I’m almost certain that ‘leg day’ is fast becoming a household phrase. It’s right up there with ‘clean eating’ and gains’. No one who is serious about honing their physique skips leg day, it’s crucial to build and tone those big muscles. But what about the lower legs? Skinny calves or “chicken legs” are an inherent problem among serious body builders and avid gym goers alike and are notoriously ignored when people so focused on packing on mass.
Progressive overload is a method that will sustain muscle growth. We all know those gym goers that turn up, day in, day out and complete the same exercises/routines for over an hour. While their tenacity should be applauded, surely they must have noticed that they have reached a plateau? Progressive overload is consistently increasing the demand that is placed on the muscles, bones and connective tissue during your work outs to ensure that they grow and develop.
Ways to do this include increasing the resistance (the weights), increasing the sets or increasing the reps and even frequency – or an alternative angle is to decrease your rest time. It’s all about pushing yourself further and further dependant on the goal.
The Power of Protein
While supplementing your protein intake with protein powders isn’t the be all and end all when working on building muscle, it certainly aids you in supporting your goals. Protein is made up of amino acids, essentially – building blocks. Experts recommend that for every lb of lean body mass, you should consume 1.5 grams of protein, and of course there are optimum times when you should be consuming said protein. Drinking protein shakes pre and post workout, either with or without further supplementation with aid your workout efforts, adding simple sugars to your post workout shake will also replenish your glycogen/glucose levels, preventing cortisol eating up muscle tissue by releasing insulin.
This calculator will tell you how much simple sugar you will need after a workout.
The majority of people are guilty of overlooking cardio in favour of strength and resistance training when it comes to building muscle. Of course, too much cardio will mean that you won’t build muscle, but there is a type of cardio, known as conditioning that will build muscle. Most people do include some form of cardio into their workout to burn fat, because including it into your workout has been proven to burn more fat then resistance training alone.
Sprints are a high intensity form of cardio that are especially effective when it comes to the leg, glute and abdominal muscles. However skipping should be your go to cardio exercise if calves are your priority. Yes, that’s right – jumping rope with help you in your quest to building yours calves; the nature of skipping means the movement itself provides a high frequency workload whilst also adding to the load by using body weight. Be sure to add single leg hops in there too for extra load on the muscles.
To build calf muscles, you should be focusing on lifting heavy when both legs are in the concentric phase (the up movement’) but whilst coming down from the movement, letting one leg take the weight whilst descending in a slow and steady movement (approx. 5 seconds) and repeating until 8 reps are complete will help to build.
Calves muscles are comprised of the gastrocnemius and the soleus, so undertaking exercises that isolate both muscles is the best method to build them. This article runs through some of the best calf building exercises including –
- Standing calf raise
- Seated calf raise
- Glute ham raise
It’s a little known fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger himself has skinny calves! As they were not a priority on the training agenda back in the 1960s, he neglected to train them; after losing a competing to a body builder who didn’t favour major muscles over minor ones, Arnie was inspired. Look at him now! He went for the hard/heavy/frequent method – use this as inspiration that although it may be difficult plight, the hard training will pay off.