“Help, I have skinny ankles and high calves and my thighs have grown disproportionately.”
1) You have to know going into this that this is one of the hardest lagging parts to bring up for many people with genetically smaller ankles/calves/high insertions, etc….
2) But, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve the hell out of them.
3) Due to their high fatigue resistant nature from thousands of reps per day in simple tasks like walking and such they have a tremendous ability to handle fatigue/work and thus respond best to: high volume and variety. They recover fast and can handle a lot. Usually, the extreme soreness in some early on is more a matter of tight/stiff ankles rather than simple muscle breakdown…and the loaded eccentric you get in the calf raise at first can really kill many people. Assuming you are past this…
4) Need to hit them at a minimum of 2 days per week and optimally 3 days.
5) Need high volume/ high rep sets AND heavy ones. Stretching post set is a great way to he recruit more muscle fibers for annihilation. Unilateral, bilateral, and different angles of work should also be done.
Some great strategies:
1) 50s, 75s, 100s: can rep these over time from 50 to 100. For example, the first 4 weeks is 50 reps. Select a weight that you can not perform anymore than 25 reps (may go heavier, about a 15rm). As soon as you hit failure take a 10 second rest and continue cranking out the reps, you guessed it, until he hits 50. Watch for lines forming behind the machine;). When 50 becomes no big deal the next wave is 75s, etc. Or, in the next wave you may simply add more weight to be completed of the given number of reps. Finally, 2-3 hard sets should do it.
2) The norm: standing calf raises with 12-15, 10-12 8-f with 3 second pauses at the peak contraction followed by a body weight burnout drop set of 15-20 reps plus (on flat floor on the elevated surface for the stretch).
3) Great variations on the norm: generic rep scheme (12-15, 10-12, 8-f TO 15-f ish. May of course go heavier and lighter)
3a) Standing calf raise TO 2 sided calf raise BW burnout
3b) Standing calf raise TO 1 legged BW burnout (seems easy at first but wait for the DOMS on this one).
3c) Standing calf raises TO seated calf raises
4) Other nice for varied stimulus:
4a) Seated TO standing calf raises
4b) 1 legged calf raise TO 2 legged calf raise
5) Clinically insane:
Options 3c, 4a, 4b extended with any variation of a body weight burnout (but extend reps to 25-100…may want to clear out your schedule).
Best way to program this into the week is some variation of:
Medium, heavy, light
Heavy, light, medium
Heavy, medium, light, etc
Be sure to have a hip width stance in general, and the ball of your foot pivoting on the platform to ensure a proper stretch and peak contraction in the appropriate range of motion. Sometimes, people merely miss it all by loading it up and moving 2 inches on the machine = big mistake. Don’t forget to also train heavy rep ranges as low 5-10 reps!
Then, cruise around in a wheel chair the rest of the week for rest;)