Everyone has that “area” that seems to give them some issues when it comes to either losing some inches or even building some inches. Making the body as proportionate as possible is the true name of the game when it comes to fitness and bodybuilding, so at times there is some “deficit” and/or “surplus” training -- lose a little here and gain a little here.
An area or muscle group that gives a lot of bodybuilders and regular gym goers fits when it comes to building seems to be calves. Many people resort to staying away from wearing shorts to the gym due to lacking in the “calve department”. The biggest issue for small calves is usually neglect. Many people go to the gym and work on what is called the “show muscles”, which include chest, shoulders, and arms. Since it is easier to show these muscles to the people at the gym and are easier to look at when training them, they tend to be the ones that get the most attention.
The second main purpose for lagging calves is improper training. This does not just mean that the person is doing the wrong exercises, but maybe the exercises are being performed improperly or there seem to be an inconsistency in the training routine (which is very common with calve training).
When it comes to the calves anatomically, the soleus and gastrocnemius are the main components. The soleus is a thin, long muscle that runs along side the leg below the knee and contributes to that “outer sweep” of the calve. The gastrocnemius is the main muscle that makes up that majority of the lower leg below the knee. Some people are born with genetically big calves, so training them for growth is not as vital as it is for most.
When it comes to the “do’s” of calve training, first off always remain consistent with your workout routine. Set a number of days a week to train calves and if they are a weak point, train them in the beginning of your workout so they get a lot of the energy they need for an intense training session. Take measurements in the beginning as well to track progress. Mix up rep and set schemes, high and low weight. Maybe for 4 weeks a person could go high weight lower reps, and then for the following 4 weeks go higher reps lower weight. Keep the muscles guessing. This approach is important to muscle that is stubborn when it comes to growth.
On the “don’ts” side, do not neglect range of motion (ROM). If you are doing a seated calve raise or a standing one, get a good stretch (getting that heel down) on the calve and come up high on the ball of your feet to get a good squeeze, even holding that weight up for 2 second count. Force that calve to grow with each, high quality rep. Another thing to remember is do not just “throw” calves in at the end of a workout either. Many will go into the gym and train the muscles that feed into their strengths first, and keep the weak training points last. This can lead to lack luster workouts and even neglect because time will be strained and maybe the calve workout will just have to wait until next time. Before you know it, it has been months since you trained them.