3 sec for each phase of reps) followed by 2-3 strip sets with maybe 10-15 sec rest between. A good pump seems to help. I've done various forms of congestion/CTF training with success too.

But just one set to failure (for example) was NOT a good approach despite increasing weight/reps every session (see my discussion in other thread) when I was performing Heavy Duty years ago.

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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

You may notice that any spring-like activity, such as is found in running, does NOT involve an extreme strength, but the middle-third of the movement. I'm unaware of any sporting activity that causes the calves to be under full stretch while bouncing from that position. If so, please list.
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Nwlifter

My calves are stubborn too, I had some quick growth in them a few times and it wasn't even from my workouts, it was from regular running (3-5 times a week).
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StuKE

Brian Johnston wrote:
You may notice that any spring-like activity, such as is found in running, does NOT involve an extreme strength, but the middle-third of the movement. I'm unaware of any sporting activity that causes the calves to be under full stretch while bouncing from that position. If so, please list.


I assume you mean stretch, not strength. I don't think I said sports have an extreme stretch, but I get your point. Does it necessarily have to have an extreme stretch to involve a spring action? But then, if no sport uses the,stretch, you may question why we need such a stretch in calf training. Why should calves be such an exception? We don't go for absolute maximum stretch on all exercises, or if we do it may not be wise, such as chin ups (shoulder rotation), squats, flyes etc.

Don't think that I am saying this theory is cast iron, I am just considering the value of it.
I can say that extreme stretching and indeed extreme contraction (up onto ends of toes) gave me problems in my feet that a more reasonable range of motion does not.
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StuKE

Brian Johnston wrote:
simon-hecubus wrote:
My best calf jump, since my beginner days, came when I instituted a static stretch a la DC training.

Instead of the prescribed 10 seconds, I find 3-5 secs plenty. From there, I start slow and then accelerate to the top. I contract for a second there and lower under control to the static stretch.

I saw a size jump, plus increased separation and vascularity, in a month doing this with only 1-2 sets per week.
_____________________________

Considering the weights used, I do a similar thing on heavy squats and leg presses.

Mine was doing one-legged calf raises with a dumbbell so heavy that I could barely do 5-6 reps. I then used my other leg (calf) to give forced reps and negatives until having completed 15 or so total. That led to some serious calf soreness (one time I could not walk the following day); but it worked very well to boost them a good half-inch in only a few workouts.


Brian, that is very similar to what the guy used that I mentions above. When I true it full bore for 8 weeks I had serious aches and pumps too. Once it just got progressively more painful each day for 5 days to the point I was in a lot of pain walking. It then starts to fade until I was back to normal.
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Brian Johnston

Ontario, CAN

StuKE wrote:
Brian Johnston wrote:
You may notice that any spring-like activity, such as is found in running, does NOT involve an extreme strength, but the middle-third of the movement. I'm unaware of any sporting activity that causes the calves to be under full stretch while bouncing from that position. If so, please list.

I assume you mean stretch, not strength. I don't think I said sports have an extreme stretch, but I get your point. Does it necessarily have to have an extreme stretch to involve a spring action? But then, if no sport uses the,stretch, you may question why we need such a stretch in calf training. Why should calves be such an exception? We don't go for absolute maximum stretch on all exercises, or if we do it may not be wise, such as chin ups (shoulder rotation), squats, flyes etc.

Don't think that I am saying this theory is cast iron, I am just considering the value of it.
I can say that extreme stretching and indeed extreme contraction (up onto ends of toes) gave me problems in my feet that a more reasonable range of motion does not.


Yes, stretch. I seriously don't know what you mean by extreme stretch. When I go down into a calf stretch, I go down until I stretch. Nothing extreme about it. I find it a comfortable stretch; and then I squeeze/flex out of it. My point with athletics is that there is no deep calf stretching taking place, whereas most calf work (e.g., running on a basketball court) involves a pre-stretch in that middle third area and NOT the deepest stretch possible.
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hit4me

Florida, USA

I could be wrong but the only sport I can think of where the calf is fully stretched would be downhill skiing and launching off the ramp

Brian Johnston wrote:
StuKE wrote:
Brian Johnston wrote:
You may notice that any spring-like activity, such as is found in running, does NOT involve an extreme strength, but the middle-third of the movement. I'm unaware of any sporting activity that causes the calves to be under full stretch while bouncing from that position. If so, please list.

I assume you mean stretch, not strength. I don't think I said sports have an extreme stretch, but I get your point. Does it necessarily have to have an extreme stretch to involve a spring action? But then, if no sport uses the,stretch, you may question why we need such a stretch in calf training. Why should calves be such an exception? We don't go for absolute maximum stretch on all exercises, or if we do it may not be wise, such as chin ups (shoulder rotation), squats, flyes etc.

Don't think that I am saying this theory is cast iron, I am just considering the value of it.
I can say that extreme stretching and indeed extreme contraction (up onto ends of toes) gave me problems in my feet that a more reasonable range of motion does not.

Yes, stretch. I seriously don't know what you mean by extreme stretch. When I go down into a calf stretch, I go down until I stretch. Nothing extreme about it. I find it a comfortable stretch; and then I squeeze/flex out of it. My point with athletics is that there is no deep calf stretching taking place, whereas most calf work (e.g., running on a basketball court) involves a pre-stretch in that middle third area and NOT the deepest stretch possible.


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StuKE

Ok, what I mean is when you get your heel down absolutely as far as you can. The articles I am thinking of would stress as deep as possible and holding it that deep, really feeling it and how important it is.
I am agreeing with you in a way because I can't think of any normal activity that calls for the calves to stretch that much, so maybe all this emphasis on stretching to that degree each rep is not normal, not ideal and placing the calves in a weakened unnatural position that they aren't used to. We don't do it with other bodyparts so why with calves?

In the same way I don't think it is wise to do dips by lowering to the very deepest possible position, or chins hanging from the shoulder ligaments, squats with butt touching the heels (all with a heavy weight) preacher curls to full extension, leg press so my knees are touching my ears etc. These positions can damage the joints, so why is it calves are so different?

This is sort of a side point to the whole possibility of a spring action of the calves/tendon, but it's all ultimately related. We are bipedal mammals, there is scope to think that the physiology of the lower limbs, the tendons, muscles etc work is slightly different way to those of the upperbody, if the most natural form of exercise for a human is walking and running (which is explosive) then a system that utilises stored and pent up energy in a spring loaded tendon system would make sense. If this is the actual case, then perhaps it is very difficult to disconnect this so to speak and target the calf muscles. Maybe any sort of pre stretch below parallel activates the spring and takes the onus off the calves.
Sorry to labour the point, I am sure I could have worded it better (and quicker!!!).

This is all hypothetical of course, but I think I will give it a couple of months training my calves from the ground only, not from a block. If it doesn't do anything, I will just drop it.
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S.M.Punisher

StuKE wrote:
In another forum. A guy told how he was resigned to the fact that his calves were not going to grow to any degree, so he decided to do two days a week, one to two sets of single legged calf raises but with tons of intensity.. Full, slow reps, partials, extra resistance at the top and on the negatives, basically way past failure and into the pain zone.
He did this for months and the pics of his calves showed some crazy looking calves, I like any I had seen before or since.


Brian Johnston wrote:
Mine was doing one-legged calf raises with a dumbbell so heavy that I could barely do 5-6 reps. I then used my other leg (calf) to give forced reps and negatives until having completed 15 or so total. That led to some serious calf soreness (one time I could not walk the following day); but it worked very well to boost them a good half-inch in only a few workouts.


Very interesting, indeed.

I've been thinking that, since the FT fibers lose significant force well before failure in a typical set in comparison to the STs, muscles that are more ST, like calves, may require more intensity for any worthwhile stimulation.

Higher-FT muscles seem to be quite well stimulable training short of failure, whereas the total number of fibers in a higher-ST muscle that won't be well fatigued without much higher intensity seems to be too high for subfailure to work well for those muscles.

It also seems that fatiguing a given muscle doesn't demand as much neurally when it's high in STs, which would be because their force capacity per unit of time is that much lower. So going to failure and beyond for higher-ST muscles wouldn't demand as much recovery.

My shoulders are less fatigable than my other major muscles - I wouldn't say particularly ST, but more so than the others - and I can take them well past failure and do a lot more volume without feeling systemically drained much at all.

I can't comment on calves because I never train them directly; they're big enough from genetics alone. Can't say the same for any other body part.
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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

S.M.Punisher wrote:
...I can't comment on calves because I never train them directly; they're big enough from genetics alone. Can't say the same for any other body part.


That's quite an about-face from the guy who argued vehemently for the 'Might-as-Well-do-1-2-sets-for-calves' approach...
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S.M.Punisher

simon-hecubus wrote:
S.M.Punisher wrote:
...I can't comment on calves because I never train them directly; they're big enough from genetics alone. Can't say the same for any other body part.

That's quite an about-face from the guy who argued vehemently for the 'Might-as-Well-do-1-2-sets-for-calves' approach...


Ah, you still remember that. I wasn't talking about myself, just generally.

You couldn't resist trying to one-up me, could you? (After how the other thread turned out for you.)
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Turpin

I got most from training my calves with higher ( 20+ ) reps and lighter loads and just pumping them over 4-5 sets . One workout I do donkey calf raise another I do seated calf raise.
Previous to this they were an afterthought performed for 2 sets of 10 after a gruelling leg workout and I got zero calf development for my efforts.
I have quite a high calf development and skinny ankles but I Train / attempt to develop the calf fully ( soleus & gastroc ) in order to make best of what I have which gives an illusion of size.

T.
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StuKE

When I tried the extreme intensity approach for 8 weeks, single leg calf raises with 'the works' (just about every intensifier I could think of, done systematically, with progressive resistance, twice a week) I gave it absolutely everything I had, followed by massage and so on, it got to the point that I felt butntout systematically - from calf training! I didn't gain any size either unfortunately.
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hdlifter

I got my calves passed 17" through a single set of calf raises once weekly. Following years of struggle. Nowadays I switch between toe presses and calf raises. I was taken back a few months back when Lee Haney, of all people, wrote to ask if I'd gotten closer to 18"!!!

I suffered from plantar fasciitis last year after trying abide by Tom Platz's "extreme calve stretch" motto. It was so bad I'd shuffle to the toilet each morning. Thanks to John Christy, who saw many suffer a similar fate from lowering the heel as far as possible, I started to stop where my foot is just passed half way. A soft stretch. And all my issues have vanished.

Apparently Lou Ferrigno had plantar fasciitis issues too, so much so he felt like cutting his feet off! It's quite common among big bodybuilders, something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. So be careful how deep you go.
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Lioncourt

hdlifter wrote:
I got my calves passed 17" through a single set of calf raises once weekly. Following years of struggle. Nowadays I switch between toe presses and calf raises. I was taken back a few months back when Lee Haney, of all people, wrote to ask if I'd gotten closer to 18"!!!


Your ability to name drop never ceases to amaze me. Do you do this in person as well, "Well in 1995 I spent 3 weeks in Cancun with Mike Mentzer and he couldn't stop commenting on how beautiful my abs were..." Yeah right Lee Haney is emailing some no name guy on the internet that has never posted a single pic to ask about his calf size.
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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

S.M.Punisher wrote:
Ah, you still remember that. I wasn't talking about myself, just generally.

You couldn't resist trying to one-up me, could you? (After how the other thread turned out for you.)


I still remember it because of how strongly you argued over such an idiotic point. It spoke strongly of the type of person you are.

The other thread turned out fine. if you think I lost anything on that one, you're even stupider than I thought.

BTW, your ongoing argument on that thread only cements your "I'll argue stupid $#!+ even when I when I don't have a dog in the hunt" reputation. Good work!
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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

S.M.Punisher wrote:
...I can't comment on calves because I never train them directly; they're big enough from genetics alone. Can't say the same for any other body part.


simon-hecubus wrote:
That's quite an about-face from the guy who argued vehemently for the 'Might-as-Well-do-1-2-sets-for-calves' approach...


S.M.Punisher wrote:
Ah, you still remember that. I wasn't talking about myself, just generally...


Yourself vs. generally?! Are you kidding?

The whole crux of your silly argument back then was 'might-as-well' do 1-2 calf sets even if someone didn't need it.

" I don't need or want my calves to be any bigger. But the general point is that one might as well throw in a set of calf raises to any routine- they're not draining at all."

Make up your mind, girl! Nah, why should you? It wouldn't be in keeping with your argument for argument's sake MO.
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StuKE

Turpin: You need to get some calves before you dish out advice.... Hahaha.actually that shot always reminds me of a Tom Plats pic. Incredible.one thing ai have never really tried is high reps for calves (not consistently anyway) It was one of your posts that made me think about calves. I intend to do high reps like you do, but I am going to try from the floor

hdlifter I have on off bottom of foot pain for years, when ai cycle it aggravates it.worst part for me is the ball of the foot/ front of my arch.I know for sure deep stretches with calves were a major contributor to this issue
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simon-hecubus

Texas, USA

StuKE wrote:
Turpin: You need to get some calves before you dish out advice.... Hahaha.actually that shot always reminds me of a Tom Plats pic. Incredible.one thing ai have never really tried is high reps for calves (not consistently anyway) It was one of your posts that made me think about calves. I intend to do high reps like you do, but I am going to try from the floor

hdlifter I have on off bottom of foot pain for years, when ai cycle it aggravates it.worst part for me is the ball of the foot/ front of my arch.I know for sure deep stretches with calves were a major contributor to this issue


Much food for thought there. My left foot had recently been giving me intermittent problems. It went away a couple months ago, but I will adjust my ROM and see if I can 'up' my weights without worries.
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