Table of contents
As the holidays arrive with their share of new resolutions, one is always at the top of the list: “This year, I’m getting my act together!
The gym benches are crowded for a few weeks, while the euphoria passes, and the big sports shops are sold out. Getting back into shape also means taking stock of yourself. Pecs? That’s okay. Shoulders? That’s fine. Biceps? Not optimal, but okay. The famous 6-pack? I’d cut back on the chocolate a bit!
But in this review, these gentlemen often tend to forget about the lower part of their bodies, namely the glutes, quads and other ischios. Even more: the calves, which we never hear about. I will quickly explain why it is so difficult to build up this part of the body.
A calf is not sexy…
Except when I meet a cyclist, I don’t know many men who brag about their physique by mentioning how aesthetically pleasing and well-shaped their calves are. If we had to list the sexiest muscles, the calf would most certainly be last, far behind the back, shoulders, pectorals and abs.
But let’s not lie: many men start to push iron to please the ladies, or at least to improve their physical condition from a purely aesthetic point of view. It’s not the majority, but still.
Coupled with the fact that many men skip leg workouts to focus on the upper part of their body, the conclusion is clear for this poor calf: it is often forgotten and put aside when, like any muscle in the body, it is of paramount importance and essential to our proper functioning. I’ll go even further: the calf muscle group is one of the most essential in the body, one of those we use the most on a daily basis.
A muscle whose usefulness is often forgotten during sports sessions
As a reminder, the human body is made up of about 600 muscles. This means that there are a lot of things to build up and strengthen! But the calf itself, what is it made of, and what is it used for?
What we tend to call “calf” is in fact a union of three muscle groups belonging to two distinct groups: the gastrocnemius (also called “gastrocnemius”) and the soleus. This muscle group, also known as the sural triceps, ends in the Achilles tendon.
This sural triceps, commonly called “calf”, is an essential muscle group for walking, jumping… but also for knee flexion.
After this small anatomical point, I am going to tell you concretely what it is used for, the calf, and especially, why it is important to train it.
During a stride, the calves work 25% more than the quadriceps. They are also the ones that allow you to flex your feet at each landing, and to stretch them at each impulse. They are also the ones that absorb the shock of running.
During a change of direction or a violent deceleration, the calves absorb between 10 and 12 times the weight of the body: muscular and trained calves avoid trauma. And then – yes, I haven’t finished! – the calves also help to stabilize the knees, promoting a better jumping technique and preventing injuries… I could go on and on about the importance of the calves.
The calf also allows you to jump higher, to execute fast and explosive movements: the twins are mainly made up of so-called “fast” muscle fibers. Even if the number of fast fibers of an individual is determined in the genes, by reinforcing its calves, it is possible to carry out complex and very soliciting exercises such as the high jumps or the so hated burpees.
So, do you still want to neglect your calves?
Specific and often unappreciated exercises
Contrary to the dorsalis major or the quadriceps which can be worked in isolation in different ways, there are very few isolation exercises for the calf. As this muscle is mainly used for walking and jumping, it will be used much more frequently through polyarticular training.
In the same way, building up calf muscles also implies performing movements based on balance, propulsion, slight elevation or flexion of the arch of the foot. This is a far cry from an exercise as impressive as a pull-up or a squat!
However, even though these exercises may be less glorious or enjoyable to perform, there are always more negative aspects to practicing any sport: refusing to work a muscle because you don’t like the movement is not the right thing to do. Rather than boycotting a muscle, finding a new way to work it will be much more constructive!
For example, if working your calves in a gym with targeted exercises doesn’t suit you, shape them outdoors through hiking, running… or, why not, through dance classes!
I could sum it up in two words: fun and imagination.
Last point: Muscle recovery! Indeed, some men neglect this very important step and tend to train (badly) their calves almost every day, which in the long run becomes counterproductive. Indeed, your calves have a memory, they get used to the tension inflicted and do not develop any more.
The ultimate solution: the false calf transplant
Fortunately, to alleviate the problem of underdeveloped and forgotten calves, cosmetic doctors regularly offer a measure that is effective, to say the least: a transplant of a false calf. It is in a way THE easy solution. No need to bother looking for exercises to work them, and they are still drawn, harmonious…
Of course I’m kidding! Cosmetic surgery solves some problems, but not this kind of problem for me!
It is not by going under a scalpel that this objective of being in better health, defined at the beginning of the year, will be reached, far from it! A false calf transplant will only solve the aesthetic issue, and even then. If you choose, it is better to sweat a little, but to have really solid and healthy calves rather than a foreign body that can only bring complications, in addition to costing you much more than a gym membership!
Are calves impossible to grow ?
It is not true that calves are “impossible to build”. Like any other muscle in the body, calves can be developed through a combination of targeted weight training and proper nutrition as discussed in this article.
However, the calves can be difficult to build up for some people because they are already under a lot of stress in daily life (walking, running, jumping, etc.). Thus, they tend to be already well developed in active people.
In addition, the calves are made up of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is a very superficial muscle that gives the calf its characteristic shape and is responsible for plantar flexion, the soleus muscle is deep and also contributes to plantar flexion. These muscles have different muscle fibers, which means that specific exercises must be targeted for each of them to develop them properly.
Therefore, it is important to vary the calf training exercises and combine them with a proper nutritional plan to achieve the desired results. It is also important to progress in the intensity and load of exercise to continue to stimulate the calves to develop.
The calf is an essential muscle of the human body that we use absolutely every day, if only to move our toes. Neglecting it would be both stupid and dangerous. By strengthening it, you will be more stable on your supports, more dynamic, you will reduce your risks of injuries, in addition to finally having the perfect muscular endurance to impress your friends during your Sunday walks.
So put on your tracksuit and head to the gym to work on all that!