Top 5 Exercises to Build Bulging Calves


There’s nothing worse than being on a beach and being proud of your upper body mass, but feeling insecure about your calf muscles. After all you can’t even hide them when on the beach.  I think it’s the most neglected body part when it comes to training. I’m definitely not an exception as I neglected them also.


For some reason men tend to focus on their upper body. It’s pretty obvious that to have a balanced physique the calves need to get attention just like any other body part when working out.


I don’t subscribe to the excuses I hear by most people. I hear things like “It’s my genetics, my calves just won’t grow”. It’s true that some people are lucky enough to naturally have big calves and others naturally lack muscle mass on their lower legs.


However, it doesn’t mean that they will not grow. It just means that some people need to put more effort into training them. Calf size can be changed with attention and effort.


The question is how much effort are those people willing to put into changing them?


When I hear the “genetics” card being played by stating ‘my calves just won’t grow.’ What those people are really saying is, ‘I’m not willing to put the necessary effort in to changing them’.


This reminds me of a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was younger…


Schwarzenegger was very proud of his wide back and upper body mass as a young man. He would regularly go to the gym without a shirt on. However, there was one problem that he was avoiding.


Yep, you guessed it… Arnold had really small calves compared to the rest of his body.


One day Arnold realized that his lower legs were lacking tremendously to the rest of his body and made a decision that something needed to be done.


Now the thing I like about Arnold is his tenacity in facing problems and being real with himself in order to improve. Instead of ignoring his calves and hiding them like most, what did he do?


In true Arnold style, he cut the lower halves off of his training pants exposing his calve muscles every time he went to the gym.  Bodybuilders would snigger and throw remarks at him about his calves constantly.


This made Arnold more determined than ever and it lit the fire inside him to build his calves.


I tell you this story not because I’m telling you to get a pair of scissors and cut your gym gear. I want to convey the determination that some of the most successful people in the world have. They don’t hide and avoid problems. They get motivated and make a decision to change no matter what it takes.


Whatever you want to change in life, if you know that you lack motivation, find a way to fire yourself up and do whatever is necessary to make a change. Focusing on solutions to problems is the key.


Many people focus on the problem and not the solution, and then they wonder why they attract more problems.


One technique Arnold used was that he performed his calf session right at the start before any another exercise. This enabled him to use his full energy and lift more weight rather than performing them half hearted at the end, when he was tired.


If you find your calves to lacking behind the rest of your body here’s what you should be doing…


  1. First devote at least 2-3 training sessions a week to having a calf workout within your training routine.
  2. Mix the amount of reps you use in a session to create variety in the amount of weight you lift. This can be done by alternating a 15×3 rep range on one day and using 8×5 on another day.
  3. Make sure you use a variety of exercises to hit the different part of the calf muscles and from different angles.


The Main Things You Need to Know:


The calves consist of 2 main muscles. The gastrocnemius and the soleus.


The Gastrocnemius


The gastrocnemius  is the larger of the two major calf muscles and it gives shape to the rear lower leg. This the muscle that you can easily see when the calves are well built.


This muscle looks like the well know “upside down heart shape” on the back of the leg. The gastrocnemius consists of two heads on the inside and outside of the lower leg.


The secret to targeting the different areas of the calf muscle is to angle the pressure by rolling over on your big toe or rolling over on your little toes when performing exercises.


When rolling over and pushing from the big toe area you add more emphasis to the inside head of the muscle. When pushing from the little toe area you add more emphasis to the outside area.



The Soleus


The soleus is the smaller, yet slightly wider, of the two major calf muscles. It is not visible because it lies under the gastrocnemius. The soleus muscle gives width to the back of the lower leg.


The list of exercises explained next will target both the gastroncemius and the soleus muscles. By rolling over and pushing from different areas of the feet as explained above you will be able to target separate heads of the muscle. This is great if you find that one side of the calve lacks in size to the other.


The Top 5 Exercises to Build Bigger Calves.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise

How it’s done:

  • Set up for the standing barbell calf raise by getting a block or step and placing it in front of you.
  • Grasp a barbell and place it across the back of your shoulders. Make sure the bar sits across the muscles in your upper back, not your neck.
  • Stand up on the block with the balls of your feet on the edge.
  • Keeping your balance, raise your heels off the floor.
  • Squeeze the calves, and then slowly lower your heals back down as far as possible without letting them touch the floor.
  • Repeat for desired reps.


Seated Barbell Calf Raise

How it’s done:


  • Sit on a flat bench and place your toes on a small board or block that should be on the floor about one foot in front of you.
  • With a partner’s help, have a barbell placed on your lap a few inches above your knees.
  • Hold the barbell in place and then, while breathing out, squeeze your calves as you raise your feet so that your toes are on the board and your heels are high off the ground.
  • Pause momentarily and then breathe in as you slowly lower your heels back to the ground.

Calf Press on Leg Press Machine

How it’s done:


  • Using a leg press machine, sit down on the machine and place your legs on the platform directly in front of you at a medium (shoulder width) foot stance.
  • Lower the safety bars holding the weighted platform in place and press the platform all the way up until your legs are fully extended in front of you without locking your knees. Your torso and the legs should make perfect 90-degree angle.
  • Now carefully place your toes and balls of your feet on the lower portion of the platform with the heels extending off.
  • Press on the platform by raising your heels as you breathe out by extending your ankles as high as possible and flexing your calf. Ensure that the knee is kept stationary at all times. There should be no bending at any time. Hold the contracted position by a second before you start to go back down.
  • Go back slowly to the starting position as you breathe in by lowering your heels as you bend the ankles until calves are stretched.
  • Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.


Standing Calf Raise Machine


How it’s done:


  • The balls of your feet should be secured on top of thecalf block with the heels extending off it.
  • Push the lever up by extending your hips and knees until your torso isstanding
  • The knees should be kept with a slight bend; never locked.




You can also build your calves without attending a gym. In my opinion riding a bike is underrated for calf development. It is extremely good to build the calf muscles and it is fun and effective.

When making a full rotation with the bike pedals your calves are working a vast amount.  To get the best results set sometime aside each day to go for a ride. Vary your route so that you will be riding on different terrain and uphill also. You can ride alone or go with friends, the choice is yours.


Building the calves is pretty important especially if you want to have an all round balanced physique. So if you do neglect them, it’s about time you start focusing on them and adding them into your routine!


Do you have any other efective exercises for calves? let me know by dropping a comment below. If you liked the post please share it with others by hitting the social media buttons below or to left. Thanks!



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