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Calves Not Growing? Train Your Soleus!

As an athlete, you don’t want a jacked upper body and pencil legs. So you train the quads and hamstrings to build some great thighs. You also know that small calves throw the entire physique off so you need to give them attention too. Have you been struggling to build your calves to a respectable level? Genetics be damned, you’ve been doing standing calf raises like it’s a new religion for you and you’re still not seeing any growth in your lower legs. They might have an awesome pump when you’re finished and you could be sore for days after but still see no progress. It can be frustrating for sure but the problem might be you’re not training the entire calf area.

The part of the calf you can see is known as the gastrocnemius. This is what you’re targeting when you performed standing calf raises or any version of the calf raise that involves your legs being straight like calf presses on the leg press. This isn’t training the entire lower leg area though. Over half of the calf muscle is behind the gastrocnemius. This area is called the soleus. It runs from just below the knee all the way down to the heel. When you’re upright, the soleus is pumping blood back to the heart from the periphery. Since the gastrocnemius originates at the femur, the soleus is more involved when your legs bend. Therefore, the best way to target the soleus is with bent leg calf raises. This can be done on a seated calf raise machine. If you don’t have access to one, you can go the free weight option. Sit on the end of a bench with a plate on the floor. Rest the balls of your feet on the plate so your heels are hanging off. Place dumbbells on your knees and perform your calf raises this way. You can perform them with both legs simultaneously or one leg at a time.

 

Caption for Photo: If you have a home gym bench with a leg extension, place a board on the floor and a chair across the bench to make your leg attachment a seated calf raise station.

Give this soleus focused session a run twice a week for a couple of months and you should see some positive results that will bring new life into your legs.

High Volume Soleus Focused Calf Workout

*Seated Calf Raise – DTP Style – 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 reps.

*Start with light weight and add more as the reps decrease. As the reps go back up, strip the weight you previously added. Rest no more than 45 seconds between sets.

Standing Calf Raise – 3 sets of 20 reps with one minute rest between sets.


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