You may not realize this but the Leg Curl machine is actually one of THE best machines for developing your CALVES on…
The Leg Curl machine allows you to load your calves in their absolute maximum peak “anatomically possible” contracted position…meaning this is the most contraction you can physically put on your calves in an exercise.
And when you try this exercise for the first time, you will totally agree with me on this…the contraction you will get on your calves is something you have to experience to believe.
In fact, let’s do a little experiment to prove this…try this right now.
Stand up then come up on your toes like the top of a standing calf raise. Contract your calves as hard as you can. Getting a good contraction?
Now squat down (hold onto something in front of you) until your butt is down by your heels…as low as you can go. Now raise your heels up and come up on your toes again, contracting the calves as hard as you can.
Feel the difference? It should almost feel like somebody is driving a knife into your calf muscles.
This peak contraction is KEY for maximum calf development. It’s what will help transform your calves from lumps of meat into carved diamonds.
First, set a calf block direcly under the ankle pad of the leg curl machine. I’m using a piece of equipment called the “Calf Roller” (love this for calf training…the round shape allows you to get a good stretch at the bottom then roll up and over the top to get a hard contraction…very comfortable on the feet, too).
Stand on the calf block (heels off) then lift the leg curl ankle pad up a bit and set it on your knees/lower thighs.
Now you’re going to do a very simple “heels up” calf raise type of movement. There is very little stretch component here…the best part of the exercise is the TOP.
SQUEEZE the calves as hard as you can on each rep for at least a few seconds at the top.
Perform this one for 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps (or more, even, if you can stand the pain) at the end of your regular calf training workouts. This one isn’t something I would consider a “standalone” calf exercise…it’s best paired with a standing calf raise or donkey calf raise to get the very important stretch component as well.
In addition, once you’ve finished off the calves with this exercise, I would recommend some general calf stretching.
Now, you might be asking yourself…how is this better than a Seated Calf Raise? They look very similar.
And yep, they DO look very similar…the key lies in the lower positioning.
The soleus muscle (which lies underneath, a.k.a. “deep” to the gastrocnemius) is primarily active when the knee is bent. The gastrocnemius is also active when the knee is bent. The more bent you can get your knees, the greater the potential contraction.
The Seated Calf Raise machine allows for about 90 degrees of bend in the knees. This crouched position adds another 30 degrees or more to that bend, which adds that much more potential for contraction.
In addition, I find this exercise MUCH safer to push to the limits on. In many Seated Calf Raise machines, you actually need a spotter to help get the weight back on the post, if you push to the point where you can’t complete the rep. With this exercise, all you do is stand up.
The final reason is this…you may not even HAVE a Seated Calf Raise machine to use!
Next time you work your calves, give this exercise a try as a finisher…I can promise you will hate from the very first rep, but you will LOVE the results you get from it.