Increasing Your Calf Size
Increasing calf size is one of the hardest things for people to accomplish successfully. The calf muscle is one of the most stubborn muscles to grow. Fortunately, it is one of the body parts that has some of the easiest workouts, but that may be part of the problem. Because there are just 2 main exercises for calves that people actually do regularly, I'm under the impression that people just go through the motions to "get it out of the way". I see guys in the gym doing calf raises, but their calves never look any different; even years later, and I think I know why. First, lets look at the best exercises for calves.
The best exercises for calves (for most people) are as follows:
Seated Calf Raises
(seated calf machine)
This is a machine exercise where you sit down and place your knees under a bar that has two pads under it and two handles on top of it. You adjust the weight and simply extend your calves as you would if you were trying to stand on your toes. The proper way to do this calf exercise is as follows. Adjust the weight so that you are able to do 10 reps, and the last rep (10th rep) is almost impossible to complete. With a little trial and error you will figure out the appropriate weight for your calves and this will ensure you that you're lifting heavy enough. Be smart though. If you're a beginner, start with light weight and move up slowly. For people who are just starting out I would recommend no more than 10 pounds on the machine so you can get accustomed to how it works. Oh, one more thing! Remember, you ALWAYS have to be able to complete your last rep, or you won't be able to re-rack the weight and it will be stuck on your knees; quite embarrassing.
Standing Calf Raises
There are two types of standing calf raises - standing calf machine and smith machine.
Standing Calf Machine
This is a machine exercise where you walk up and position your shoulders under two bars with pads underneath them, and handles on top. It's like standing under a two 2x4's with pads mounted under them. On this machine you need to start with very, very light weight and here's why. Unlike the seated calf raise machine where you are only lifting the weights on the rack; on this machine you are lifting machine weight PLUS your weight. So if you weigh 150lbs, and you put 10 pounds on the rack, then you are lifting 160 lbs with your calves. The proper way to execute this exercise is to adjust the weight first, then step onto the platform (if it exists), position your shoulders under the pads, and simply stand up straight, and stand on your toes as high as you can, then descend back to resting position, and repeat. 10 reps on this machine is usually enough if you have the proper weight.
In this photo, we see Arnold Schwarzenegger during his calf muscle routine. He's doing machine calf raises with an insane amount of weight. Arnold was fanatical about his calves.
This is my favorite, and in my opinion the most effective way to grow your calves. This exercise is similar to the standing calf raise machine, but it's more manual, and you have more space. The way to do this calf exercise is to start VERY light, typically starting with just the bar if you're new. What you do, is position the bar higher up on the smith machine's rack so you have room to walk under it. Then you position yourself under the bar so that it can rest on your shoulders behind your head.
Fastest Way To Increase Calf Size
The absolute fastest way to increase calf size is as follows.
Increasing Calf Strength
The best way to increase calf strength is through a strength training routine or program. Because calves are so stubborn, you need to closely monitor your progress. The secret to bigger calves is to reach hypertrophy, which really is no secret, but you need to learn your body and figure out how to lift the most weight possible, while doing the appropriate amount of reps to attain hypertrophy. For me, I do smith machine calf raises, 7 sets of 30 reps, at 135lbs (2 x 45 lb plates). This tweaks my calves perfectly, increases strength, and maximizes growth.
Women wanting bigger calves need to do the same routine as men. The main difference is caloric intake in the female diet and testosterone levels, but the actual routine will be similar if not the same as you see above. There are no special calf requirements for women looking to increase calf size.
Another important thing to note about calves, is paying attention to them while training. The same routine over and over may not work, because calves are extremely stubborn. You may have to change your calf workout routine in the middle of a workout to accommodate to your body adapting to the stress you're putting on them. Remember, the body is always looking to adapt to what you do, so if you do the same calf exercises all the time, you won't get anywhere.