Calves Won't Grow? Here's Why!
Training calves suck, there's no doubt about it.
Performing set after set, rep after rep of calf raises with miniscule progress to show for it.
Some guys throw in the towel and quit training calves all together, others stick with the same one exercise routine that hasn't netted them results in months and months...
I've had a hard time getting my calves to grow too, however looking back at it now when I was complaining and struggling my calf training was half-assed because I was convinced they wouldn't grow regardless.
Check out my 5 reasons below and ensure you're not making these same mistakes, robbing you of any hope of progress when it comes to building big calves
You're Inconsistent With Your Volume
When it comes to training calves it's all about intensity and volume.
Hitting calves once per week is not going to be enough to see the results you want, I recommend training your calves twice per week with at least 48 hours rest between workouts.
Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Saturday... whatever schedule works for you is fine as long as you get it done.
I used to fall into the 'yoyo' trap, finding myself training calves three times in one week, then not hitting them again for two weeks at which point I did one poor workout that week.
Stay consistent, three workouts for your calves a week is great, but because training calves isn't quite as rewarding as training your arms or chest most guys don't last more than a week or two with that sort of volume on a consistent basis.
Hit them twice per week but make sure you hit them EVERY week.
Like all things in life, consistency is key.
You're Only Doing One Exercise
The standing calf raise is the go-to exercise for training calves.
Mix it up, you don't need to 'shock' your calves into growth... but you do need to ensure you're hitting all areas of the calf when performing your calves workout.
I recommend performing the following exercises during your calves workout:
- Standing calf raises
- Seated calf raises
- Leg press calf raises
- Jump rope
- Box jumps
Your calves will also be hit indirectly during compound leg exercises such as the leg press and barbell squat.
You're Calves Workout Lacks Intensity
Training calves isn't particularly fun, there's no hiding it but in order to maintain a well rounded physique you need to hit them, and hit them hard.
Even Arnold Schwarzengger himself, arguably the greatest physique ever built struggled to get his calves to grow. Arnold flew around the world in order to learn the ‘secret’ to building big calves and trained them relentlessly until they came up to scratch. Luckily enough we live in a time where the internet eliminates the need to circumnavigate the world to learn the key training principles, but the determination and action thatArnold applied are what you’re going to need to front in order to get those stubborn muscles to grow.
You're Not Applying Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is the key to gains in both the strength and size department, performing the same number of repetitions of the same exercise with the same weight week after week and expecting any noticeable gains in your calves is the definition of insanity.
Doing the same thing over and over will get you no-where.
You must apply progressive overload.
Check out my article on progressive overload here. But in short, you must do at least one of the following during your calves workout to push yourself into that state of overload:
- Increase the weight lifted
- Increase the number of repetitions
- Increase the number of sets
- Decrease the duration of your rest periods
- Increase the time under tension
In order to apply progressive overload you must record what you did last time, otherwise how're you going to know if you're lifting heavier? If you got more reps?
You've Got Poor Ankle Mobility
In order to prevent injury and ensure you’re getting a full range of motion on your calf raises, as well as the big mass builders of the legs in general such as the squat I recommend spending a few minutes performing some ankle mobility drills (particularly to increase your ankle dorsiflexion) and foam roll your calves to loosen them up, increase recovery time and mobility.
Explaining ankle mobility drills and proper form for foam rolling can be hard to interpret when reading so the two short video clips below will show you exactly how I do it.