Calves like a flamingo?

So, you’re a typical guy who lacks ‘development’ (to put it mildly) in the calves department. No one wants chicken legs, especially with shorts weather fast approaching.

You need to approach calves in a different way than most other muscle groups. Think of it this way… you’re on your feet a big chunk of your life and are essentially doing calf raises with every step – so, why then, do you train calves with 100 reps of bodyweight dorsiflexions? Calves are used to a lot of stimulus, but not the stimulus you get from heavy weights for reps of 10-15.

I recommend training calves two times a week to start, and progressing up to as much as 3. If you do 16 sets for chest each week, aim for 16 sets of calf work per week. I alternate between standing calf raises (usually in a smith machine, since I don’t have the specific calf lift machine at my gym) and leg press calves (there’s two versions of the leg press, and I use them both). I progress up in weight with each set until I can no longer get a solid 8.

Here’s the key: Emphasize the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement. That’s where the growth originates. When muscle fatigue kicks in late in the set, I like to do 5-10 partials to get that extra burn, as you’ll see in the sample video below.

YouTube video

And here’s a superset using standing calf raises combined with standing body weight dorisflexions.

YouTube video


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.