Blow Up Stubborn Calves With These 3 High-Volume Routines

Calf training can seem like one of the most pointless activities you do in the gym; For most people, it’s all pain and no gain. One reason for that is because, unlike other major skeletal muscle groups, the calves contain a lot of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are notoriously unresponsive to a muscle growth stimulus. As a result, calves just don’t seem to get any bigger—no matter how hard you work them.

But some lifters have had success with this particular body part. Today, NPC bodybuilder Lawrence Ballenger, IFBB pro Kathleen Tesori, and WBFF pro Lee Constantinou share their calf workouts with you. They’ll tell you which techniques work better than others, and what tips can help you finally see some real calf growth.

Stretch to Grow

At the end of a hard leg workout, simply standing can be challenging. It’s no surprise that many lifters just stagger over to the seated calf raise machine, bust out a few sets, and call it a day. But here’s why you need more.

The general motion you use when training calves involves going as high up on your toes as you can, then descending into a deep heel stretch. When your knees are bent, such as when you’re doing seated calf raises, one of the two major calf muscles, the gastrocnemius or “gastroc,” can’t stretch. This severely limits how much it can contract and grow.

If you want to build that knotty, diamond-shaped gastroc muscle, you need to stretch it hard. And that means focusing on straight-legged movements, including standing raises, donkeys, and leg-press calf raises.

Yes, you can do plenty of seated work as well, since that will hammer the other major calf muscle, the soleus. But know that to grow, you need both.

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Lawrence Ballenger: High Volume, High Intensity

Lawrence Ballenger’s approach is both high volume and high intensity—hitting his calves with lots of reps and zero breaks.

“I used to train my calves extremely heavy, and nothing happened for years,” he says. “Once I lightened the weight and focused on pushing blood into the muscle and creating cell swelling and a pump, my calves finally started growing.”

Lawrence Ballenger’s Calf Workout

Triset: 5 sets


Standing Calf Raise

20-30 reps
Standing Calf Raises Standing Calf Raises

Seated Calf Raise

20-30 reps
Seated Calf Raise Seated Calf Raise

Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise (shown with dumbbell)

15 sec.
Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

Triset: 4 sets


Donkey Calf Raises

50 reps
Donkey Calf Raises Donkey Calf Raises

Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise (shown with dumbbell)

20 sec.
Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger

Bill Geiger, MA, has served as a senior content editor for and group editorial director with MuscleMag and Reps magazines.

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