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Bulk Up - 9 Best Exercises to Grow Bigger Calves Fast!

Bulk Up - 9 Best Exercises to Grow Bigger Calves Fast!

1. Calves – Resistant to Growth

Calves are strangely stubborn, growth-resistant muscles. They are at work the most as the calf muscles – gastrocnemius and soleus – support every single movement of your body. Whether it is standing straight, maintaining posture, walking slowly, running, jumping, and dancing, they are responsible for your every move. These leg muscles are always busy and yet they refuse to grow in size.

You need to put in some serious effort if you want massive calves. Now, the very thought of putting in “extra effort” can be frustrating. Just how much effort is required? You’ve tried running uphill, intense workouts, standing for hours – nothing works! Calves can be serious patience testers when you try to bulk them up.

Let’s find out, why is it so difficult to grow your calves?

2. Sturdy but Small Calves – Reasons

Sturdy but Small Calves – Reasons

No one likes weak calves. They kill the whole bodybuilder vibe you want to project. Here are a few reasons your calves are small.

2.1. Genes

Your genes are mainly to blame for your small calves. Some people don’t prioritize their lower leg muscles and still have massive calves while others work hard yet still cannot achieve big muscles. The calf genes that you have inherited are solely to blame for this.

2.2. Body Weight

Having less bodyweight means your calves have to exert less effort to hold you up and support your movements. On the other hand, bulkier people have bigger calves because they have to work more to carry their weight around, leading to a build-up of muscle without any exercise.

2.3. Age

Muscles tend to build in a similar way for people of all ages, such as through exercise and strength training. But it has been observed that as you age – becoming 50 years old or above – exercises are not as effective and it takes you longer to grow muscles.

2.4. Beating the Odds

From the looks of it, no matter what you do, you can never get your desired “Mike Matarazzo Calves.” The good news is that you can counteract the effects of genes and age by working painfully hard. Yes, you got that right. Calves are already being worked enough, which is why their growth becomes stagnant.

Sometimes we just think that we are working out our calves, but the truth is far from it. Doing a couple of sets at the end of every workout will also not give your muscles the desired results.

The trick is to increase the workload, forcing your calf muscles to adapt to the change and eventually grow strong enough to finish the arduous activity with more efficiency.

3. 9 Intense Exercises to Grow Bigger Calves Fast

Here are nine great exercises to help you build your calves fast!

3.1. Full Range Calf Raise Workout

Performing calf raises with a full range of motion and from multiple angles, i.e. with your toes pointing inward during heel lifts, toes pointing straight when at rest, and then toes pointing outward when your heel drops will help you fully build up your calves.

According to a study written in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, toe angles play an important role in increasing muscle thickness during calf raises.

 Toes pointing inward help increase muscle thickness in the outer calf. Meanwhile, toes pointing outward help to increase muscle mass in the inner calf.

Based on these facts, here is a workout program that you can follow.

Calf Raise No. of Reps Toe Angle
Standing Raise  1x 20 reps  Toes Inward
Standing Raise  1x 20 reps  Toes Neutral
Standing Raise  1 x 20 reps  Toes Outward
Seated Raises  1 x 20 reps  Toes Inward
Seated Raises  1 x 20 reps  Toes Neutral
Seated Raises  1 x 20 reps  Toes Outward

Repeat two to three times to complete a set.

Once your calves gain enough strength and you have better control of the range of motion, add isometrics and slow eccentrics. However, to avoid the risk of hyperextending the muscle, make sure you exercise in view of a professional trainer.

3.2. Squat and Raise - Compound Exercise

Squat and Raise - Compound  Exercise

This exercise helps to bulk up the lower leg muscles and also tones the inner thighs and glutes.

  • Stand with your feet apart, toes pointing forward.
  • Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Squat down with your inner thighs parallel to the floor.
  • As you position yourself, your knees should be just above the ankles.
  • Lift your right heel pushing your hip upwards for 30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat the same with the other.

3.3. Standing Calf Raise

Standing calf raises are the best exercise to train and grow the gastrocnemius muscle quickly. It is usually a bodyweight exercise, and since calves are responsible for supporting your bodyweight, this exercise helps to increase their size and strength. However, in this variation, we recommend you add more weight on the shoulders or on the sides to make the exercise more difficult.

At Home:

  • Stand straight with your hands (weight in hands) at your sides and feet hip-width apart while facing forward.
  • Bend your knees slightly.
  • With the balls of your feet pressing firmly on the ground, lift your heels.
  • Keep moving your body upward till you are standing on your toes.
  • Hold this position, then slowly lower yourself to the ground.
Venue At Home
Exercise Type Standing Calf Raise (Bodyweight Exercise)
Recommended Reps 12+ or until reaching the limit
Equipment Dumbbells (if available)
Pause Time 30 seconds – 1 minute

At Gym:

Standing Calf Raise

You can perform this exercise at the gym using a standing calf machine.

  • Position yourself under the shoulder pads of the standing calf machine.
  • Stand with your feet apart at shoulder-width and bend your knees a little.
  • Stand straight and lift the weights.
  • While you are lifting weights, raise your heels from the step of the machine till you are standing only on your toes.
  • Hold the position for some time and then slowly lower your heels below the step.

It is suggested you do 10 or more reps – or until reaching limit – of this exercise to strengthen your calves and help them quickly grow bigger.

Venue At Gym
Exercise Type Standing Calf Raise (Bodyweight Exercise)
Recommended Reps 10+ or until reaching limit
Equipment Dumbbells, Standing Calf Machine
Pause Time 30 seconds – 1 minute

3.4. Seated Calf Raises

This strength exercise trains the soleus muscle. Because your knees remain bent throughout this exercise, and since the soleus muscle is beneath your knee, it will be trained effectively.

At Home:

You can perform this exercise at home in the absence of any fancy gym equipment.

  • Sit on a bench with your back straight and your feet firm on the ground.
  • Put weights (dumbbells) on your knees. (You can use heavy household items such as thick books, a bag of 10 kg rice, or gallon jugs).
  • Now, with the weights in place, lift your heels above the ground with the balls of your feet pressed to the ground.
  • Hold this position for some time.
  • Slowly lower your heels back to the ground and repeat.
Venue At Home
Exercise Type Seated Calf Raise (Strength Exercise)
Recommended Reps 10+ or until reaching limit
Equipment Weights (dumbbells) in case unavailable (thick books, gallon jars, etc.)
Pause Time 30 seconds – 1 minute

For increased resistance, use a block and place your feet over it instead of on the ground. So that your calf muscles get the most out of the workout, add more weight. It is best to do 10 reps or more (depending on your stamina).

At Gym:

Seated Calf Raises

  • Sit at the bench of a seated calf machine and place your knees below the pad.
  • Place dumbbells (weights) on your knees for increased resistance.
  • With the balls of your feet placed firmly on the block, slowly lift your heels as high as you possibly can.
  • Hold this position for some time.
  • Lower your heels to the ground slowly.
  • Perform 10 plus reps of this exercise.
Venue At Gym
Exercise Type Seated Calf Raise (Resistance Training)
Recommended Reps 10+ or until reaching limit
Equipment Dumbbells, Seated Calf Machine
Pause Time 30 seconds – 1 minute

3.5. Leg Press Calf Raise

At Gym:

Leg Press Calf Raise

  • Sit on a leg press machine with your body at a 90-degree angle and your toes on the feet platform.
  • Your heels should be hanging away from the footrest platform.
  • With your toes and the balls of your feet, press on the weight sled till your knees are straight.
  • Your calf muscles will contract as you move your toes, first upwards and then back to their original position.

To get the most out of this exercise, it is recommended you perform one leg at a time.

Venue At Gym
Exercise Type Leg Press Raise (Strength Training)
Recommended Reps 10+ or until reaching limit
Equipment Leg Press Machine, Weight Plates (45 lbs)
Pause Time 30 seconds – 1 minute

3.6. Rest-Pause/Drop Set Technique

The leg press calf raises coupled with the rest-pause/drop set training technique is an excellent way to help your calves grow bigger.

  • Perform the leg press calf raise with a plate weighing 45 lbs on each side of the machine.
  • Try to perform 30 reps. If 30 reps are too much for you, then keep doing reps until you cannot go anymore.
  • Now add another plate on each side.
  • Rest for one minute and then do the maximum reps you can perform, preferably 30 reps.
  • Continue adding one plate on each side; taking a one -minute rest in between. Perform this exercise till you are unable to do 10 reps.
  • Now perform three rest pauses by racking the weights and resting for 15 seconds only, then keep doing reps till you cannot keep going.
  • Afterward, remove a plate from each side for a drop-set. Do a rest-pause again three times with this extra weight until you cannot continue.
  • Keep on doing drop-sets with three rest-pauses, removing one plate from each side at a time.
  • Keep this up till you are left with only one plate.

Do this workout technique for up to two weeks, allowing your calves to adjust and reducing the risk of overworking them. Once your calves are strong enough to handle more intensity, add seated calf raises to the leg press raises routine using the same pause-rest/drop set training. Moreover, setting a particular time frame will help you from procrastinating, leave all “its-in-my-genes” excuses behind, and increase the intensity of your calf muscles workout.

Plan a full rest day in between these calf exercises. Use a different combination of calf raises every now and then. For example, instead of doing leg presses first, start with seated calf raises, or you can simply forego leg press raises in favor of standing raises.

Rest-Pause Drop Set Technique with Calf Raises – Workout Program
Exercise No. of Sets No. of Reps Rest
Leg Press Raise 3 - 6 10 – 30 or until reaching limit 1-minute
Seated Raise 3 - 6 10 – 30 or until reaching limit 1-minute

Caution

Calf raises are considered an intense workout when paired with the rest-pause drop set training method. This can be potentially painful and there is a risk of injury. To prevent muscle damage, make sure to incorporate a stretch routine to prepare your calves for the workout.

3.7. Jump Rope - Cardio Exercise

Jump Rope - Cardio Exercise

Combine the above-mentioned exercise with jumping rope – a cardio exercise. Jumping rope is a great and fun way to increase calf muscle mass. There is no rocket science. All you need is a rope and to set your own pace to perform as many reps as you want. Though, a 30-second to a one-minute break is recommended.

Venue At Home, Gym, Outdoor
Exercise Type Jumping Rope (Cardio)
Recommended Reps Depends on your stamina
Equipment Skipping Rope
Rest 30 seconds – 1 minute

3.8. Sprint

Do 100- or 200-meter sprints every day. Try to run as fast as you can and push yourself forward on your toes to attain maximum speed.

3.9. Walking on Tip-Toes

To work out your calves more, walk barefoot on your toes. Don’t let your heels touch the ground.

4. Takeaway

It is a well-established fact that calf muscles are the hardest to grow. However, with the right amount of training and exercise, you can grow larger calves even with genetics that makes growth a challenge.

The best strategy is to incorporate a full-fledged workout only for calves in your daily exercise routine.

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