Are Calf Raises A Waste Of Time For Building Big Calves?

big calves
June 26, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are calf raises a waste of time for building big calves?”. Calf raises are an exercise that are commonly used to train calves.

Many people believe that calf raises are the best way to build bigger calves. Many people get lazy with calf training and don’t maximise their development in this area. 

This article will explore this topic in more detail and determine whether calf raises are really a waste of time.

Are Calf Raises A Waste Of Time For Building Big Calves?

Overall, calf raises are not a waste of time if you want to build big calves. You should still be doing heavy compound exercises like squats, deadlifts and leg presses.

Calf raises are a great isolation exercise to really isolate the calves and get in more volume. Calves are similar to the forearms, in the sense that they can be trained with higher volume and frequency.

Doing high rep calf raises with a pause and applying progressive overload will certainly help to spur on growth in stubborn calves. It should also be stated that there is a large genetic component to how big your calves will be.

Some people have huge calves despite not even training them. When you are heavier as well your calves will generally be bigger than someone a lot lighter. The calves are actively involved when you are walking up stairs and moving your body.

Calf Raises Are The Best Isolation Exercise For Calves

Calf raises are the best isolation exercise for building up the calves. They will work the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles highly effectively.

The key as with all exercises is to execute the movement properly. Unfortunately far too many people in the gym ego lift on calf raises. They don’t go through a full range of motion and will not effectively work the calf muscles.

You have to ensure that you go through a full range of motion. I like to pause each rep – both in the bottom stretched position and when fully contracted at the top.

I find this to work very well for increasing blood flow into the calf muscles and putting the muscle under some tension. If you execute the movement in this way, with a focus on high volume and progressive overload, your calves will grow with time.

There are two main variations of calf raises. One is the seated calf raise and the other is the standing calf raise. I prefer the seated calf raise as I find that I can get better contractions and cheat a lot less on the exercise.

The donkey calf raise is a seated variation that works very well and puts a lot of tension on the calves. If you are going to do standing calf raises I would recommend standing barbell calf raises with a bar on your back.

It would be a good idea to have safety pins set high up on the rack just as a safety precaution. This exercise will be tougher than the standing calf raise machine. This is due to the extra stabiliser muscles recruited in order to maintain balance.

Genetics Play A Big Role

When it comes to calf development, genetics play a big role. Some people have huge calves without even training them! This is the case with one of my friends, he is a heavy guy and hardly ever lifts weights, yet his calves are huge.

Other people can train their calves a lot but never come close to the calf size that he has. However, even with bad genetics for calves it is possible to build them up over time.

You will have to train them diligently with a lot of isolation exercises from different angles. Be consistent and aim for progressive overload over the long term.
big calves

Eddie Hall’s Views On Calf Training

Eddie Hall was the World’s Strongest Man in 2017 and arguably one of the strongest men who ever lived in his prime. 

He boasts huge calves at around 25 inches so he knows a thing or two about calf training. He has a very interesting perspective when it comes to building big calves.

He acknowledges that genetics play a role, however he doesn’t think that calf raises are even necessary. He believes that doing squats and leg presses are key for building big calves.

In particular, he is a proponent of using a stance on the leg press where you will be on your toes slightly more. Invariably, this will involve a foot position slightly lower down on the pad.

This will allow you to bring your calves into the leg press slightly more. In addition, super heavy squats will also help to build up your calves as well as your legs as a whole.

Loaded carries and yoke walks will also build up the calves. In addition, being heavier will naturally mean that you will have bigger calves. This is especially true if you are training the aforementioned exercises very hard.

However, Eddie also states that calf raises can be a good additional exercise to throw in if you want to get more volume work for your calves. Ensure that you perform quality reps with the focus being on working the muscles.

The Views Of Alex Leonidas

Alex Leonidas also shares similar views to me with regards to calf training. The important thing is to be consistent and train your calves with high volume.

Calves are like forearms, they are tough to develop and require higher volume and frequency of training. 

Alex states that most naturals can get their calves up to at least 16 inches in size with a diligent training approach and being super consistent. This is very realistic, even if you have bad genetics for calf development.

Final Thoughts

Are calf raises a waste of time for building big calves? The answer is no! Calf raises are not a waste of time, especially if you have small calves.

If your calves are 15 inches or smaller, you can definitely benefit from targeted isolation work with calf raises. You should train your legs as a whole as well with compound movements like squats, a hip hinge and loaded carries. 

Calf raises are just a tool that you can use to train your calves with more volume and frequency. The focus should be on progressive overload and making progress on this exercise over a long period of time.

Be consistent and diligent in your approach and you will reap the rewards. This is true of training in general and everything else in life as well. 

If you have any comments related to calf raises please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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