I’ll tell you straight up…my calves stink. For me, they’re the toughest muscle to develop. And I know for a fact that I’m not alone in that. Because if you’re reading this, likely YOUR calves are your most stubborn bodypart, too!
That’s why I came up with THIS superset combination…it will literally FORCE your calves to respond and grow.
You’ll perform a targeted superset of an exercise that gives you maximum STRETCH (the Donkey Calf Raise) with an exercise that gives you maximum CONTRACTION (the Standing Calf Raise) of the calf muscles.
This combination will absolutely TORCH your calves from top to bottom…don’t expect to walk normally for awhile after you do it.
How to Do It
The first exercise is the Donkey Calf Raise done with supra-maximal weight, holding ONLY the stretch position.
We’re going to load the exercise with a TREMENDOUS amount of weight…something that you couldn’t do for a full-range rep. To do this, you will need a either Donkey Calf Raise machine with a substantial amount of available weight OR you can use the power rack setup that I’ll show you right now.
To do this, you’ll need
– the power rack,
– a good bar
– a calf block. I’m using a piece called the Calf Roller
– a barbell pad (or rolled-up towel, if you have no other option). I’m using a Hampton extra-thick barbell pad.
– and a bunch of weight plates.
Set one safety rail of the rack about lower chest height. The other rail should be a little bit lower. The exact height will depend on how high your calf block is. Be VERY sure your calf block is SOLID and won’t shift before trying this one.
Put the barbell pad on the bar, towards the lower end of the bar. The calf block should be set down at that end, too.
Before you start loading the weight on, test the setup to make sure you get a good stretch at the bottom (see below for exercise technique). Now start loading the weight on.
The first time you do this one DO NOT go as heavy as I’m going here. You have to condition your Achilles tendon for supporting heavier loads before progressing to this level. Start by loading one plate on the high side and two plates on the lower side, then try the exercise in FULL range of motion to get an idea of how it’s done.
Be VERY careful when loading plates onto the bottom end…the bar is tilted and the plates can slide. Never put a plate on “unattended”…put it on then put the collar on immediately.
I do recommend loading the bar ends fairly evenly…you can have one fewer plate on the high end than the bottom end and it’ll still be fine. If you’re curious, I have 7 plates on the high end and 8 plates on the bottom end.
Now you’re ready for action…
Grasp near the high end of the bar with both hands – alternating “baseball bat” type of grip. This is the fulcrum/pivot point of the barbell “machine” we just built.
Get your back under the bar and get your feet onto the calf block.
The bar should be running directly down your back, however it WON’T be putting pressure on your spine. The bar will be resting on the solid bone of your sacrum, which is why you NEED to have some sort of padding to cushion the area.
Now straighten your knees, lifting the bottom end of the bar off the rail.
Your calves are now fully loaded in the MAXIMUM stretch position.
One BIG key here…DO NOT just settle for passive stretch. You should actively PUSH up as though trying to perform the exercise. If you’re using a submaximal weight (as you should be the first time you try it), push enough to activate the calf muscles but not so much that you actually do a rep.
We want to hold that max stretch position for 5 to 10 seconds, under load and with calves actively resisting.
After 5 to 10 seconds, set the bar back down and rest briefly. Then go AGAIN. Perform 4 to 6 “reps” of this stretch hold then get out from under the bar.
Now we move to the SECOND part of the superset…contraction-focused Standing Calf Raises.
We only need light to moderate weight for this one.
Do a calf raise…come to the top and HOLD…squeezing your calf muscles as HARD as you can for 5 seconds.
Come back down to the bottom (no pause) then immediately come back up into the peak contracted position and hold.
Repeat this until you pretty much can’t do anymore reps because the pain and/or Lactic Acid shuts you down.
Now step out from the exercise…rest about a minute…then do it AGAIN. Repeat this for 3 to 5 total sets, depending on how much you can stand.
As crazy as this combination is, to me, this is the most fun I’ve had training my calves in years. The pump is ridiculous…you’ll get one even if you’ve NEVER felt one in your calves before in your life.