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       Fitness Tips For 1/6/2005 

Ultimate Calf Training
For Maximum Results
by Karen Sessions

You have been pounding away at the iron game for years, set after 
set and repetition after repetition.  You have literally put blood,
sweat, and tears into your calf training routine.  You step back
 to look at the view in the mirror only to notice that you are 
still lacking lower leg development.  How can that be?  You have 
trained calves a million and one ways, you have eaten properly, 
received adequate rest and still fail to see any distinct results.  
Do you suffer from small calf syndrome?  Does any of this sound 
familiar?  Are you tired of putting in 100% effort and receiving 
only 10% results?

Have you ever seen someone who doesn’t workout at all or 
exercises  very little, yet they possess beautiful and balanced 
calves?  Just as with any other muscle, calves are genetic.  The 
length of a muscle and the tendon’s insertion point will 
determine how great your calves will be.  Those with short calf 
muscles and a long tendon insertion will have a much more 
difficult time building them to greatness, as this makes them 
smaller and higher.    

Building calves can be frustrating and it has to be the most 
difficult muscle in the body to get to respond to training.  
Even if you are not genetically gifted in the calf department, 
there are some tactics that you can employ to maximize your 
lower leg development. 

Calf Structure
Before you can maximize muscle gains in the calves, it is 
important to understand how they work and what is involved.  
Calf training requires a different type of intensity, not just 
more sets, more repetitions, more rest, etc.  You have to 
understand what is involved to capitalize on the gains.  Train 
hard, yet smart.  Use your calf muscles as well as your mind.  
You must focus and visualize.  

The calves are composed of two major muscles, the gastrocnemius
 and the soleus.  These two muscles add size, width, and 
symmetry to the lower portion of the leg. In addition, there 
is a smaller muscle that comes into play, the tibialis anterior.  
Even though it is small and may seem insignificant, it is an 
important muscle to develop for strength, size, power, 
endurance, and shape.  

The Gastrocnemius
The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two major calf muscles 
and it gives shape to the rear lower leg.  It is located at 
the top back of the lower leg and it extends from the knee 
joint to the ankle joint and it is composed of two heads 
(medial and lateral) that lie next to each other.  It can be 
easily seen when it is well developed and accompanied with 
low body fat.  The gastrocnemius portrays that well-known 
diamond shape or an upside down heart.  

Best Targeted
This muscle is best targeted with straight legged-heel raises, 
such as donkey calf raises and standing calf raises.  Some 
put a slight bend in their legs to relive some pressure, but 
this will only target the soleus more, putting less emphasis 
on the gastrocnemius.  If you are going to train the 
gastrocnemius, then train it and don’t bring other muscles 
into play. 

Donkey raises are superior to standing calf raises due to the 
position it puts you in.  The gastrocnemius ties in with the 
hamstrings at the back of the leg.  When you are in the bent 
over position, the hamstrings and gastrocnemius are stretched 
out, giving the donkey calf raise an advantage over standing 
calf raises due to the intensity and localization. 

The gastrocnemius muscle responds well to heavy weight, using 
more sets and fewer repetitions due to the great number of 
fast-twitch (white) muscle fibers.  

The Soleus
The soleus is the smaller, yet slightly wider, of the two 
major calf muscles.  It is not visible because it lies under 
the gastrocnemius. The soleus muscle gives width to the back
of the lower leg. 

The soleus comes into play in many endurance activities. The 
gastrocnemius is usually has a lot of fast-twitch muscle 
fibers or an equal number of fast and slow-twitch fibers.  
This allows the soleus to take over in many cases when the 
gastrocnemius becomes fatigued.  

How many times have you done endless sets and repetitions of 
straight-legged calf raises with nothing to show for it?  
Straight-legged calf exercises build power and strength.  
If you want to build larger calves you must put effort and 
focus into training the soleus as well. 
Best Targeted
The soleus can be best trained with any bent-knee exercises, 
such as seated calf raises.  The gastrocnemius is not 
strongly involved in this movement. 

The soleus responds well to light weight, fewer sets and 
more repetitions since it is composed mainly of slow-twitch 
muscle fibers (red). 

The anterior tibialis is located at the front portion of the 
lower leg.  A developed anterior tibialis adds more depth 
and symmetry.  It will make your calves appear larger from 
the front and side.

Best Targeted
This overlooked muscle can be best trained with toe raises.  
Simply place the heel of your foot on a platform, such as a 
weight plate placed on the floor.  Place a dumbbell across 
your foot and raise your toes as high as you can in a 
controlled fashion.  Lower and repeat.  

Rebound training is a great finisher for a calf routine.  It 
is simply jumping rope or jumping onto and off a box landing 
on the balls of your feet.   This will give them a good burn 
and a good pump.  Finish off with one set of as many as 

Maximizing Gains
· Grab on to something supportive and do a calf raise.  Use 
your own body’s resistance and push down, adding pressure to
 the calves.  Hold the contraction for as long as possible.  
Repeat three to four more times.    

· How many times have you seen lifters using the popular 
“toes-in” and “toes-out” approach to calf training?  Were 
you intrigued?  Did you know that it is a complete waste of 
time and energy since all the muscle fibers run in the same 
direction?  It is also dangerous to internally and externally 
rotate your ankle or knee.  The ball-and-socket joint in the 
hip allows for the foot rotation, and it produces zero 
emphasis on the calves since there is no calf muscle that 
crosses the hip joint.  Those who claim they feel the 
difference have nothing to do with the external or internal 
rotation of the hip, but rather bad form.  The secret to 
targeting the different areas of the calf muscle is to angle
 the pressure by rolling over on your big toe (inversion) 
or rolling over on your little toes (eversion). You should be
 angling the soles of your feet. Targeting has everything to 
do with form and technique, not rotating the knees.  At least
 with angling you can actually take advantage of a movement 
that occurs in the ankle.  Rolling over on the big toe will 
stress the lateral head more, while rolling over on the 
smaller toes will direct more of the resistance to the 
medial head.  Roll and angle the pressure.  Don’t turn and 

· You can increases the intensity of calf training by holding
 the contraction at the top position for a count of two, lower 
to the intermediate position for a count of two and lower.  

· The soleus is largely composed of red (slow-twitch or 
endurance) fibers, but you can develop some of the white 
fibers by training the soleus in a very fast, yet controlled 

· Train flat footed.  Forget the stylish athletic shoes that 
give you an artificial arch.  Train calves in your bare feet 
or wear combat boots or some other shoe that is flat in 
structure.  If you want to build bigger calves, you are going
 to have to get to the bottom of things.

· Lock the knees with standing and donkey raises and keep 
the tension on the gastrocnemius.  Don’t allow the tension 
to shift to other areas.  

· Since the calves are a very different type of muscle, they 
can be trained more than other muscle groups.  You can train
 the calves every other day, unless you are sore from the 
previous calf training.  You can also split up your 
gastrocnemius and soleus training so you are training them 

Best Exercise For Building Calf Muscles

Calf Workout #1
Standing Raises – heavy poundage – 3 sets of 4 repetitions
Seated Raises – light poundage – 6 sets of 20 repetitions
Toe Raises – light poundage – 4 sets of 10 repetitions

Donkey Raises – heavy poundage – 3 sets of 4 repetitions
Seated Raises - light poundage – 6 sets of 20 repetitions
Toe Raises – moderate poundage – 3 sets of 8 repetitions
Rebound Training – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Leg Press Calf Raises – heavy poundage – 3 sets of 4 repetitions 
Seated Raises – light poundage – 6 sets of 20 repetitions
Toe Raises – light poundage – 4 sets of 10 repetitions

Calf Training Program #2 
Standing Raises – heavy poundage – 3 sets of 4 repetitions
Rebound Training – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Seated Raises – light poundage – 6 sets of 20 repetitions
Toe Raises – moderate poundage – 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Donkey Raises – heavy poundage – 3 sets of 4 repetitions
Rebound Training – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

The following Monday begin with soleus training.  

Now that you have more facts on the structure of the calf 
muscle, you have the power to train them to their full 
potential.  Use this information and take your lower leg 
development to the next level and blow away the 

Note:  Be sure to visit Karen Sessions website   

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