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Best Way to Get Bigger Calves: The Detailed Leg Work
What is the Best Way to Get Bigger Calves?
Let me guess, you’re wondering what the best way to get bigger calves is, right?
This is probably because you don’t currently train your calves — or not enough.
First of all, let me just recommend getting our Dark Iron Fitness genuine leather weightlifting belt ahead of time, because some of these exercises I’ll recommend will be intense.
Now, maybe you’ve been working your legs and have noticed your calves lagging behind.
Or, maybe someone commented on your calves being “small” or “weak.”
Hell, you might have seen someone in the gym with gigantic calves and wondered how.
All of these may apply to you — and that’s fine!
Calves are often neglected, hard to work in (unless you are strictly focused on them), and seemingly hard to grow.
In this article, we will be discussing ways to target your calves for growth, strength, and ways to do so outside of the gym.
Why Would You Want Bigger Calves?
Let’s face it — impressive calves are aesthetically pleasing.
Visually, calves are like the biceps of your legs.
A lot of the time when people question if you train legs, it’s based on seeing how small your calves are.
Chicken calves are a plague, and they seem to target taller people more than others.
Furthermore, your calf insertion may be higher up on your leg.
What this will do is create the illusion that your calves are smaller than they are, due to the amount of visible ankle beneath.
However, this shouldn’t stop you from training calves.
In my opinion, it’s less aesthetically pleasing to have skinny ankles and calves.
This applies to women, as well; you should focus on some exercises that target your calves.
Why not bulk up those calves and have a gradual taper down to your heel?
Trust me, bigger calves will always look better than skinny calves.
Related: The Cure for Chicken Calves
The Foundation of the Leg Muscles
Being at the base of your leg, the calf muscle is the foundation of your limbs.
This goes deeper than getting your calves “bigger” but rather stronger, as well.
As far as placement on the leg, your calves are similar to your forearms.
Having weak forearms can often limit your ability to properly work your entire arm.
It’ll be harder to do pulls and maintain the stability of the weight you lift.
The same concept can apply to your legs with the strength of your calves.
Most leg exercises will residually target your calves, but if they are weak you can definitely feel how they lack.
Even the slightest calf exercise will have your legs wobbly and you’ll feel pressure on your feet because they’ll be compensating for the load.
Working the calves will build the “foundation” to your legs and have uniformity up into the quads and hamstrings.
Then, besides having a stronger foundation, you’ll also have a balanced leg, visually.
Related: Hamstring Workouts for Beginners
Proportion and Balance
Now, proportion and balance are good reasons to strive for bigger calves.
This relates both to being aesthetically pleasing but also avoiding muscle imbalances.
A lot of the time when you hear about muscle imbalances, it is based on this side being smaller or bigger than that side.
However, when one muscle along the body is lacking, it is an overall muscle imbalance in your composition.
Two large biceps and two tiny shoulders result in an imbalance to your muscles and proportions.
Work to always maintain an overall proportion because it’ll help with strength and athleticism.
With calves proportional to your other strong and built leg muscles, you cannot go wrong!
The Best Way to Get Bigger Calves: Workouts
Calf raises are one of the most versatile ways to target the calves.
The two biggest keys to calf raises are full extension and squeezing.
You can do calf raises in a fast, high-rep manner, but it won’t be the most optimal.
There’s no doubt that you’ll feel it burn, especially towards the end of the set.
However, when you keep the repetitions slow and controlled, with a deep squeeze, your results will differ dramatically.
Now, calf raises can be done in various ways with different techniques, weights, and accessories.
In my opinion, there are three ways to do calf raises that are bulletproof.
- Standing calf raise machine — uses a pin selected weight stack, where you adjust the machine to your height and raise the weight by pushing up against the shoulder pads.
- Seated calf raise machine — by adding weight plates to each side of this machine, you then lift the weight by doing seated calf raises with the tops of your legs pressing up against the pads.
- Seated leg press calf raises — again, by adding weight plates to the leg press machine, you can perform calf raises by pressing up on the leg press platform while it is in its top locked position.
If you are able to incorporate these three variations of calf raises into your leg workouts, your calves will be throbbing like no other.
Calf raises are unquestionably one of the best ways to get bigger calves.
Other great ways to perform calf raises are by using your bodyweight, holding dumbbells or a barbell or positioning yourself on a ledge or stairs.
If you do your calf raises on a ledge, platform or stairs, be sure that you are safe just in case you lose your balance.
The squat-calf raise is another great exercise.
The best way to get bigger calves is truly by overloading the calves with heavy weight.
You can do squat-calf raises without weight, to practice your balance and form.
It’ll also allow you to learn to get that deep squeeze easier.
However, if you then add a loaded barbell, your results will increase.
Basically, you go into a squat and then on the way up, you raise up and flex your calves.
As this can be hard to do, you can always do these on the Smith machine, as well.
When using the Smith machine for squat-calf raises, you will feel a little safer and can probably hold the squeeze at the top without worrying as much.
To be honest, the jump rope is the best way to get bigger calves without feeling like you are specifically working on your calves.
Jump ropes are convenient, compact, portable and can be used literally anywhere.
The real secret here is how you use the jump rope.
Pretty much anyone can skip rope and do it sloppily without any real focus.
But, if you are able to be light on your feet and try to strike the ground at the ball of your foot, it changes the dynamic completely.
Having a tight core and soft landing with your jumps will emphasize the work on your stabilizing muscles.
In landing lightly, you’ll be better off on the balls of your feet instead of landing flat-footed.
You’ll feel the difference when you need to use your calves to control your landing and having the strength to press off the front of your foot instead of your heels.
Practice jumping rope in this manner, then shoot for 100 rotations, or one minute straight of jumping.
What you’ll notice is your calves are what really help project you into the air.
Then you will start to feel them burning from the constant stimulation of consistent jumps.
I highly recommend having a jump rope for calf training and training in general.
The Best Way to Get Bigger Calves: Daily Movements
Similiar to jumping rope, if you run with intention, you can target your calves.
Focus on your foot strike while running, and push off the forefront of your foot.
Essentially, you’ll want to be pushing off and up instead of using your heel or midfoot and going forward.
What this allows for is a shorter, more focused and comfortable stride that is lower impact.
The goal is to take the tension off your knees and ankles, by distributing the energy from your front foot up through the calves and legs.
Running as a great way to get in your daily cardio, get your legs warmed up and target your calves.
Like jumping rope, jumping, in general, can be beneficial to grow your calves.
This includes jumping around different terrains, like on hikes.
Or, performing box jumps, jumping jacks, and jump squats.
The idea is simple here: when jumping, use your calves to help get a stronger vertical press off.
Related: No Weights Calf Training
Important Tips to Remember
Make sure you are getting the full calf contraction.
Especially on movements like the calf raise, you’ll want to contract all the way until you’re on your toes.
You should feel the calf muscle move from relaxed to fully contracted during each rep.
Slow, Controlled, and Squeezed
Besides getting a full contraction for each rep, you need to make sure each rep is quality.
Keeping all your movements slow, controlled with a deep squeeze will provide the best results.
The more you have a mind-muscle connection with each movement and rep, the better off you’ll be.
The best way to get bigger calves will always be through doing solid repetitions that have good form.
It’s easy to quickly knock out some calf raises, but if you are using all momentum and not squeezing, it’s almost a waste of time.
However, remember, when doing heavy standing calf raises you may feel stress on your back.
If you get our genuine leather weightlifting belt, you’ll be more equipped to keep proper form during your calf raises.
Another thing to focus on would be how to use your feet to manipulate your calf exercises.
Adjusting Foot Placement
This tip is mainly regarding calf raises.
You can always adjust your foot placement to hit the calves at different angles.
For example, turning your feet outward, inward or having them closer or further apart.
When doing so, you’ll feel the calf muscle contract differently.
It’s a similar concept to changing the angle of your bicep curls to target different heads of the bicep.
Experiment with foot placement, as it’ll help with growth and gains.
The Best Way to Get Bigger Calves: Final Thoughts
Should You Prioritize Calf Training?
Some people are so active and have enough natural bulk that they may not need calf training.
However, if you read this article, you most likely came because you want to know the best way to get bigger calves, correct?
Well, in that case, I would say you should prioritize calf training.
Does it need to have its own day in your workout routine? Probably not.
I would suggest throwing in some intense calf training at the end of your leg day (if you can).
Or, you can also train calves on your cardio days or the days you focus on abs.
Giving your calf training the time of day is how you’ll avoid those muscle imbalances and keep an aesthetically pleasing physique.
Plus, it’s worth it to have strong calves if anything.
If I Only Do One Movement for Calves, Which Should I Do?
I will give two suggestions for the best way to get bigger calves only using one exercise.
The first suggestion is for a gym exercise — and that’s going to be calf raises on the seated leg press.
My reason for this is because you can simply superset your leg press with calf raises immediately after.
Doing so is convenient, easy to do, requires nothing more than the machine you were already using, and you can use a lot of weight.
I highly recommend using our genuine leather weightlifting belt for heavy leg press/calf raise sets, as a way to keep your back safe and avoid any butt-lift off the seat pad.
Though you are seated, it’s extremely important to keep your back and core as tight as possible and to avoid using momentum for the calf raises.
My second suggestion is an anywhere exercise — and that movement is going to be the jump rope.
If you want to do one exercise that’ll train calves but aren’t necessarily thrilled to train them in the gym, then use a jump rope.
Like I said earlier, it’s portable and it’s versatile in that it can be used in so many training focuses.
Jumping rope is HIIT, cardio and leg/calf training all in one.
However, the best way to get bigger calves is by implementing more than one exercise.
Related: Effective Bodyweight Leg Exercises
Finally, Let’s Talk Gait and Footwear
There is a huge divide within the fitness community about footwear and how to properly walk and run.
However, there are benefits on the aisle that praises barefoot and forefoot stance.
Especially for running, having a mid-foot and forefoot strike will be preferable.
Doing so will forcibly activate the calf muscles and help to strengthen your feet.
So, I also recommend transitioning into zero drop shoes and barefoot sneakers.
There are several reputable brands and styles on the market, which I’ll list below.
Sure, some look silly, but they will really help with your foot and calf strength while optimizing natural fitness ability.
For shoes, I’d recommend checking out the following:
Also, it would be beneficial to use a sandal/slipper like the Xero Shoes Z-Trek for outside of the gym.
And lastly, to help build your foot strength and calf strength, consider a product to fix your toe separation.
Being able to control and splay your toes is very important for foot strength and health.
This will also make it easier and less painful to constantly activate and utilize your calves.
Once you’ve worked on your gait, foot strength, and calf strength — you’ll see massive gains to the calves.