In the past, I hated calf training. Now, I actually like it. Why is that? Because I eliminated some mistakes in my training that were hindering my calf growth. Perhaps you’re making some of these mistakes too. Let’s identify two top mistakes made by many bodybuilders when training their calves:
Mistake #1 – Failure to Train the Whole Calf Muscle Group– While most bodybuilders know that there are two muscles in your calf area called the Gastrocnemius and Soleus, many don’t understand that these two muscles have different muscle fiber compositions and different functions. Therefore, some bodybuilders treat the two muscles as one muscle and only perform one calf exercise. However, these two calf muscles must be trained with different exercises.
The Gastrocnemius should be trained with the leg straight and knees locked on calf machines such as the Standing Calf Raise, Donkey Calf Raise, and Toe Press on Leg Press Machine. When the legs are straight, the Soleus has a lesser influence in the calf raise motion than the Gastrocnemius.
Therefore, for proper stimulation and isolation of the Soleus, you should perform your calf raises with your legs bent, preferably at about 90 degrees. The best machine for training the Soleus is the Seated Calf Raise.
To completely train the whole calf muscle group, you should train the Gastrocnemius AND the Soleus by employing two different exercises – a straight leg calf raise AND a bent leg calf raise.
Mistake #2 – Using Same Repetition Range on Every Exercise– I mentioned above that the two calf muscles, the Gastrocnemius and Soleus, have different muscle fiber compositions. This fact also affects the way you train each of these muscles.
The Gastrocnemius has approximately a 50% Type I – Slow Twitch muscle fiber and 50% Type II – Fast Twitch muscle fiber. The Soleus is about 80-90% Type I fiber with the remaining being Type II.
The Type I fiber is a smaller diameter muscle fiber and does not generate a lot of force. However, it’s capable of high endurance. The larger Type II fiber fatigues fast, but is capable of generating large forces and/or high speeds.
Many bodybuilders perform their calf exercises only in the 8-20 repetition range. This is a mistake because to optimally develop both muscle fibers, you need to train in two different repetition ranges. For the Gastrocnemius muscle training, half of your training should be in the 8-20 repetition range to stimulate and develop the Type II muscle fibers and the other half should be in the 20-100 repetition range to develop the Type I fibers.
For Soleus training, your efforts will be better spent training in the 20-100 repetition range to stimulate and grow the predominate Type I fibers.
So, for more success in building bigger calves, don’t make the two mistakes listed above. Select the proper exercise and utilize the appropriate repetition ranges for each of the two calf muscles.