A Bill Pearl is an excellent example of great genetics. Few big men of his era came close to his symmetry and calf development is one reason why.
I agree with Dan Duchaine that the most important factors for calf mass are parents who bless you with long muscle bellies. The lower your muscle belly inserts on the bone, particularly the gastrocnemius, the better your bodybuilding potential. Turn-of-the-century French naturopaths had a saying: "Short tendons, big muscles." It's true.
If you have short muscle bellies and are into athletic activities other than bodybuilding, you'll be happy to hear that short muscle bellies are an advantage. A calf developed mainly near the knee area has a great moment of inertia, thus favoring faster leg turnover, and provides better leverage for jumping. In fact, I understand that movie about basketball hustlers was originally going to be titled "Men with Short Muscle Bellies in the Lower Leg Region Can't Jump," but it wouldn't fit on a marquee.
1982 Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson and top bodybuilding pro Mike Matarazzo were born with great calves, and they did not have to labor at the calf machine. Further, there are many great bodybuilders blessed with enormous calves who probably couldn't tell you how to operate a Calf Raise Machine (or, for that matter, how to spell it). However, I disagree with Dan when he says that there is not much you can do about calf development. In my opinion, here are the primary reasons most bodybuilders fail to improve their calf development.
1. Giving up too soon. Many bodybuilders buy into the "Calves can't be built—you've got to be born with them" bullshit, and as such do not commit to consistent training. If a law was imposed in gyms that for every set of Biceps Curls you must also perform a set of Calf Raises, a year from now you would see the average calf measurement go up at least two inches!
2. Lack of stretch in performing calf raises. Most bodybuilders who complain of poor calf development use short, bouncy movements. Range of motion is critical to fully develop the calf muscles, which is why I recommend exercising the calves on blocks that are at least six inches high and slightly rounded. Rounding also makes the exercise more comfortable, as straight boards can dig into your arches. The absolutely best calf blocks are also covered with rubber so that you can do your calf training in bare feet for an even greater range of motion. Because many bodybuilders are not accustomed to working the calves through a full range of motion, for your next six calf workouts you should hold the bottom position for at least four seconds in order to relearn how to stretch.
3. Insufficient eccentric overload. Volleyball players and dancers are known for their superb calf development, and some exercise scientists suggest that it comes from jumping. This is partly true, but I believe the hypertrophy primarily comes from the landing portion of jumps. Studies in the field of biomechanics have shown the calves take a major portion of the load created dur
A Sergio Oliva was called the Myth because nobody could believe how big he was. In addition to his incredible back and arms, Sergio possessed awesome calves.
ing the landing of a jump. Negative accentuated training, in which you raise with two calves and lower with one, is particularly good for calf training.
4. Bending the knees during straight-leg calf exercises. Bodybuilders who unlock their knees as they perform standing Donkey Calf Raises are basically cheating. To convince their poor egos that they are strong, they transfer the bearing of the load to the quads and glutes by bending the knees.
5. Blocked neural supply. An impingement of the nerve supply by a traumatized spine can block the neural output to the calf, forcing you to use loads that are not heavy enough to elicit a hypertrophy response. A simple spine-screening process and subsequent adjustments by a qualified health practitioner such as an osteopath or a chiropractor can often help your calves achieve additional levels of growth in just a few weeks.
6. Excessive connective tissue. If there is too much connective tissue in the calf region, there is no room for the muscle to grow. To resolve this problem, there is a surgical procedure available which entails opening up the fascia with a scalpel to allow the muscle room to hypertrophy. However, sportsmedicine pioneer Dr. Mike Leahy can accomplish the same results with his Active Release Techniques® Treatment, and can often achieve visible results after the very first visit!
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