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Nothing is more frustrating than noticing that even the most out of shape guys still have bigger thigh muscles than you. Unfortunately, the calf muscles are one of the hardest areas to build, especially when you are a skinny guy who isn’t getting a workout just carrying around your own bodyweight.
If you constantly worry about having disproportionately small legs, there are a few things that will help you learn how to get bigger calves, so you can do to finally get rid of those chicken legs and make your lower half look balanced.
Get Over Myths About Genetics and Calf Muscle Potential
Before going further into the types of exercise that help with calf muscles, it is important to clear up a few misconceptions. Many skinny guys get the idea that they shouldn’t even bother trying to train their calves because they are told that calf size is entirely genetic.
To bust this myth, it is necessary to learn a little more about the calves. The calves are made up of the round gastrocnemius at the top of the calf and the soleus underneath. According to research by V. R. Edgerton, the soleus has an abnormally high proportion of slow twitch fibers that do not respond as quickly to training.
Since some people have more slow twitch fibers than others, it is true that every person’s unique genetics will make a little bit of a difference in the final effects of their workout. However, there is no magical DNA curse that prevents calves from ever growing. The only way that genetics affects calf size is by causing some people to get calves that grow faster.
However, all people can increase the size of their calves, even if they have more slow twitch muscle fibers that take a while to grow. The reason that calves take so long to train is simply because you do thousands of reps each day while walking, so your calves are already more trained than the rest of your body.
This is why larger guys start out with bigger calves. There is nothing genetic; it just happens because lifting their body weight is more of a workout. Though skinny guys might start out with smaller calves, there is still hope they can grow. You can generally expect your calves to grow as big as your neck or arms once you start properly training.
Learn to Prioritize Your Calves
A lot of guys who complain that they never skip leg day but still end up with puny calves are simply having issues due to priorities. Almost all the major leg exercises like squats primarily focus on the glutes and thighs. These muscles easily respond to weightlifting and grow quickly.
Since the calves have more slow twitch fibers than other leg muscles, they do not provide results as quickly. Just doing one or two exercises on your calves a couple times a week is not enough to change your legs. Instead, you need to be doing consistent and frequent exercises.
To have any sort of increase in calf growth, most weight lifters report that they end up needing to exercise their calves three to four times a week. Instead of just doing a few quick calf raises at the end of a workout, bodybuilders find that they need to actually focus on their calves. This means building a workout that prioritizes calf exercises.
It may also be a good idea to switch up the timing of your workout a little. Since the calves are viewed as secondary muscles by most bodybuilders, their exercises get stuck in the workout at random times or shoved to the end. Unfortunately, a Brazilian study from 2017 shows that this may diminish the effectiveness of your exercises.
It turns out that the muscles you exercise first in a workout tend to increase in volume more than other muscles also exercised. This occurs because your body is better prepared to build muscle tissue before the breakdown of muscle proteins starts to sidetrack your body. You are also more well rested and can focus better on your exercises.
Discover Effective Exercises for Calves
Now that you know a little bit about the overall theory behind building larger calves, it is time to get further into the nitty gritty of actually increasing calf muscle size. There are all sorts of exercises out there that can provide benefits, but most big calf gurus agree that certain types are more effective.
Due to the composition of fibers in the calves, exercises that require explosive movement and eccentric muscle contractions tend to do best. Calves typically do best with higher reps and lower weights because the delicate joints can be damaged by excessive weights. Here are a few great tips when exercising.
Train Beyond Failure
The calves tend to be very stubborn leg muscles, so you really have to go all out to actually get growth. For at least one set in each workout, aim to go to failure. Once you reach this point, take a brief breather or reduce your weights slightly before continuing. You’ll definitely feel the burn, but the results can be quite impressive.
The Widowmaker technique by Dante Trudell can be quite useful. Select a heavy weight that you would use to hit failure after about 10 reps. After failure, breathe in and out a few times and do another rep. Continue this process until you reach 20 reps.
Do Single Leg Exercises
You might think that it is fine to just do exercises that generally work both legs, but this can actually lead to so asymmetry issues because you tend to favor one leg over the other. A single leg exercise lets you fully target each specific leg and make sure your calves are equal in size.
It is quite easy to turn basic exercises into a single leg exercise. Try things like single leg calf raises that involve stepping up onto a higher platform and then stepping back down. Remember that higher frequency is key for calf exercises, so aim for 20 to 50 reps per set.
Try Barefoot Explosive Exercises
Have you ever noticed that most sprinters have beastly calves? This occurs because explosive plyometrics really help to target calf growth. You can do simple things like jumping rope or try more complicated full body exercises like burpees.
These types of exercises help to ensure that even the smaller muscles deep within the calves end up growing. Whenever possible, go with barefoot exercises that require even more fine tuning of your balance. Good options include things like jumps and sprints.
Remember the Importance of Nutrition and Rest
It might seem fairly obvious to some people searching for how to get bigger calves, but nutrition and rest are still important enough that they need to be emphasized yet again. These two building blocks of weight lifting are essential if you want muscle growth anywhere. They help your body to do the important task of creating new muscle tissue while you aren’t working out.
Your calves actually do not need as much rest as some of your larger muscles. Since they are constantly in use just due to natural movement, the calves actually do well with frequent exercise. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to tire them out.
The amount of time you need to wait between workouts varies greatly depending on your own health, the severity of your exercises, and more. In general, somewhere between 12 to 36 hours is recommended in between intense calf workouts. This gives your body time to make muscle fibers thicker and stronger than they were before.
The right nutrition is also necessary for building muscle tissue. This can actually be an issue where skinny guys struggle, because most men who are too skinny tend to unconsciously eat less than the average person. Even if you do not like tracking your eating, it may be necessary.
Actually going into all of the details about what to eat and when could fill up an entire book, and you might already know a lot about these facts. However, it is still worth mentioning that you need to make sure you are getting enough calories and proteins overall. This will give your body the energy it needs to build muscles.
A 2013 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that protein timing makes a huge difference for lifters who already have built some muscle. Since the calves are already decently trained just from walking, this research definitely applies to them.
It turns out that the muscles are most receptive to protein in a window of four hours around your workout. This translates to eating a protein rich snack or meal two or three hours before your workout and another one an hour or two afterwards. This ensures that your calf growth isn’t impaired by a lack of protein.
Wrapping Things Up
In general, getting big calves as a skinny guy will require you to increase the amount of calf exercises you do and pay more attention to your nutrition. Most people find that explosive, high rep exercises are the most effective options for boosting calf growth. With a little patience and focus, you can end up getting the bulky calves of your dreams.
About the Author
Scott Fanello writes for Eternaloak.com to help men and women build the body of their dreams by focusing on fasting and longevity diets. Bust through your weight plateau and grab your Free Checklist To Restart Fat Burning Through Fasting.