TRAINING THE LOWER LEGS HAS PUZZLED MANY OVER THE YEARS. HERE'S ARNOLD'S TWO CENTS.
Calves must be the most widely controversial muscle group to train, aside maybe from abs. Discussions range from training heavy versus light, to high reps versus low reps, to what volume and frequency are appropriate for working them. As you probably know, I have strong opinions on training calves. And while others may disagree with my stances (no pun intended) on developing the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, here they are nevertheless:
On Resistance: Back when I was still having trouble putting size on my calves, I did calf raises using 500–600 pounds of resistance, thinking that was more than enough weight. Then Reg Park pointed out that each of my calves was accus- tomed to supporting 250 pounds of body weight, so 500 pounds was pretty normal for me. That’s when I started overloading my calves, using up to 1,000 pounds on standing calf raises. And that’s when they grew. Now, I’d never suggest that a beginner level (or even an intermediate) lifter go this heavy, but the point is to use a suf ciently heavy weight relative to your body weight when training calves.
On Time Investment: In my opinion, the one thing that thwarts the progress of an individual’s calf development more than anything else is attrition. Most people just don’t have the patience and persistence to maintain the necessary intensity level to maximize this stubborn body part. I’ve al- ways believed that the price of having great calves is 500 hours. I’ll explain: Five hundred hours equals more than 660 45-minute calf workouts; 660 divided by four workouts per week equals about 165 weeks. That’s more than three years of work! Anything less is a futile efort, unless you’re genetically blessed with amazing calves. So stick with it.
On Range of Motion: Simply put, the greater your range of motion when doing seated, standing, or donkey calf raises, the more your calves will develop. This means Training the lower legs has puzzled many over the years. Here’s Arnold’s two cents. CALF INPUT getting a full stretch at the bottom, then going all the way up at the top and squeez- ing hard. One exception to this rule exists: partial reps. Back in my heyday, every fourth calf workout (give or take) I did consisted of only half and quarter movements using ex- tremely heavy weight. This added resistance on my calves was very beneficial for adding mass, despite my limited range of motion.
On Rep Ranges: It would be impossible for me to sum up how many reps I’d typically do per set of calf exercises—I alternately employed high, low and moderate reps throughout the ’60s and ’70s. For example, I might do five sets of 10 reps per exercise one day, then do 20 reps per set the following workout, then maybe 12–15 reps the next. And then some days I’d load up the stack really heavy and perform just 3–4 reps per set. On occasion, I’d train with a guy like Tom Platz, and we’d do sets of 30, 40, or 50 reps. So you see, the goal when training calves is to be as unpredictable as possible. You must continually try new training protocols. I con- fidently predict that it will work for you! FLEX