In one year Arnold grew his calves from twigs into trunks. Discover Arnold’s tips on how to get big calves fast.
The Calf is made up of two muscles:
- Soleus: The larger of the two calf muscles that runs from just below the knee all the way down to the heel.
- Gastrocnemius: The smaller of the two calf muscles which has two heads that start just above the knee and run down alongside the soleus to form the Achilles tendon, which then extends into the heel.
The tibialis anterior is the muscle that runs along the front side of your lower leg alongside the shinbone. It is not part of the calf, but is involved in the same function, i.e. to flex the foot.
Arnold’s Road To Bigger Calves
A major reason so many people neglect training their calves is because they can be covered up by wearing track pants.
When you don’t see them in the mirror, you tend to forget about them.
Arnold recalls making this same mistake.
He would go to the gym in a tank top or even workout topless. Looking at the reflection of his muscles in the mirror inspired him to push even harder in pursuit of putting on more quality mass.
One day he finally realized that he was not giving as much attention to his calves as he was to his other body parts. That day he got a scissor and cut off all the lower parts of his training pants.
This left his calves exposed.
There was no hiding the fact that his calves were underdeveloped anymore.
Other bodybuilders would constantly be passing remarks about his tiny calves.
Arnold remembers this being tough on him psychologically.
He was now more determined than ever to build his calves to their full potential.
He trained so hard in the following year that people began to wonder whether his huge calves were a result of surgery.
Arnold says that using the Priority Principle is what really boosted his results in terms of calf development.
In effect, if you have lagging calves, train them at the start of your workout when you are physically and psychologically fresh.
Another tip from Arnold is to work on your calves even when you aren’t at the gym.
When walking, focus on going all the way up on your toes to constantly make your calves go through a long range of motion.
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Training The Calves
When you have a pair of shorts on and/or are out on the beach, a well developed pair of calves really brings emphasis to the aesthetic appeal of your body.
Ancient Greek sculptors were recognized for their depiction of the ideal male physique. Wide shoulders, ripped abs, and big calves were the three features that the sculptures usually had.
For a balanced physique, your calves should be at least as big as your arms. If they aren’t then you should definitely be giving them some extra attention in the gym.
You have been using your calves ever since you learned how to walk. Your calves are in use on the go.
This is why they are one of the most difficult muscle groups to grow.
Some people use the excuse of bad calf genetics for their lagging calf development.
The truth of the matter is that the calves respond to training just like any other muscle group.
The key is:
Make sure you hit them from different angles and with a weight that is very heavy.
Arnold’s calves had always been his lagging body part. He recalls that he had much trouble growing them until he trained with Reg Park.
Before meeting Reg Park Arnold was doing Calf Raises with 500 or 600 pounds.
Reg Park was doing Calf Raises with 1000 pounds.
Reg Park made a point that really struck a chord with Arnold:
When you are walking, each calf bears your entire bodyweight at each step. Given that Arnold weighed 250 lbs, 500 lbs was actually a weight that his calves were used to.
Standing Calf Raises are the primary mass builder for the calves. Using very heavy weight for this exercise is very important. Donkey Calf Raises are another exercise that work well in conjunction with the Standing Calf Raises to really bring out the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Most people give very little time to training their calves.
To bring his calves out to the 22 inch measurement, Arnold recalls giving 45 minutes to his calf training every single day!
He used shocking principles to force their growth.
When doing Donkey Calf Raises he recalls having 3, 220-pound bodybuilders sit on his back. He would do the reps till failure after which he would have one of them come off and proceed with the next set until reaching failure again. He would end the set using only his body weight. At this point his calves felt like they were going to explode.
Arnold says anyone can get big calves if they are willing to pay the price.
Arnold lists the price of getting huge calves at 500-hours.
660 forty-five minute calf workouts. At 4 workouts a week, that is over three years of work.
Arnold says that unless you have been genetically gifted with a big pair of calves it takes a minimum of three years of brutal training and effort to bring them out to the extraordinary level.
Stretching the Calves
The longer the range of motion and the fuller the contraction of the muscle, the more completely it will develop.
This principle is especially important when it comes to calf development.
To get the full contraction on calf exercises, you have to go all the way down and lower your heels as far as possible before coming up all the way onto your toes.
Arnold recommends using a block for Standing Calf Raises. This block should be just high enough so that your heels touch the floor at the lower portion of the movement. This way you can ensure that you are getting the maximum contraction from this exercise.
If you are new to training your calves you will not be able to use the massive amounts of weight as recommended by Arnold.
You have been using your calf muscles your whole life.
You rarely have them function at the extreme ends of their range of motion, i.e. full extension or full contraction.
When doing Calf Raises, you may find yourself very strong in the mid-range and very weak at the extremes.
As someone who is just starting to train calves, your first month of training should be focused around building the strength of the calves at the full extension and full extraction points.
You will find that the amount of weight you are able to lift for the calves will go up drastically over the first few weeks of training.
Arnold recommends doing partial as well as full range motions right from the beginning of training as to bring further stress on the calf at its strongest angles.
In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold breaks down the beginner training program for calves:
Standing Calf Raises for 4 sets of 15 reps each, 3 times a week.
Here are his top 5 tips for beginners:
- Focus on getting a full range of motion. Really feel the stretch at the bottom portion of the movement and get on your tippy toes for a full contraction at the top.
- Use a block as to increase the range of motion to have your heels drop all the way down.
- Keep your knees straight as to maintain a strict movement and minimize involvement from other muscles.
- Keep your feet pointing forward as to work your calf muscles proportionately.
- Put as much exertion into your calf training as you do other muscles. Do not rush through your calf workout.
The word overtraining may be running through your head right now.
The truth of the matter is:
If you really want to have your calves grow you will have to shock them into doing so.
Arnold says that the bodybuilders he’s seen with the greatest calves are the ones that train them the most frequently.
Arnold also recommends incorporating Donkey Calf Raises and Seated Calf Raises along with the Standing Calf Raises.
Seated Raises bring further emphasis onto the soleus muscle by extending the calf down towards the ankle.
Unlike Standing Raises where the focus of the resistance is on the shoulders, Donkey Raises bring the focus of the resistance around the hips.
Arnold lists Donkey Calf Raises as his favorite calf exercise. He says that Donkey Calf Raises create a kind of contraction that is unable to be created by any other calf exercise.
After doing a set of Donkey Calf Raises, Arnold recalls a feeling of having working the muscle down to its fullest capacity.
Arnold says that if your calves are not growing its because you are not training them hard enough.
The #1 tip from Arnold to ensure calf development in the long run is:
Learn to vary your program to continually surprise and stimulate the calves.
For complete development, hit your calves from every angle by varying your foot position, i.e. toes pointed inward and outward.
Weak Point Training
The following are a list of exercises and techniques as recommended by Arnold to bring out the lagging parts of your calves.
For lagging lower calves, Arnold recommends increasing the amount of sets of Seated Calf Raises.
A tip from Arnold is to slightly bend the knees to bring further involvement from the lower calves.
Bending your knees will bring even better results when you do partial movements at the lower portion of the movement.
For lagging upper calves, Arnold recommends doing Standing Calf Raises with further focus on the upper portion of the movement.
Inside of the Calves
To really bring out the inside of the calves, vary your stance with every one of your calf exercises by having your feet turned outward.
Outside of the Calves
Do all your calf exercises with your feet turned inward.
One Calf Is Smaller Than The Other
Most calf exercises can be performed as a one leg movement.
Arnold recommends doing an additional 2-3 sets of single calf raises for the calf that is lagging in development.
Arnold’s Favorite Calf Exercises
In The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding Arnold reveals the exercises he used to develop his underdeveloped calves to become one of the best of his time
Standing Calf Raises
This is the fundamental movement to build overall mass in the calves.
Arnold recommends going beyond failure for this one by doing partial reps after failure.
Calf Raises on Leg Press Machine
You can do Calf Raises on any type of Leg Press Machine.
Arnold used to do them on a vertical Leg Press.
To get maximum exertion from the calves push only with your toes and leave your heels unsupported.
It is difficult to cheat on this one, so it is effective in totally isolating the calves.
Seated Calf Raises
This is a movement which works to develop both the lower and outer areas of the calves.
Seated Calf Raises also work well to isolate the calves.
Donkey Calf Raises
The primary purpose of Donkey Calf Raises is to boost the development of the thickness on the back of the calves.
Arnold lists these as his favorite calf exercise.
One-Leg Calf Raises
These are essential when one calf is bigger than the other.
Arnold’s Calf Workout
Here is a sample of what Arnold’s Calf Workout looked like according to FlexOnline.com:
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How To Get Big Calves At Home
Considering you don’t have access to the equipment listed for the exercises listed above, you can do the following routine at home.
Get a very thick text book and put it against the wall.
Put the balls of your feet on the textbook and perform calf raises while putting your hands on the wall for balance.
Aim for 100 reps everyday.
Start doing single calf raises when the movement gets too easy.
What Does This Mean For You?
This means no excuses.
Most people who use bad calf genetics as an excuse for puny chicken legs have never even put an effort in trying to boost their development.
Start off by training them 3 times a week and work your way up in the amount of weight that you use as well as the frequency that you train them at.
Measure your calf size right now, and then measure it every 3 months to keep track of tangible results.
Arnold has given his advice on how to get big calves fast.
It is now up to you to put this knowledge into application and turn your twigs into trunks!