Calves — The Misunderstood Body Part.

Calves – The misunderstood and forgotten body part…

Calves…love em’ or hate em’.  When you look up stubborn in the dictionary there is a picture of calves.  I find them to be the most difficult part of the body to respond to just about anything I do.  Yes, they shred up when I am on my cardio game.  Running, cycling they both give me visual results. But to get them to grow, it is almost impossible.

Unfortunately, it’s a mixture of genetics and maybe just some dumb luck.

There is hope…

We’ve all seen big guys, fat and/or muscular guys with big calves.  The key is that calves on a big dude carry a heavy load ALL the time.  Every step they take is like a concentrated calf raise.  They tend to think little about their calves and probably put very little work into them.  So even when a big guy leans out…his calves are usually impressive…just because.

My trainer Pat tells me my calves are built for power not speed.  He is mostly right.  I can power up hills on my runs better than most but if I do not dial in on my hydration and nutrition on long runs or rides, I suffer for it with cramps.  I simply am not predisposed to endurance despite my triathlon successes.  It is a lot of work for me. 


Now, I have cycling buddies who weigh 40-50lbs less than me and yet still sport 19” calves like I do.  WTH??!!  Why? 

The time and effort they spend riding (which is usually more than me because I split my time in the gym and on the bike) adds up for them.  Plain and simple.  Riding properly (yes, there is a right and wrong way) means they are pounding their calves for hours on end…at a high, high intensity.  They tease me because they know it drives me crazy that they can develop their calves to such a degree and not hit the gym.  I understand why…but there is an injustice I think.


A couple things to keep in mind with calf muscles.  No matter what, genetics will play a part.  Just how much depends on the make-up of your calves.  There are two kinds of calves: 1) High insertion calves  (calves that attach closer to the knee).  Many sprinters and long distance runners will have these.  2) Low insertion calves.  These are longer calves attaching closer to your ankles with shorter Achilles.  Low insertion = bigger muscle bellies ergo bigger calves.  High insertion = smaller muscle bellies or smaller calves.  Now, having higher insertion calves does not mean you can’t have some awesome calves, you’ll just work harder at it.  I have low insertion calves.  Mine grow just thinking about them.  I can eat popcorn and get them to respond.  My buddy Tony…high insertion and he struggles to get any growth.  They get strong but grow slowly. 

Again, that doesn’t mean they can’t grow, though, just that it may be slower, so you need to be patient.

So, what is the lesson?  The lesson is that your calves, my calves, everyone’s calves can take a whole lot of punishment.  More than you think.  Do not be afraid to beat them up, because they can handle it.  Patience will be the key for most, and for those others whose calves grow for no apparent reason…revel in the fact you’ve got a body part that is giving you a break, because for every easy growing calf…there is probably a stubborn bicep or quad giving you fits!  Hit those puppies 3-4 times a week.  It can only help.


Previously Fat Guy

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