Calves may just be one of the most ignored parts of the lower leg department. If you are dreading getting your legs out on show this summer, then this is the only guide you will need on how to fix skinny calves FAST.
Your upper leg muscles may well support the major muscle groups of your body when you’re working out. However, your lower leg muscles should put in a lot of work to help stabilize your body as you go through various movements, especially while supporting your total body weight and other extra loads.
Your calves must provide the support you need as you go through a movement or else you might increase your chances of injury.
Similarly, it’s never a good idea to keep the rest of your body in regular training while leaving your calves unnoticed. You’ll have a hard time stabilizing the weights that you’re lifting and moving. Outside of a traditional workout, you won’t even get to apply your muscle mass to an actual application, hence no functional strength.
Worst of all, your legs won’t look good. At all.
While you can’t always rely on popular upper leg workouts, such as squats and deadlifts, to effectively develop your calves, here’s what you need to know about working and firing up your calf muscles and maintaining a balanced workout.
Why Is It So Hard to Build Your Calves?
When it comes to building up and strengthening a puny muscle group, you might have questions that have been asked over and over again. While we all differ in body type and physical build, certain solutions are effective for the majority of people who want to build big calves.
Calves can just be the most challenging muscle group to transform. A lot of people have shown annoyance and dissatisfaction towards their calves’ inability to respond to their workouts.
Sports scientist Jurgen Weineck has shed some light on why calves are the least trainable of all the muscles. The calves are often used to their fullest extent during the day as they handle your body weight. More significantly, your body has been designed to naturally make walking an energy-efficient activity.
In the general run of things, especially before vehicles and such were invented, humans have to walk for hours each day. During this action, the ankle joint is primarily stimulated and engaged. If the effort of carrying and propelling your body was done by your calves’ muscular effort, they would get tired too easily.
Calves and the Stretch-Reflex
This is why the Achilles tendon is solid and firm. The Achilles’ stretch-reflex takes over and it performs much of the work at your ankle joint.
The same thing that’s making locomotion efficient is, on the contrary, what makes it difficult for the calves to grow and get bigger. The Achilles’ stretch-reflex is one that’s stiff, strong, and reactive. When you perform reps on calf workouts, your reflex is what’s doing a lot of the work and not the muscles.
The muscles, on the other hand, don’t do much and aren’t extensively engaged.
Also, the range of motion on regular calf workouts is too short. If you’re performing 8 to 12 reps, your muscles go through a really short duration of being under tension. They’re very short that they can’t really trigger maximal hypertrophy. This is especially the case if the reflexes are doing the work in half of the range of motion.
Finally, the fascia that surrounds the calves is the tightest of them all in your body. Fascial surrounds your muscle, and if it’s very tight, it actually delays or prevents muscle growth.
Peak Contraction and Fascia Stretching
One of the ways to build your calves is to do peak contraction and fascia stretching.
During your workout, pause at the top and bottom of each rep. Hold peak contraction at the top of your last rep for 10 to seconds, and then stretch the fascia.
With peak contraction, you’re fully contracting your muscles under maximum load as you’re almost finished with the movement. You can benefit much from peak contraction training if you’re looking to effectively separate a muscle group and put the spotlight on more detail in your physique- just as you would want in building big calves.
In addition, as you’re stretching the fascia with tension and resistance, you’re allowing the tissues to regenerate. They’ll feel bouncy and supple, which will help your legs feel stronger and more flexible.
How Can I Build My Calves?
Here are the more specific solutions to working and building your calves and attain that long-awaited leg physique.
Don’t rely on the stretch-reflex.
A pause of 2 to 3 seconds while you’re in a stretched position can significantly interfere with the stretch-reflect. This reflex is triggered to protect you from injury. It’s activated by a sudden stretch.
As you pause in a stretched position, your body deems the situation to be safe. In turn, the stretch-reflex will be held back. When you pause at the bottom of every rep, you’re shifting the work mainly to the muscles.
Perform the concentric (lifting/going up) portion of the movement in a slow, controlled manner.
You’ve already stopped the stretch-reflex when you paused. Do not trigger it once more by immediately jerking up in a stretched position. The first step of the movement should be slow and controlled.
Prolong your time under tension.
Perform 10 to 12 reps for calves, but remember to sustain peak contraction for about 2 seconds on every rep. Squeeze the muscle as hard as possible. This will prolong the time under tension for about 30 seconds in every set. On the last rep, maintain this peak contraction for about 10 to 20 seconds.
Deal with fascia tightness.
Fascia is crucial for holding your muscles in place, however, it may also be the reason why muscle growth is being held back. Fascia is tough, so it won’t allow muscle room to grow and develop. Your muscles’ size won’t change regardless of how hard you’ve been training because this connective tissue around them is constricting their growth. The most noticeable example of this would be your calves.
The solution: loaded stretching when your muscles are pumped. After you’ve finished your set, pause for about 3 to 5 seconds off the calf machine to allow blood and fluids to pour in the muscle. Then, go back on the machine and sustain the low/stretched position for about 30 to 45 seconds.
Perform sets with these steps:
- Do 10 to 12 reps and perform a short stretch at the bottom (2 seconds) and a peak contraction at the top (another 2 seconds).
- On your final rep, maintain the peak contraction for about 10 to 20 seconds.
- Get off the machine, pause for 5 seconds, and then get back on. Retain the stretched position for about 30 to 45 seconds.
One of the best things about this workout is that you won’t be needing as many sets because you already performed much more work as during a normal set of calf raises. Complete just three sets and you’re good to go.
For complete development, do a standing calf exercise as well as a seated exercise as these target different parts of the calf. Standing exercises target the gastrocnemius while the seated exercises fire up the soleus.
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Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.