Most people would define calves as the muscles on the back of their lower leg. But in the bodybuilding world, it is known to be a bit more complicated than that. They are composed of two parts: The gastrocnemius and the smaller soleus, both of which reside under your previously stated muscle called “the calves.”
- The Gastrocnemius: Most well known because of the diamond shape it forms under your knee. This muscle is responsible for dorsiflexion in which it pulls your foot upwards towards your knee. Because this is a bi-articulate muscle, it crosses two joints, so when you do a movement such as a seated calf raise, it is doing so at the ankle and the knee joint.
But when one does a standing calf raise, they dorsiflex their ankle while plantarflexing their knee. It originates from above the head of the fibula, where it attaches to 2 different places of insertion on other bones.
- The Soleus: This is the other head of the primary calf muscle. It resides under your gastrocnemius, and it originates from two places, also attaching to two different things. It originates from beneath the head of the fibula, but it connects to both the tibia and fibula.
Because its two heads originate from different places, it is considered a bi-tendonous muscle. This means that the muscle has two various tendons coming together at one point, which would be where its inserts into your heel bone.
Anatomy of the Calves
The gastrocnemius and soleus are both innervated by the tibial nerve. This is just another way of saying that they get their signal from one main nerve in your leg called the sciatic nerve.
Small Calves- Causes And Exercises To Increase Them
Now that we know what calves are, let’s discuss why someone may have small calves. There are several reasons such as:
- Genetics (which is out of your control)
- Age (due to lack of physical activity)
- Lack of nutrition and proper supplementation.
Genetically some people just have small calves, and there’s no denying that. But we can’t lose hope because genetics don’t say anything about our future. If you want to increase your calves even though you were dealt a bad hand, read about some of the remedies below:
How To Increase Your Calves
Standing Calf Raises:
This is probably the most common exercise used for calf mass and definition. Many people make a mistake by not doing this exercise correctly, so they do not see results. Do this exercise properly by standing up straight with your feet pointing forward at a 90-degree angle, about shoulder-width apart.
Tuck your toes/toes inward so that they are facing each other, and place the balls of your feet on the edge of a block that is about 2 inches high. Your calves should be resting on the block, not your toes.
Rise on the balls of your feet and contract your calves for about 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeating.
Seated Calf Raises
On a seated calf machine, sit down with your legs out in front of you. Make sure you keep your back straight, and your feet position is facing forward with the balls of your feet resting on top of a block about 2 inches high.
Now rise on the balls of your feet by contracting your calves for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position. Repeat this exercise until failure.
One-Leg Calf Raises
This is an excellent calf exercise that will hit your calves from a different angle. You can find this exercise on a smith machine where it may be hard to differentiate between the bottom of the bar and the floor if you do not know what to look for.
To perform this exercise, place a block about 2 inches high under your leg and stand on the other. Now raise yourself on this leg by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeat.
Donkey Calf Raises
This is another excellent exercise for maximum calf mass. The way to perform this exercise is by finding a smith machine with the bar on the ground and not at waist height. Next, put the block 2 inches high under your toes while standing on one leg.
Get on all-fours like a horse putting your head down to the floor while keeping your back straight and your heels on the block. Raise yourself by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeat.
This is an easy calf exercise anyone can do. All you need to do is stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and put the balls of your feet on a block that’s about 2 inches high. Make sure you keep your abdomen tight and don’t over-arch your back.
The key to this exercise is to raise all of your body weight onto the balls of your foot by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position.
Finally, to ensure that you keep making gains, it’s critical that you progressively overload your muscles by adding weight when you feel stuck. If your calves stop growing after 4-5 weeks, chances are they need more than just another few sets of calf raises.
How To Get Bigger Calves Fast At Home
If you don’t have access to a gym or weight equipment, here are some simple calf exercises to do at home with no weights.
- If you have stairs in your house, stand on the edge of one stair and raise your body by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeat for ten repetitions. Do 2-3 sets.
- If you have a railing in your house, stand at one end so that the bar is touching the back of your leg and rise onto your toes by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeat for ten repetitions. Do 2-3 sets
- Stand with your toes and balls of feet on a block about 2 inches high with the balls of your feet barely touching the floor. Then rise onto your toes by contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeat for ten repetitions. Do this exercise twice a day, with no added weight or equipment.
- If you have an exercise ball, lie on it with your feet on the ground and raise your body, contracting your calf muscle for 5 seconds before descending back down to the starting position and repeating for ten repetitions. Do this twice a day, with no added weight or equipment.
How to get bigger calves for skinny guys
For skinny guys, the key to getting bigger calves is not just training your calves but focusing on building muscle using your entire body. For example, you could do lots of heavy compound weightlifting exercises like squats and deadlifts.
This is because these types of exercises build muscle and increase testosterone which will lead to increased muscle mass all over the body, including the calves. So it’s time to be a man and pick up heavy things off the ground like your fellow cavemen did to survive.
What Good lifting shoes/boots are best for building bigger calves?
When doing squats, you want to make sure that you have good leg support, which is why it’s essential to invest in proper weightlifting boots or shoes. You don’t want to wear running shoes as they give poor ankle and leg support.
Which means your lower back and knees will take all the stress. There are many weightlifting shoes to choose from, but one of the best is the Adidas adipower weightlifting shoe.
The Bottom Line
So, what kind of results can you expect if you follow this routine? Firstly, the calf muscles will be stimulated to grow bigger and stronger. Secondly, since calves are a fast-twitch muscle group, size gains quickly.
It’s not uncommon for people to gain upwards of an inch on their calves after only four weeks. One thing that should be noted is that this routine must be followed for at least eight weeks. It may take some people longer to notice growth because not everyone has the eye strength to ‘feel’ their muscles working.
If you don’t feel your calves working, they won’t grow! So definitely have a spotter help you with this workout to ensure proper form and get the most benefit from this routine.