I’m grateful for the number of people who frequent my training logs and found them useful in regards to implementing techniques into their own training. I’m quick to give credit to my coach and good friend, John Meadows, for programming my workouts, although I often make modifications to the prescribed plan. One question that keeps popping up involves my calves training, because I tend to leave them off my main training log posts. This article will delve into the exercises and training techniques I most often employ.


Those who watched A Week in the Dungeon which documents my time training at Temple Gym with Dorian Yates in 2008 knows that calf training is missing. I, like many who followed bodybuilding in the 90’s, knew Dorian possessed massive calves, so when asked what he did to achieve such development he responded flatly, “I rarely train calves. I was born with them.” Sad but true; genetics plays a pivotal role in calf development. Changing the shape or insertion of the lateral or medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle is difficult, but that doesn’t mean you cannot develop impressive calves.

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The Beginning

When I began weight training in high school, my calves were unimpressive. I developed decent size quads rather quickly which only exacerbated my weak calves. I tried various approaches, yet nothing seemed to alter the fact that my calves lagged behind. Around 1999 while training for Nationals in Orlando, Florida I received a tip from an older guy at my gym. His suggestion helped jumpstart my calve growth and is one method I continue to use to this day. I share this story to give you hope. I once owned weak calves, but have since turned them around through hard work. Here are my favorite methods for simulating calve growth:

Seated Calves Triple 5's

The aforementioned older gentleman taught me this technique nearly 20 years ago. While it may be employed on any calf exercise, he suggested I use it most often on seated calve raises. The key is to perform anywhere from 5-7reps with a slow, controlled tempo before pausing in the stretched position for a five-second count. After counting to five repeat another round of 5-7 reps, pause for five seconds in a stretched position, complete a third round of 5-7 reps, and finish with a five-second stretch. You will perform 15-21 reps along with a total of 15 seconds in the stretched position by the time the set is completed.

Here is a video of basic seated calve raises to show the prescribed rep tempo.  It’s important to work the muscle through a full range of motion without sloppy form.

Standing Calf Raise Triple 10’s

This training method is attributable to my coach, John Meadows. It burns like crazy, but in return you get a massive pump.The idea is to perform 10 reps, followed by 10 seconds in the contracted position, another 10 reps, another 10 seconds in the contracted position, another 10 reps and a final 10 seconds in the contracted position. By the end of the set you achieve a total of 30 reps and 30 seconds (isohold) in the contracted position. The amount of time under tension is what generates the massive amount of lactic acid.

Here is a video of the technique:

Standing Calves + Partials + Tibialis Superset

Training the tibialis is often overlooked in calf training which is one reason I like this technique. Secondarily, the initial calf raises with partials fill the gastrocnemius with blood and increasing the intensity of the following tibialis exercise as the tibialis concentric movement forces a stretch of the pumped gastrocnemius.

Here is a video of the technique:

Standing Occluded Calf Raises

This technique ranks amongst the most painful exercise of all time for me personally. Blood flow restricted training burns and requires serious mental toughness regardless of the body part, but there is something about occluded calves that takes it to a whole new pain level. The goal is to perform 15 reps with wraps applied just above the top of your calves to restrict blood flow, rest 30 seconds, perform another 15 reps, rest 30 seconds (it doesn’t feel like a rest!), and perform a final 15 reps. Any knee wraps will do, but there are the ones I use: ELITEFTS™ NORMAL KNEE WRAP.

Here is a video showing the technique:

Christian Thibaudeau Calf Solution

I incorporated this training method more recently into my calf workouts and give credit to someone who I’ve read and respected for over a decade: Christian Thibaudeau. The key is to perform 12 reps with a two-second pause in the contracted position and stretched position on each rep, ending in the contracted position and holding for a 10-20 second concentric hold. Step off the machine and rest for about five seconds and then get back on, but only to allow the machine to add weight as you remain in the stretched position for a final 30 seconds.

Here is a video of the technique:

Key Takeaways

Ultimately the most important factors in calf training really coincide with similar elements applicable to all body parts. Namely, feeling the muscle you are working, engagement of the muscle vs. simply moving weight. The other big principles which helped me include maximizing lactic acid build-up, extending sets, increasing time under tension, and ensuring the movement is initiated from a fully stretched position.

Three to four sets of any one of the previous listed techniques (except perhaps occluded calf raises) is ideal for each workout. I suggest training calves at least twice per week. Rotate through each of the five techniques and fast track your calf development!