Switch up your exercise order.
Legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger mentioned in his book the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding that he once had weak calves in his earlier years of bodybuilding. So what did he do? He switched from training calves at the end of his workout to the beginning. Other bodybuilders have made substantial gains in leg growth by breaking their leg training up into two days to focus on quads on one day and hamstrings on the other day.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports that exercise order has a definite impact on muscle growth. Participants were randomly assigned into two groups. One group began performing large muscle group exercises and progressed to small muscle group exercises (LG-SM), whereas another group started with small muscle group exercises and advanced to large muscle group exercises (SM-LG).
The exercise order for LG-SM was bench press (BP), machine lat pull-down (LPD), triceps extension (TE), and biceps curl (BC). The order for the SM-LG was BC, TE, LPD, and BP. At the end of twelve weeks, both training groups demonstrated greater strength improvements than the control group, but only BP strength increased to a greater magnitude in the LG-SM group as compared with the SM-LG.
Tricep muscle volume increased in the SM-LG group. So based on this study, whichever muscle group you train first is going to get the most gains in strength and muscle mass compared to last! So if you want bigger calves…train them first!!
– Spineti J, de Salles BF, Rhea MR, Lavigne D, Matta T, Miranda F, Fernandes L, Simão R. Influence of exercise order on maximum strength and muscle volume in nonlinear periodized resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Nov;24(11):2962-9.
Robbie Durand has been in the sports supplement and bodybuilding industry for 15 years. He has contributed to many national magazines and web sites. He has an M.A. in exercise physiology from Southeastern University and a B.A. in Dietetics from Louisiana State University.