Calf muscles can be very stubborn. Much like our abdominal muscles, they get a lot of use. Every time we take a step or a climb a stair, we’re using our calves. So in order to build a bigger calf muscle, we really need to apply a lot of stress the muscle.
When it comes to training almost any of the muscles in our body, there are usually a zillion exercises. Unfortunately, calves seem to be the exception – there’s not a lot from which to pick. But here are a few favorites:
Donkey Calve Raises
Famed bodybuilder-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger was known for using an exercise called donkey calve raises. It’s great because it doesn’t require any gym equipment. Simply bend over a bench, and have a workout partner hop on your back. Then, with all the extra weight pressing into your legs, raise your calves by coming up on your toes. If it’s too easy, you can have your workout partner hold dumbbells or wear a backpack filled with weight. And yes, it really does look as gay as it sounds.
Weighted Calve Raises
Similarly, you can find a block of wood or step that’s 4 – 6+ inches thick. Stand with just your toes on the edge of the block (make sure it doesn’t flip!) and gently lower and then lift your heels using your calf muscles. You’ll probably want to use some dumbbells or wear a weighted backpack for an extra challenge. Alternatively, you can load a barbell with weights and rest it across your the back of your shoulders (as you would for a squat). Some gyms even have machines wherein you can do calve raises, though they make the exercise a bit easier by taking balance out of the equation. It’s most effective to use free weights, and remember: It takes a lot of stress to cause calf muscle growth. Use heavy weights!
Jogging or running – especially uphill – or using the stairmaster are good ways to strengthen your calves. But, because the resistance is fairly low, you won’t see a large amount of muscle growth. You may see some growth – but using an incline or stairmaster is more a complement than supplement for the above exercises.
And don’t be disheartened if the growth is slow! Many professional body builders would be excited to see .25″ of calf muscle growth per month; it’s certainly a slow transformation. So, start today.