Because calves are one of the most utilised muscle groups in the body, they are extremely resilient and can really take a pounding in the gym. While calves are often said to be a genetic muscle which are impossible to grow, if we merge scientific and applied theory, we can develop the ultimate calve training workout which is guaranteed to elicit growth in this stubborn muscle.

There are two muscles that make up the calves – the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the outer, superficial muscle which has two heads and is shaped like a heart while the soleus is a smaller muscle which lies underneath the gastrocnemius. Both muscles work to allow you to move up and down (plantar flex). The difference is that the gastrocnemius works to perform this movement while the leg is straight and the soleus functions either when the leg is bent or straight.


The gastrocnemius muscle is made up of both type II fast-twitch fibers (which are commonly used explosive movements) and type I slow-twitch fibers (which are commonly used for stabilising movements) while the soleus is made up of mainly type I fibers. Fast-twitch fibers fatigue very quickly while slow-twitch fibers have a much greater endurance ability.

From the muscle fiber makeup of each muscle group, we can deduce two things. In order to elicit the best possible results, we need to target each muscle group with a training regimen which focusses on placing fiber-specific demand on the respective muscle.


GASTROCNEMIUS

50% fast-twitch (Type II) fibers – As mentioned, fast-twitch fibers respond best to explosive movements but because they fatigue quickly, they are unable to handle a lot of volume.

50% slow-twitch (Type I) fibers – because the gastrocnemius is also made up of 50% slow-titch fibers, we need to combine the explosive, low volume training with slow and controlled high volume training. In doing so, you will be placing yourself in the best possible position to work as many muscle fibers as possible and in the fashion to which they best respond.

The best movements to work the gastrocnemius is to make use of calve exercises which work while the leg is in a straight position. These include standing calf raises and calf presses.


SOLEUS

80% slow-twitch (Type I) fibers – The soleus muscle is best utilised in movements where the leg is in a bent position, however, it is also used in straight leg movements. Because the muscle is very resilient to endurance training, we need to target it through high rep, high volume training with slow concentrated movements.

The aim of any training program is to elicit myofibrillar damage through muscular overload. When this occurs, muscle stem cells undergo processes of activation, replication and differentiation in order to fuse the micro-tears induced by training. If this does not occur, neither will muscle growth.



DESIGN THE ULTIMATE WORKOUT


1. PERFORM EXPLOSIVE EXERCISES


Because the gastrocnemius fatigues quickly, it is always good to start your workout with exercises which target the fast-twitch fibers in this muscle. Start off with exercises like pick jumps, sprints or sled pushes and then move on to standing calf raises or calf presses.


2. GO HEAVY ON EXPLOSIVE MOVES


For exercises like the straight leg calf raise, it is always best to go heavy and really explode on every concentric movement. Perform the exercise in sets of 8 with a weight with which you can only perform 3-6 reps. The explosive movement will target the fast-twitch fibers while the high set volume will target the slow-twitch fibers.

The heavy weight will also place a greater demand on the muscle than what it is used to being able to handle and therefor cause greater myofibrillar damage.


3. DROP SETS


Again, on the standing calf raise, drop sets can be an excecllent training method to target both fast and slow twitch fibers. Once you have completed the above 8 sets, move on to doing a drop set with 3-4 drops working while keeping your rep range between 10-15 reps with each drop and hitting momentary failure on the last drop.


4. FINISH OFF WITH SEATED CALF EXERCISES


After you have fatigued your fast-twitch fibers, which are responsible for the most growth, it is time to focus on your soleus. The soleus is isolated through bent-knee movements and because it is predominantly slow-twitch, it is best to use high reps (15-30 per set) for 4-6 sets.



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