How are your calves? Mine suck. Actually, by normal people’s standards, they’re pretty good. But by bodybuilding standards…well, let’s just say that Dorian Yates wouldn’t be intimidated by a toe-to-toe comparison.

So if my calves are only “so so”, what makes me qualified to write an article on calve training? Doesn’t it make more sense to hear from someone with extraordinary calves? Ironically, anyone with outstanding calve development is the last person to be giving advice on improving the lower leg. They’re the ones who have it easy – the lucky few born with lots of fast twitch fibers in the lower legs. That’s because, more than any other muscle group, the size and shape of one’s calves is determined by heredity. People with a genetic disposition for shapely muscular calves need only to walk and their calves will look good. Bastards.

For the rest of us mere mortals, it’s different. Like most bodybuilders, my calves have always resisted growth–so much so that not too long ago they bore a striking resemblance to a pair of pool cues. It was pitiful! I’ve had to battle for every centimeter of growth but despite all the effort, nothing seemed to help. I tried everything. Then it hit me. It was so simple. (As most “discoveries” are.)

After years of trial and error, I finally found the secret to adding precious muscle tissue onto those stubborn soleus.

HEEL UP–HEEL DOWN–WHAT ELSE? Let’s face it, the calves are pretty limited in the way they can be trained. Everything isa toe raise of some sort. Add into the mix that they don’t provide a satisfying pump, as is the case when working the chest or

arms. They just burn. The key to killer calves isn’t in the exercises, but in the method in which they’re employed.

There are two theories to calve training. Because the muscle group consists of mostly slow twitch (red) muscle fibers, the potential for growth is limited. Slow twitch muscles are designed for endurance, leaving the presumption that the calves should be trained with high reps. The opposite school of thought is: because the calves are used to performing thousands of reps each day (walking and running) they need to be “shocked” with low reps and heavy weight. “Light” work won’t work since the thick ankle bone and Achilles tendon are capable of withstanding tremendous pressure, therefore it stands to reason that working the calves with a heavy load would be necessary. Both theories are valid. Both theories are flawed.

It’s been my experience that calves respond best when worked quickly. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the reps should be fast. Instead, the total reps should be condensed into as little time as possible.

That’s the key.

It may be hard to believe that any workout session that lasts for only a few minutes can be very effective. Yet, in the case of calve training, it’s not only possible–it’s preferable.

Here’s how it’s done.
Pick only one calve exercise. (I prefer the seated calve raise.) Your goal will be to reach 75 reps.

Use a weight that you would normally choose for a twenty rep set.

Complete the 20 reps and continue until you can’t do another rep.

Rest just long enough for the burning to subside (no longer than 10 seconds) and continue with as many reps as possible, even if it’s only 5 reps at a time.

Proceed in this fashion until you reach the target goal of 75.

That’s it! Total time? Under 4 minutes. Granted, it’s a very painful four minutes, but four minutes nonetheless.

WARNING! You may feel a tinge of guilt that the routine took so little time but you’ll have a different point of view the next day when your calves are aching like they’ve never ached before! Do not be tempted to do more work! Wait and see. If you’re still able to walk, you either didn’t go heavy enough or you allowed too much time between “sets.”

Once you’re able to tolerate this routine, increase the number of reps to 100. Once that becomes too easy, (which I wouldn’t count on happening in the near future) add more weight.

I found this routine to be, by far, the most effective method for packing some well earned muscle onto the calves. Even the hardest gainer can add size and shape to their lower leg as long as they can tolerate the torture required to “keep going” and

complete the work out in as short a duration as possible. But make no mistake about it–when following this program it’s going to feel as if someone is pouring acid on your calves! (And who says calve training can’t be fun?)

Now you don’t have any excuses. Four minutes is nothing! But a great pair of calves is a most envious “finished touch” to the complete physique. If this routine worked for me, (stick leg Nellie) it can work for anyone. Give this four minute workout a try for a month and see for yourself if it doesn’t make a dramatic difference in the size and shape of your calves.

Even if your calves aren’t your best bodypart, there’s no reason they can’t look good. All it takes is 4 minutes a week. And a high tolerance for pain.

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