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         JIM GANLEY




One of the more neglected muscle groups....along with the neck, lower back, and hamstrings are the calves. From an aesthetic perspective, the ideal physique will have neck, upper arms, and calves measuring the same. This is a part of what good proportion is all about. But because the calves require such hard work to actualize such a small degree of improvement, people tend to shy away from giving them the work they need, preferring instead to do a nominal amount if any at all.

Let's examine the anatomy of the lower leg. Anatomists have divided the lower leg into anterior and posterior compartments. Anteriorly we have the tibialis anterior, whose function is to pull the foot up toward the shin (dorsi flexion). Posteriorly are found the gastrocnemius and beneath it, the soleus, both of which serve as plantar flexors......point the foot away from the shin as when we rise up on our toes. The soleus, while assisting the larger gastroc in plantar flexion, is only fully activated when the knee is flexed to 90 degrees. That's why we have seated calf machines. Less important are the posterior tibialis and peroneals which invert and evert the foot respectively.

The problem many of us have with training the calves comes from a lack of flexibility in the ankle joint. You would be surprised at how many cannot get their heels below neutral nor elevate the foot much beyond. Ideally we need to slowly lower the heels as far as possible, smoothly reverse direction, and rise up onto our toes and pause there briefly prior to going back into the low, dorsi flexed position.

For most of us, the calves need fairly high volume and reps in order to grow. There are exceptions for sure. A friend of mine trained in the same gym as "Mr. Calves" himself, Chris Dickerson, and reported that he never saw Chris train calves at all.....Then we have Steve Reeves, who had to build up his thighs to match his calves, which he claimed had been built by riding his bicycle up hills delivering newspapers in Oakland, CA as a boy.

While much of our level of calf development is genetic, we can all improve. What worked for me was to take one exercise, for example the standing or donkey heel raise, and work it for ten sets of 20 reps. Alternatively I will do three sets of three exercises, standing, donkey, and seated, doing 30, 25, and 20 reps, adding weight on each successive set. And as far as guys like Chris Dickerson and Steve Reeves are concerned, all I can say is that life is not fair. Rather than ruminate over our short comings, simply play the genetic hand we've been dealt and have fun doing it. Seen below, a female client of mine performing the standing heel raise with the Frank Zane Leg Blaster. And yes, she was one of the "lucky' ones.

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