Calves: Some of us have them and the rest of us want them.
Although genetics does play a role in the rate and potential for muscular development, it doesn’t control your destiny when it comes to improving your physique. There are always techniques, tricks, and new ways to go about pushing your genetic potential.
Finishers are a great way to test not only your potential, but also your mental capacity for improvement.
If you’re the type of gym-goer who goes through the motions when it comes to calves, it’s time to stop and evaluate your current routine. At the very least, add one or more of these 5 finishers to the tail-end of your current calf program and stop worrying about your genes.
1. Jump Rope
Okay, don’t stop reading quite yet. You may not be a disciple of the sweet science, but jumping rope isn’t just for those entering the ring. Normally used for cardiovascular conditioning, jumping rope can serve notice to your already pre-exhausted calves.
The short range of motion and ballistic-type contraction will recruit untouched muscle fibers in a different way than your standard calf raise program. Just be sure to consciously focus and contract your calves throughout the exercise.
Here's how: If you haven’t jumped rope since junior high, then a reintroduction is in order. Requiring steadfast rhythm and hand-eye coordination, jumping rope will be a welcome change in your boring calf routine. For those well-attuned to the rope, go for more challenging feats such as doubles and triples. If you are a beginner, shoot for 3 to 4 rounds of 30 seconds to start.
2. Run-the-Rack Floor Raises
In some gyms finding appropriate calf equipment is like trying to locate someone performing squats correctly. Sure, there are ways around this problem such as leg press calf presses and Smith machine standing raises, but how about an even simpler solution?
Performing calf raises from the floor. It can’t get any easier than simply picking up a pair of dumbbells and performing short-range calf raises wherever there is a space on the gym floor. Don’t think it can be effective? Read on and put this finisher to the test.
Here's how: Grab a single or a pair of dumbbells and perform heel raises from the floor either on a single leg or with both feet. Begin with a heavy weight you can manage and once you have reached muscular failure with that weight, rack the dumbbells and pick up the next lighter weight. Continue to do this all the way down the weight rack until you are left doing only your bodyweight for reps.
One giant, brutal set will be all you need! If you are performing single calf raises then simply finish the giant set for one leg, take a short break and then complete the giant set for the other leg.
Sprinting has its place in lower body muscle building. Don’t think so? Look at the leg development in high-level, competitive sprinters. Lean, well-muscled, and not to mention functional. Do you think those athletes do high volumes of heavy leg training full of endless, maxed-out sets of squats, leg presses, and calf raises? Doubtful.
Although strength training is a part of their program, sprinters can’t run the risk of overextending themselves in the gym. Their wheelhouse is the track. From calves to glutes, sprinting develops every aspect of your lower body and has conditioning benefits to boot. Sprints hit two birds with one stone.
Here's how: Choose a predetermined distance such as 40 to 50 yards outdoors. If it’s more practical to use a treadmill, pick a predetermined time such as 10 to 15 seconds for your top speed. After a short warm-up, shoot for around 8 to 10 rounds total with a 60 second rest in between sprints. Focus on running on your toes. Also, be sure to complete a comprehensive stretching session after, especially if you aren’t used to this type of training.
4. Century Set
If you’re familiar with century sets (100 reps) then you know the brutality that is about to ensue. Century sets test your mettle, especially when using them as a finishing technique. 100 reps is a long way to go and those who have tried know the pain it causes – but it’s the good kind of pain. Normally reserved for machine exercises such as leg presses, machine chest presses, flys, and arm work, century sets deliver the gains.
Here's how: Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t required to finish all 100 reps in one try. Some ways to vary the effectiveness are dividing it into 25 rep segments (without resting the weight lifted) or aiming for at least 40 or 50 reps the first go-round and then rest only as long as the amount of reps you have left.
For example, if you were doing seated calf raises and performed 50 reps, you will have 50 reps left so you can take a 50 second rest before completing more reps. Now, let’s say you knock out 20 more and now you have 30 left – rest for 30 seconds. One all-out century set of a calf exercise of choice will fry your calves.
5. Go for Time
Another seldom used technique is to set a predetermined amount of time to accomplish as many reps as possible. You will be very surprised by how much work you can get done in a short amount of time. Timing your training pits you against the clock. And if bigger calves are on your to-do list, you'll need to make the most of your time.
Here’s how: Of course there are several ways to go about this. For one, you could simply set a timer or use the gym clock and choose a time such as 3, 4 or 5 minutes and try to get as much done as possible. Another way to torch your calves is to set a time and a rep goal. Once the clock starts, you have to complete the amount of reps you set out to do.
In addition, there doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason regarding exercise selection – that is strictly up to you. So, if you want to use only one exercise or choose several such as a circuit style, it’s your choice.