10 Reasons Why You’ll Never Have Big Calves

big calves

Calves aren’t growing? Here’s why.

Calves are one of the most underrated body parts. A pair of chiseled calves can arguably overshadow shirt-ripping arms. But it’s easier said than done, lower legs can be a stubborn muscle group to develop.

Look around your gym, and you’ll see many guys flexing their arms and pecs in their mirror, but you’ll hardly see anyone showing off their calves. Turning your calves into full-grown bulls tests your grit and mettle. It’s also what separates the men from the boys.

Don’t get us wrong, this article is not meant to discourage you. We have put together a list of reasons why most people fail to build their calves. Avoid committing these mistakes, and you’ll be the owner of two big and beautiful cows.

seated calf raise machine

10 Reasons Why You’ll Never Have Big Calves

Treating Calf Workouts Like Accessory Work

If we got a dollar every time someone called it a day after completing two exercises in a calf workout, we’d have our own Bitcoin fund by now. Some people think that since calves are a relatively small muscle group, they don’t need to go too hard on them.

Your lower legs are used to carrying around your bodyweight throughout the day. If you want them to grow, you’ll have to do more than just a few sets on the seated calf raises. Treat your calves like accessories, and they are going to remain that way.

Using Too Much Weight

Most people let their egos get the better of them in the gym. They put on more weights on the bar than they can handle. A limited range of motion is one of the most common mistakes people make while training their little toothpicks.

Range of motion is the name of the game when it comes to calf development. You should be on your toes (just like a ballerina) at the top of the movement and your heels should be a few centimeters off the floor at the bottom of the lift.

Related: 3 Fool-Proof Strategies For Bigger Stronger Calves

Training Too Little

Overtraining is one of the most misunderstood concepts in bodybuilding. Gym bros love to flaunt their broscience on the subject whenever they get a chance. Noobs are advised by the bros to not train their muscles more than twice a week.

The sad news here is that most people can’t train, if they wanted to, with the intensity and volumes required to hit the state of overtraining. There is a big difference between being sore and being overtrained.

Overtraining can impact your CNS (central nervous system) and immunity. How many people do you think can train with the fervor required to overtrain in every single workout? Since your calves are used to taking a beating, the rule of thumb for calf training should be to train them every day if they aren’t sore.

Training in the State of Exhaustion

Many people train their calves after they have been exhausted by a leg workout. These people follow their intuitions and get to the lower leg workout without any planning due to which they end up doing the exercises they’re comfortable performing.

If your calves are lagging, you should train them at the beginning of your workouts. Your other option would be to train them along with your upper legs using super-sets. You can’t expect to build monster calves while you’re out of gas and running on fumes.

Not Hitting Failure

Not training to failure is the extension of the overtraining mentality. Calves get the nastiest of pumps when you train to failure. Not everyone can handle the pain and hence people fall off after doing 10-12 reps.

You aren’t going to see any gains in that rep range. Your calves are used to taking a lot more workload as compared to what you do in your workouts. Training until muscle annihilation and then pushing through it is where the gains lie.

5 Reasons Why Your Calves Aren’t Growing

Low Intensity

When it comes to training calves, it’s best to avoid the intensity and volume debate. You need to get the best of both worlds and should be doing high reps with lower weights as well as lower reps with higher weights.

You can add a new dimension to your workouts by using time stops for your sets instead of the usual repetition stops. Instead of doing 12-15 reps of a calf exercise, perform a set straight for two minutes without any rest.

Time under tension (TuT) can also play a major role in developing your calves. Follow the 5:2:2:2 rep tempo (five seconds while lowering the weights, a two-second hold at the bottom, two seconds on the way up, and a two-second contraction at the top) to annihilate your calves.

Training Calves as Single Muscles

You’ll never be able to develop the inverted heart-shaped muscle on the back of your lower leg if you treat it as a single muscle. Your calves consist of three heads and you need to target each head separately.

On a calf raise exercise, keep your feet parallel to each other on the platform to target the medial head. Keeping your toes together and heels apart (forming an ‘A’) will target your outer calf head, and placing your toes apart and heels together (forming a ‘V’) will hit the inner head.

Related: Set Your Calves On Fire With This Workout For Real Size

Using the Same Exercises

If your calf exercise arsenal consists only of seated and standing calf raises, you’re not going too far in the lower leg game. The stubborn calf muscles will get used to your workouts soon and stop responding if you don’t keep switching your exercises frequently.

Donkey, smith machine, bodyweight, leg press calf raises, to name a few, should be a part of your lower leg workouts. Your goal should be to not repeat the lower leg exercises before a couple of weeks if you train your lower legs four times a week.

Recovery – massages

Every person has a different muscle composition. Most people with tiny calves have a tight fascia which can require some extra work other than the workouts. Visiting a physiotherapist and getting deep-tissue massages every week can help ignite growth in your calves.

Not Deploying Different Training Principles

Most people use advanced training principles like dropsets, supersets, intraset stretching, BFR training for every muscle group except their calves. Calves are a muscle group that needs these advanced techniques for breaking the plateau.

If you’re serious about building your lower legs, you’ll have to stop this step-motherly behavior. It’d be great if you showed your calves the love they deserve and made up for all the times you screwed up.

How often do you train your calves? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook and Twitter.

Vidur Saini
Vidur is a fitness junky who likes staying up to date with the fitness industry and loves publishing his opinions for everyone to see. Subscribe to his YouTube Channel.