GENERAL OVERVIEW:


Every muscle group in the human body consists of a number of muscles which work independently of one another to perform the various movements of the limbs, torso and head. In order to maximise your training routine, you will need to target all of these muscles more effectively. This should be done by subjecting your muscles to progressive overload, training them from all angles and employing various other training techniques to maximise muscle fiber stimulation.

Before we focus more in depth on the various aspects of optimizing calf muscle growth, it’s important to understand what muscles make up these groups of muscles and how these muscles are put together.


MUSCULAR ANATOMY:

The calve muscle consists of two muscle groups, namely, the gastrocnemius and the soleus.
These muscles work together to flex and point your foot.


GASTROCNEMIUS

The gastrocnemius has two heads (lateral and medial) which crosses the back of the knee joint and attach to the Achilles tendon in the ankle.

SOLEUS

The soleus lies beneath the gastrocnemius. It runs from the tibia and fibula to the Achilles tendon.


SKELETAL ANATOMY


KNEES

The knee joint can flex, extend and rotate making it a condyloid joint. While the knee isn’t used in motion when performing most calf exercises, it can be in a flexed or extended position.

ANKLES

Two basic movements of the ankles include planar flexion (pointing the toes toward the ground) and dorsi flexion (pulling the toes upward). The ankles are used in all calf exercises.


MUSCULAR FUNCTION:


CALVES

The calf muscles are used in all general lower body movements. To target the gastrocnemius, exercises with extended knees are optimal while exercises with flexed knees like seated calf raises are better for working the soleus.


MAXIMIZING TRAINING:


NUMBER OF SETS:

Sets don’t need to vary much from muscle group to muscle group. The main difference between set volume is your fitness goal. That being said, the total number of sets performed will not vary all that much for hypertrophy, strength and fat loss. Only endurance training will decrease in number of sets due to the higher rep ranges required.


Hypertrophy:
Total number of sets – 12 to 16 sets.
Total of 3-4 exercises.
3-4 sets each on your 2 main compound lifts.
2-3 sets each on your accessory lifts.


Strength: 4-6 reps
Total number of sets – 12 to 16 sets.
Total of 2-4 exercises.
5-6 sets each on your 2 main compound lifts.
2-3 sets each on your accessory lifts.



Endurance: 15-20 reps
Total number of sets – 9 to 12 sets.
This can be split between 3-4 exercises with 3 sets each on your compound lifts and 2-3 sets each on your accessory lifts.


Fat Loss: 8-15 reps
Total number of sets – 12 to 16 sets.
Total of 3-5 exercises.
3-4 sets each on your 2 main compound lifts.
2-3 sets each on your accessory lifts.

NB* Beginners: If you are just starting out, then 2-3 exercises with 2-3 sets each will more than challenge your muscles. As you advance in your training, you can increase your sets




REP RANGES:


The following rep ranges are proven to be effective for the average individual who has a fair split between fast and slow twitch muscle fibers.


Hypertrophy: 6-20 reps
Strength: 4-6 reps
Stamina & Endurance: 20+ reps

Calves are commonly stubborn muscles when it comes to growth which is why rep ranges can vary vastly when training calves. The main thing to do is to mix it up and create various stimuli which will challenge these stubborn fibres in different ways. It then makes sense to go heavy when performing lower reps and lighter when performing reps within the higher range.


EXERCISE SELECTION:


For calves, it is always suggested to pick 3-5 exercises. Make sure that you choose exercises which target your muscle group from all different angles in order to work the entire group or as many muscle fibers as possible.


FORM:

No matter what muscle group you are training, using the correct form is pertinent. Besides helping to prevent injury, you will also be targeting your desired muscle groups’ fibers more effectively. It may look impressive to lift heavy weights, but if you are using momentum or recruiting other muscles to help complete the lift, chances are that the desired muscle group you wish to work isn’t being worked to the extent that it should be. The reason exercises are performed in a certain manner is that they have been scientifically proven to be most effective when carried out as such.


FREQUENCY:

For small muscle groups like calves, you can train a maximum of twice per week. The main thing to consider when it comes to training frequency is recovery. Without sufficient recovery, you will not see significant progress in the gym. A general rule of thumb would be to rest each large muscle group for 72 hours (3 days) before training it again. However, if you still feel stiff after this period, it is advised to rest the muscle further.


REST PERIODS:

Rest periods are dependent upon your goal and should be approached as follows:


Strength Rest 3-5 minutes between sets.
Hypertrophy Rest 90 seconds – 2 minutes between sets.
Endurance Rest anywhere from 10 seconds to 90 seconds between sets depending on your fitness level.



PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD:

No matter which muscle group you are training, progressive overload is the cornerstone in training for strength and hypertrophy. It requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. For strength and hypertrophy, muscles need to be stressed in such a way that triggers the body’s natural, adaptive response to new demands placed on it in order to perform the work (or in this case, lift). This can be done by increasing weight, increasing number of sets, performing your workout faster (by shortening rest periods) etc.


TRAINING TECHNIQUES:

By making use of the various training techniques listed below, you will be subjecting your muscle to a new stimulus which will further overload your muscle fibers.


  • Tempo Variations
  • Time Under Tension
  • Compound Sets
  • Super Sets
  • Giant Sets
  • Drop Sets

CALF EXERCISES:




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CONCLUSION:

By incorporating the correct exercises, number of sets, rep ranges, rest durations and ensuring progressive overload by incrementally increasing either volume, intensity and /or frequency, you will be placing yourself in the best possible position to stimulate your chest muscles effectively. Weight training, like anything in fitness, is about experimentation and finding out what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. My suggestion would be to experiment with exercise selection, rep ranges, number of sets and the various training techniques.

When reading the rest of our muscle group guides, you may come across repeated content. That is because there is no magic formula for building individual muscle groups. The approach may vary here and there but the foundations are the same.



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