- "Big Calves: Building Big, Big Calves without High-rep Sets!"
- "Carbohydrates & Performance"


"Get big calves with only 10 sets of 20 repetitions every other day". Just imagine the amount of time required for that program! Unfortunately many calf-training articles preach ridiculously high-repetition sets and training frequencies in comparison to routines for most other muscles. Granted, the calves are a difficult muscle group to increase in muscle mass, BUT/ there is no evidence to support the notion that the muscles respond better to high-repetition and light load training.  

Alternatively, some people completely neglect the calves in their training routines. Obviously this is not the way to go either. The calves are a very large and strong muscle group and are important in bodybuilding and many athletic events. If you improve your calf strength you will be stronger in other standing leg exercises such as the lunge, squat, and step-up. Furthermore, the large muscle mass of this muscle group makes it essential to include in any metabolic-weightlifting programs designed to increase the metabolism and reduce body fat. Everyone in the gym will benefit by giving the calves some work!

The calf area is composed of two muscles, the underlying soleus and the prominent gastrocnemius (it is the gastrocnemius that most people traditionally identify as the "calf" muscle). Muscle biopsies of these muscles reveal both to be generally higher in T-I or "slow-twitch" (ST) muscle fibers. The gastrocnemius averages ~60% ST fibers and the soleus ~75% ST fibers in comparison to the 50% ST fiber composition of the vastus lateralis (quadriceps) or 30-40% ST composition in the triceps brachii.

These differences in NO way support calf-training programs to require the extreme workout prescriptions presently recommended by other trainers. Fast-twitch fibers have repeatedly been shown to have a greater potential to hypertrophy (get bigger) and the best way to recruit the FT fibers is with a high-intensity load. As well, the gastrocnemius can hardly be considered a slow-twitch muscle as only about 60% of its fibers are ST and in elite sprinters the ST proportion may be as low as 25%!

Calf training, like strength training and bodybuilding for any other muscle group, requires the correct application of basic strength training principles in order to add muscle mass to the area. The basic function of the "calf" is to plantar flex the ankle (raise the heels off the ground and support the body weight on the balls of the feet), so we simply must overload it in this position.

"Overload" is the most important concept: you must demand more of your muscles than they are regularly accustomed to and in response the muscle will adapt by growing and becoming stronger. 

The problem is that most athletes and bodybuilders forget the overload principle and end up failing in their calf training attempts by continuing to train with countless repetitions and an intensity that is too low. Remember that muscle growth occurs in response to the intensity of the stimulus imposed. More specifically, the muscle grows in response to lifting a heavy load for a sufficient number of repetitions. I therefore suggest the number of repetitions be reduced and the magnitude of the weight increased. The muscle fibers are not going to respond and grow if the load is too light!

As far as calf-training exercises go, don't concentrate on the seated calf raise. This does not provide the optimal stimulus for the gastrocnemius, but rather for the smaller, deeper soleus muscle. You want your calf exercises to require plantar flexion with only a slight bend at the knee joint. This will ensure the optimal recruitment of the larger and more prominent gastrocnemius.

Let's take a look at a "high-intensity, moderate-volume" training program...You will be sore for a couple of days after this workout, BUT/ more importantly, your calf muscles will be stimulated for growth not endurance!

Single-leg calf-raise

* hold DB in hand and support yourself with other hand

* perform on platform and allow heal to drop as far as possible

* do 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions for each leg with no rest between sets

Leg press calf-raise

* place only the balls of the feet on the bottom end of the leg press platform

* contract the calf muscles to plantar flex the ankle

* do a set using a weight that allows 10 repetitions, then quickly remove 20% of the weight and perform another set to failure (X), then quickly remove 10% percent of that weight and perform the third "drop-set" to failure (X)

* rest 1-2 minutes

* repeat for a second "drop-set"

Eccentric machine calf-raise

* use either a standing OR angled calf-raise machine (OR continue to use the leg press)

* set the pin at weight that can be comfortably lifted with both legs

* perform the concentric phase with both legs (plantar flex the ankles), BUT/ use only one leg to lower the weight to the starting position

* alternate between legs and perform 6 eccentric reps for each side

* quickly reduce the weight by 10% and perform 6 more eccentric reps for each side

* continue for a third set if desired (yeah right!)


Carbohydrate Supplementation
Current evidence still supports that most endurance athletes should consume > 60 % of daily energy intake from carbohydrate. Endurance athletes should try to eat 2-4 hours prior to exercise (high carbohydrate snack and lots of water). Consuming a sports drink (6-8% sugar solution) may improve performance in prolonged exercise and this drink should also be ingested at 150 - 250 ml every 15 min during exercise (including most team sports such as soccer and basketball).

Consuming a sport supplement is best because it contains the proper sugar concentration, low levels of fructose, and low levels of potassium. Fructose may upset the stomach and excess potassium can impair muscle contraction. After exercise, athletes should consume carbohydrate (1-2 g/kg) as soon as possible and get plenty of fluids. Again, the sport drink is effective and convenient for some carbohydrate and fluid replenishment in addition to other foods (protein and fat are necessary for recovery as well).


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