These days everyone talks about functional training, training for performance over aesthetics, training movements and not muscles. Well the truth is that the majority of people who workout do it because they want to look and feel better. Sure they want to be stronger and perhaps they even play a sport and would like to be able to run faster and jump higher but the bottom line is we all want to look good naked.
I am a strength and conditioning coach and I work with athletes all of the time. They come to me to reduce injury risk, improve their sports performance, or even add some length to their competitive career but many of them still want to work on some of the show muscles.
One area that often gives people trouble is training the lower leg. With this is mind, I offer a calf training program that I have had success with over the years. It is broken down into three separate workouts. Each one has specific volume, intensity, and cadence recommendations.
First let’s define our terms:
Very Heavy = 6-8 reps with maximum tension*. 2-4-2 cadence. Rest = 180 seconds between sets.
Heavy = 10-12 reps done explosively. 2-4 cadence. Rest = 120 seconds between sets.
Moderate = 12-15 reps, slow up & down. 3-3 cadence Rest = 90 seconds between sets.
Light = 20-25 reps, slow up & down. 3-3 cadence. Rest = 60 seconds between sets.
Straight leg = Standing calf raise, donkey calf raise, or toe press on leg press machine with legs straight.
Bent knee = seated calf machine, or toe press with legs bent to 90 degrees.
Each workout has two movements done at different positions (straight or bent) and for different volumes (# of sets) and different intensities (very heavy, heavy, moderate) etc. Regardless of which rep range you are working in (Heavy – Light – Moderate) choose a weight that will cause you to hit failure as close to the recommended reps ranges as possible.
Workout A: movement 1. Is straight-leg, intensity is very heavy, # of sets = 5. Movement 2. Is straight-leg, intensity is moderate, # of sets = 3.
Workout B: Movement 1. Is straight-leg, intensity is heavy, # of sets = 4. Movement 2. Is bent-leg, intensity is moderate, # of sets = 4.
Workout C: Movement 1. Is bent-leg, intensity is light, # of sets = 4. Movement 2. Is straight-leg, intensity is heavy, # of sets = 3.
Finally in addition to the three workouts above (which focus on Plantar Flexion) I highly recommend that you include a set of Dorsi-Flexion at the end of each workout. Do one set of max reps aiming to hit Momentary Muscular Failure (MMF) @ around 70-90 seconds. You can do these with bands, pulleys, or a dedicated Dorsi-Flexion device.
Start with Workout A, and cycle through them in order, Train your calves no more than twice a week. You may do calf work on regular leg days if splitting your training, or work it in with neck and grip work.
Be careful if you are not used to training your calves with high intensity. You will get very sore and feel like you are walking on stilts. Good luck and keep an eye out for more.
*Maximum tension = pause for 3-5 seconds in the contracted position on each rep.
TAKU’s NOTE: Although this program is aimed at Calf Hypertrophy and aesthetics, the truth is it will also improve strength and performance as well. Almost every athlete will benefit from having stronger calves.
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TNT has over 35 years of combined fitness experience, so if you’re looking for a coach who can train you online from anywhere in the world, visit our online training page to book a consultation.