One thing I get asked a lot is how I built my calves. My calves are one of my best body parts which have always got their fair share of attention.  I’m not going to lie to you, genetics has played a big part, and both my parents are genetically blessed with calves. BUT I still had to train them hard, very hard! 


As we are talking bodybuilding the two muscles we will focus on are the gastrocnemius, the main bulk of the calf, and the soleus, the flat muscle under the gastrocnemius. Nothing looks more impressive than a big set of shapely calves, on men or women. But they can also be the hardest body part to improve. Genetics play a big part in their development but that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved, they can, it may just take a fair bit longer than other body parts and a lot of patience and pain! You have people say that if you have bad genetics for calves that they can never be improved, rubbish of course they can!  A great example is a good friend of mine, fellow natural bodybuilder and multi title winner Fivos Averkiou.  We’ve known each other almost thirty years and back then his calves left a lot to be desired, but over the years he kept pounding them, never giving up the belief they will grow. And they did!  They are not a weak point anymore, and they look pretty impressive now! 


One thing you can’t change and that is the shape of your calf.  You may hear that some people have high calves and some low.  What this means is that a high calf (we are talking the gastrocnemius here) doesn’t come down far down the lower leg, it can look like a little bump below the knee! Nothing can change the length but they can still grow lots!  A low calf, obviously the opposite and also the most desirable so if you have caves like these then you are very lucky and have the potential to build great calves!


You may hear calves need a lot higher reps to improve, maybe around 15-20 reps. I’m not really a believer in this and have got great results using lower reps, but it’s best to experiment because what works for me may not work for you. Try a phase of high reps and a phase of lower reps and see what happens. Or for great results mix up the reps! You can use a variety of foot positions on your calf exercises.  For example on standing calf raises you can have your toes pointing in to hit the outer calf, toes out for inner calf and straight ahead to hit the whole calf. 


As you may have guessed I’m a big believer in the basic bodybuilding exercises, nothing fancy, no sexy exercises as we are talking bodybuilding and we want maximum growth. Also strict form is high on my list as you want to work the muscle as hard as you can.  I’m always seeing people train calves loading up silly weights and only using the mid range of the movement and just bouncing the weight, if you do this you will not get anywhere. When you do your sets every rep must go all the way up getting a full contraction and all the way down for a full stretch for full development. 


As for the exercises, you are looking at an exercises with your legs straight which will work the gastrocnemius, and an exercise where your knees will be bent about 90 degrees, this will work the soleus.  For a beginners routine pick one exercise for the gastroc and one for the soleus. A great basic routine for you guys would be:


Standing calf raise 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps

Seated calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps


If you are an intermediate you could add another exercise to hit the calves hard:


Standing calf raise 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps

Donkey calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps

Seated calf raise 3-4 sets 0f 10-12 reps

Train them 2-3 times a week and watch them grow! I'm a big believer in training calves more often than other parts, they respond much better to more frequent training than other bodyparts. 


Put a lot of effort into your calf training and don’t leave them as an after thought at the end of your leg workout. They will burn like hell and are one of the most painful muscles to train, but be consistent with them and you will reap the rewards!