Workout of The Week 2.7.16- Facing Your Stubborn Set of Calves


The notorious calve muscle.. That one muscle that really just doesn’t like to grow. Genetics either blessed you with ankle melons, or cursed you with cankles (the term used for legs where you cannot distinguish the ankle from the calve muscle lol), You have them or you don’t, right? Well, not exactly. Perhaps they just grow at an incredibly slow rate for some, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t growing. To illustrate what I am saying, think of the damage rain can do to side walks. Does one drop put a dent? No. How about 1,000

lower leg.jpg

drops? Probably not. It’s only after years and years of persistence, and repetition, that something as simple as water can demonstrate its corrosive properties. Calve muscles are no different. After all, not working them at all is 100% not going to make them grow.

Let’s examine the anatomy and physiology of the calve muscle, and hopefully that will shed some light. The lower leg region is made up of 4 compartments (see figure I-1). The anterior compartment’s main mover is the tibialis anterior, which is responsible for balance and dorsal flexion (pull foot upward). This muscle is mostly comprised of slow twitch fibers, and therefore, responds to higher reps. The lateral compartment is comprised of the peroneus muscle group. This group, much like the previous mentioned, responds to higher reps. The third group, the superficial posterior (very back of leg), contains the gastrocnemius, which is the actual muscle most would refer to as the “calve”. This muscle has a higher concentration of fast twitch fibers, thus responding greater to heavier/explosive lifting. The fourth and final compartment is the deep posterior. This area houses the soleus muscle, which is responsible for pressing the foot down while the leg is bent. It’s fiber content is more so slow twitch, making it more responsive to higher reps.

So, how does one take this information and apply it to their calve workouts? The answer is simple; variety. The best way to grow your calves is to hit them in every way. I’m talking toes in, toes out, legs straight, legs bent, heavy weight/low rep, lighter weight/high rep, etc. This is how you should approach each and every session.



Cardiovascular machine- 5min-10min: A treadmill, bike, elliptical, stair master, rower, etc.  A slow to moderate pace is sufficient. Focus on breathing technique.

Ankle ABC’s: With each foot, spell the entire alphabet. Make sure to make the letters as big as possible. Do not rush, this is not a timed challenge.

Light warm-up sets: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps with very moderate weight. This will familiarize the movement, and bring blood to the area.



Smith machine calve raise: 4 sets x 6-10 reps

Set-up: You will need a smith machine, and a platform of some sort. I would suggest something wide, and firm. DO NOT grab something narrow or light, as it may flip over (personal experience lol). I would recommend an aerobic step, a thicker bumper plate, or something specifically designed for calve raises. The bar of the smith machine should be set so that your knees are moderately bent. Trust me, too low is far safer than too high.

smith riase
Smith machine raise

Execution: Begin by raising the bar, and releasing the hooks of the machine. As you begin the downward motion, control it. Do not let it control you, this is key. After you reach the bottom of the movement, explode upward until you reach a solid contraction. Hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds, and then repeat the movement. I like to stop 1-2 reps short of failure to ensure I will have the energy to re-hook the machine safely.

Tips: This is an ego lift for many, do not be those people. Ask yourself, do you want to sloppily lift too much weight, or do you truly want to grow your calves?  If you want growth, I would recommend great control of the movement through the entire range of motion. That means no half reps, or bouncing.

Donkey calf raise: 3×10; 60s rest


donkey calf raise


Set-up: You will need a machine designed for it, a seated leg press machine, or a friend who doesn’t mind public humiliation. If you are using a seated leg press, make sure to adjust the seat as up and down as it allows. The idea is to have your hips at 90 degrees.

Execution: This  movement should begin with the calves in a

donkey 2

no shame donkey calf raise


deep stretch, at the bottom of the movement. While keeping your hips bent and your legs straight, raise the weight until you reach a solid contraction. Then, slowly descend back to the starting position and repeat.


Tips: It is crucial to keep your knees from bending while doing this exercise. It’s effect is weakened if not adhered to. I also find controlled pausing at the bottom and the top of the motion helps tremendously in increasing the intensity.

Seated calve raises: 3 sets x 20-30 reps; 90s rests

Set-up: You will need a machine specifically designed for this exercise. If your gym does not own one, you may try these options: Using the leg extension machine with a block for your feet (see picture), or a leg press while keeping your knees bent.

seated raise
Seated calf raise

Execution: Much like the previous exercise, you should begin the moment with the heels lowered into a deep stretch. Once set-up, begin the reps. While emphasizing full range of motion, and controlling the descent, keep the motion continuous. Do not stop mid-set. Do not pause mid-rep. Continue the motion all the way through.

Tips: I find this exercise is most efficient if done with a 3 and 1 rhythm.  This means the lowering should take 3 seconds, followed by a 1 second upward motion. Another method you may experiment with is the 10 and 10 style, or 10 regular reps, and 10 explosive reps. You may also try the 28-method, which goes as follows: 7 regular reps, 7 at half the speed, 7 half way up, and 7 at the top half, focusing on the squeeze.

seated raise 2

Alternative method seated raise




  • The goldfish theory: The calve is full of dense muscular fascia, which can become tight and restriction. Some believe that his prevents the muscle from wanting to expand, much like a small tank restricts the growth of a gold fish. Therefore, it is speculated that constant stretching and foam rolling may promote growth.
  • Try different angle: The smith machine calve raise and the donkey calve raise are the best for this. If you are doing three sets, change it each time. For example: set 1= toes straight, set 2= toes inward, set 3= toes outward. To add to this, do not simply change the foot position, but also the way you push. For example, when the feet are inward, push from the inner foot; vice versa.
  • Hit your calves as you would any other muscle group: Do not simply throw 3-4 sets of low effort calve raises at the end of your leg day. I personally designate a day solely to calves, core, and forearms.


  • 3-5 repetitions per stretch
  • 10-20s second hold each


You had another healthy workout.

Kyle Blair


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Workout of The Week 1/18/16: Tri and Keep Up

Cover image: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Pre-note: Whether you call them pythons, guns, weapons of mass destruction, or pipes, there is no questions that a pair of well developed triceps are crucial for a great set of arms. The actions of the triceps include elbow extension and shou-

i-1 (click to enlarge)

lder extension. The muscle is made up of 3 parts, hence the “tri” portion of the word. These parts are the long head, the short head, and the lateral head, which are arranged in a horseshoe-like pattern (i-1). Each portion is targeted through different movements, so a solid workout should consist of overhead, underhand, pushing, and extension (isolation) movements. You should note that the triceps are indirectly worked during any pressing exercises such as bench press, military press, etc.. Therefore, this should be factored into recovery time.




Cardiovascular machine- 5min-10min: A treadmill, bike, elliptical, stair master, rower, etc.  A slow to moderate pace is sufficient. Focus on breathing technique.

Resistance band / thera-band extension warm-up: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps

tricep ext.
Thera-band triceps extension



Light warm-up sets: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps with very moderate weight. This will familiarize the movement, and bring blood to the arms







Set-up: You will need a bench with a barbell. Use a smith machine if you do not have spotter. Your hand grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder width. It is important not to go too narrow, as this places unneeded stress to the wrists.

Execution: Begin by placing your feet flat on the ground and your hands in an appropriate position (as discussed above). After you lift off the bar, pause for a second to feel out the balance. Slowly descend, much like you would while benching. Some people prefer elbows to be tight to the sides, however, I prefer them to be 4-5 inches away. I feel this better activates the triceps. Unlike the bench press, you do not need to touch the bar to your chest. Instead, stop 2 inches short. Then press the bar up, until just short of lockout.

close grip press

Close grip triceps bench press



Tip: This is a compound exercise, so I would suggest going slightly lighter than maximum. This will help you to focus on the triceps as the prime mover, and not the shoulders and chest. To further isolate the triceps, mentally imagine the triceps being the only muscle straightening the elbows as you are pressing the bar up.






Set-up: You will need a barbell or ez-bar (curvy bar), and a decline bench. Stay modest at first, and feel it out; the last thing you need to do is actually crush your skull (hilarious, I know). Your hands should be shoulder width apart.\

Execution: To begin the movement, bend your elbows and lower the weight towards your head in a slow and controlled motion. During the lowering motion, slightly allow your upper arm (triceps part of your arm) to rock back. If done correctly, the rocking motion should allow the bar to end above your head at the bottom of the motion, and


Decline BB skull-crusher


not your forehead. Then reverse the exact same motion, and straighten your elbows until you feel a solid triceps contraction.


Tips: Rocking the arms back slightly does not only improve the stretch and muscle activation, but reduces the stress to the elbows alike. Which leads me to the next point- avoid this exercise if you have elbow tendinitis. It is important that you keep your wrists neutral (straight), as well.

PRONE TRICEPS KICK-BACK: 3×10; super-set with next exercise

Set-up: You will need a bench, and 2 dumbbells. I would advise getting a lighter set of dumbbells to introduce the movement. Lay your body prone on the bench (belly down), with your upper arms tight to your rib cage.

Execution: Once you are positioned as instructed above, you are ready

triceps kickback

Triceps kickback


to begin the movement. In a controlled manner (no swinging!), straighten your arms simultaneously until the dumbbells are even with your hips. Emphasize a good contraction with a 1-2s isometric hold at the top, then return to the starting position in a controlled fashion.


Tips: It is crucial that you do not swing and/or use momentum, this is not an ego lift by any means. I could probably do this movement with 45lbs, but I would get much less triceps activation. Instead, I use 15-25lbs, and feel a much greater pump/burn.


Set-up: You will need a cable pulley and a small handle attachment. Set the pulley to the highest setting, and a weight that is moderate (don’t expect to stack it lol). Grab the handle in an underhand position, while keeping your chest and head up.

Execution: Once you are positioned as instructed above, you are ready to begin the movement. While keeping your wrist neutral, extend the arm until you feel a solid contraction of the triceps muscle. Much like the previous exercise, it helps to hold the


1 arm reverse ext.


squeeze for 1-2s. On the return, only allow your arm to reach slightly more than a 90 degree bend.


Tips: I don’t think there is a triceps movement that better hits the medial head. Keep your head up, because you cannot drop the chest with a raised chin. Also, if you have trouble keeping your upper arm still, try holding it in place with the opposite arm. Lastly, if you have a left and right triceps imbalance, begin each set with the weaker/smaller side.




The triceps are great to pair with: chest, shoulders, or biceps.


  • 3-5 repetitions per stretch
  • 10-20s second hold each


You had another healthy workout.


Kyle Blair


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