Skinny Calve Syndrome – How To Solve It And Build Big Calves.

Calves are perhaps the most annoying muscle group for any bodybuilder. They’re almost entirely based on your genetics and the inherent muscle fibre types. It’s incredibly frustrating to see somebody who’s never done a calve raise with naturally monstrous calves. However, the calve should be trained and treated like any other muscle. With the right progressive overload, stimulation and our creative techniques, even the most stubborn calves will grow.

Gernerally speaking, calves don’t grow simply because most people do not put the same amount fo effort into building calves as they would biceps for example.  The second reason is that training routines often lack the proper form and requiste knowledge of how understanding the mechanincs of the calves muscle can be utilised to maximise growth.


Calve anatomy:

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The calve can be broken down into two main muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius has two large pronated heads which make up the main calve that you see from the outside. These are the medial head and lateral head. Training the gastrocnemius adds to the overall[/column]tone, width and depth of the lower leg. The gastrocnemius muslce inserts onto the achilles tendon on the calcaneous. Underneath the gastrocnemius is the soleus muscle which when trained gives width to the back of the lower leg. It’s activated more intensely when the knee is bent.

The gastrocnemius responds well to heavier weight, performed explosively since it’s most composed of fast twitch muscle fibers. Comparitvly, the smaller soleus responds well to lighter weight, and higher reps performed slowly.

How calves should be trained:

The best way to induce growth in stubborn calves is to integrate these fundamental methods:

  • Train both the soleus, the gastrocnemius and the front of the calve (that many forget about).
    Your routine needs to target both heads of the gastrocnemius and of the other soleus muscle. Seated calf raises will therefore form an integral part of your routine since they target the soleus more effectively than the typical standing calve raise. Use varying types of straight leg calve raises, for example, a leg press calve raise will enable you to start the movement with the calves already being stretched since the body is at an angle to the legs (similar to a donkey calve raise).
  • Always use a VERY strict full range of motion.
    At the top of the range of motion (as far as you can possibly go), hold onto something and pull yourself up even further right up onto the tips of your toes. You’ll feel an impressive burn but will get a superior contraction that the calve is not used to.
  • Use high rep, low rep, and moderate rep ranges.
    Rep ranges need to be varied. Calves quickly adapt to overload and need to be trained super heavy, light and moderately with no exceptions. Growth will not be limited to the typical 8-12 rep hypertrophy range and occurs across the board. Our routine includes power day, high reps and moderate ranges.
  • Vary between isolating the inner and outer calve muscle.
    By performing calve raises with your feet pointing outwards you target the inner calve head. If you widen your stance, you’ll place even greater emphasis on this inner head.
  • Vary the stance.
    By varying between having you feet together or wide apart you have another way you can target the inner and outer heads of the gastrocnemius. This is extremely useful when combined with placing toes in or out and you can literally target every inch of muscle accordingly.
  • Vary the speed at which exercises are performed to stimulate both fast and slow twitch muscle fibres.
    By varying the speed at which you perform calve raises you can build fast twitch muscle fibers which generally grow faster and larger. A good way to build such fibers is skipping but jumping calve raises are even better, simply stand on an aerobics box (only a few inches high) and then jump at the top of the raise keeping you legs as straight as you can.
  • Use serious shock methods regularly.


We suggest that your train calves 2-3 times per week. Try our killer comprehensive calve workout that includes all the tips and tricks and we’re certain you’ll see results.

Day 1: High rep day

Seated calve raise (neural, feet shoulder width apart)      2 sets of 30 reps
Leg press calve raise  (toes pointed outwards, feet shoulder width apart)    2 sets of 30 reps
Standing cave raise     (toes pointed inwards, feet together)  2 sets of 30 reps

Day 2: Power Calve

Due to the nature of handling a heavier weight, all calve stances are neutral to prevent injury.

Seated calve raise (neural, feet shoulder width apart)  5 sets of 5 reps
Leg press calve raise  (toes neutral, feet shoulder width apart)    5 sets of 5 reps
Calve jumps or explosive calve raises   (neutral stance)  To failure

Day 3: Moderate weight

Seated calve raise (toes pointed inwards, feet together)        3 sets of 12-15 reps
Leg press calve raise (toes pointed outwards, feet wider than shoulder width apart)    3 sets of 10-12 reps
Standing cave raise     (neutral, feet together)  3 sets of 10-12 reps

Sample shock method:

100 reps sets (see our article on 100 rep calve sets here)

Final Tip

  • Stretch between each exercise!



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