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Calf training?

The girlfriend took a pic of me on holiday last week and I was a bit surprised at how skinny my calves look, so I've sorta got a bee in my bonnet about it now. In terms of my strengths, I'll flatter myself by calling myself a rouleur/sprinter, though while watching the Tour it seems most people with calves like mine are the climbers (which I am definitely not).

From my weight training days, I seem to remember that some people (like me) are 'high-calved' where the muscle virtually stops halfway down the shin, while others (let's churlishly call them 'kankles') have muscle mass much further down. That is prob something I can never change, but if I was to consciously try to add width and thickness by training calves, can anyone suggest what sort of difference that could make to my riding - other than adding excess weight? And are there any routines that can be done from home, in addition to calf raises on the stairs?
Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides

Posts

  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    As this is purely a cosmetic issue - have you considered getting implants?
  • stu-bimstu-bim Posts: 406
    If you are coming from a weight training and cycling background and you haven't got calves you most likely never will

    There is little that can be done to alter calf size significantly, it is largely a genetic thing

    If your calves are not getting tired and/or fatigued when riding then I would not think there is a need to do much for them
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  • steadyrollingmansteadyrollingman Posts: 90
    edited July 2015
    That's sadly probably very true indeed - when I was regularly weight training 15-20 years ago, I could put 1/8in on my arms after each session, but never had the same luck with calves - probably didn't add any more than an inch in all the time I was doing it. Then again, I did hate calf raises and didn't really do them as often as I should - the received wisdom was they needed working 5/6 times a week to grow and I always had better things to do after trashing my torso.

    So yes, it's probably a moot point, but am still curious as to what difference it would make to my riding. If the benefits would be big, I'd be more likely to knuckle down and train them. And yes, I would like a 'horseshoe' so that (implants) might have to be the fallback position... :oops:
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • KheSanhKheSanh Posts: 62
    More sprinter/power training intervals and less endurance I suppose. Protein (as well as some carbs) before and after each session. Couple of suggestions; 5min max effort hill intervals 70-80rpm and maybe some 30 to 60sec max efforts 90 to 100rpm.

    I’m a big calisthenics fan; jump squats, pistol squats, one leg lunges, front lowers and side lowers. For the front and side lowers, stand on a box and for front lowers face forwards and lower one leg to the ground, side lowers turn 90degrees and lower one leg to the ground, higher the box the harder they are. Start off with no weight and then progress to adding weight. When I do the above I also do one leg calf raises, no rest between exercises and 2min rest between sets, do 4 sets. Make sure you do the jump squats first as they really get the heart going and by the end of each set the legs are as wobbly as hell…
  • . Make sure you do the jump squats first as they really get the heart going and by the end of each set the legs are as wobbly as hell…

    You're not really selling it to me - I used to HATE doing squats as well :lol:
    Erm, ok, will try and gradually implement those then, thanks - in fact, I am worried I'm losing too much muscle mass from my arms/torso as well actually, so I think I'll be taking up weight training again soon anyway. I know that's not gonna improve my riding, but we don't all wanna scare people with our skeletal chests when we take our tops off, do we?
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • KheSanhKheSanh Posts: 62
    Yeah I agree, I keep the workouts short but intense. That’s what works for me.

    Have a look into calisthenics for the upper body too, that’s all I do now rather than weights. Tee Major on you tube will give you some great ideas.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,286
    "The girlfriend took a pic of me on holiday last week and I was a bit surprised at how skinny my calves look, so I've sorta got a bee in my bonnet about it now."

    Are you familiar with Photoshop? Much quicker and easier than all that exercise bo11ocks :D
  • stu-bimstu-bim Posts: 406
    If you really want to work your calves the best thing is bare foot sprinting. Just take your shoes off and run on a pitch up and down. That or walking up hills barefoot but the sprinting is more practical. But again strengthening them more than growing them.

    I think the best way to grow them is actually the opposite to general weight training methods and with massively high volume. Calves are like your forearms in that they are much more active than upper legs/arms and grow slower but from constant use rather than targeted resistance training.
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  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 5,607
    The girlfriend took a pic of me on holiday last week and I was a bit surprised at how skinny my calves look, so I've sorta got a bee in my bonnet about it now. In terms of my strengths, I'll flatter myself by calling myself a rouleur/sprinter, though while watching the Tour it seems most people with calves like mine are the climbers (which I am definitely not).

    From my weight training days, I seem to remember that some people (like me) are 'high-calved' where the muscle virtually stops halfway down the shin, while others (let's churlishly call them 'kankles') have muscle mass much further down. That is prob something I can never change, but if I was to consciously try to add width and thickness by training calves, can anyone suggest what sort of difference that could make to my riding - other than adding excess weight? And are there any routines that can be done from home, in addition to calf raises on the stairs?
    Lose weight, get rid of any excess body fat and you'll look more in proportion.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • If you really want to work your calves the best thing is bare foot sprinting. Just take your shoes off and run on a pitch up and down. That or walking up hills barefoot but the sprinting is more practical. But again strengthening them more than growing them.

    I think the best way to grow them is actually the opposite to general weight training methods and with massively high volume. Calves are like your forearms in that they are much more active than upper legs/arms and grow slower but from constant use rather than targeted resistance training.

    Seriously? Hmm... I can barely WALK without shoes on for some reason :oops:

    Re the forearms, that's true - although I had more success with those (probably as I put more effort in as they're more often on show). Mind, it was tough - I remember enviously reading about a bodybuilder who could apparently add size to them just by gripping his steering wheel for an hour or two...
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • The girlfriend took a pic of me on holiday last week and I was a bit surprised at how skinny my calves look, so I've sorta got a bee in my bonnet about it now. In terms of my strengths, I'll flatter myself by calling myself a rouleur/sprinter, though while watching the Tour it seems most people with calves like mine are the climbers (which I am definitely not).

    From my weight training days, I seem to remember that some people (like me) are 'high-calved' where the muscle virtually stops halfway down the shin, while others (let's churlishly call them 'kankles') have muscle mass much further down. That is prob something I can never change, but if I was to consciously try to add width and thickness by training calves, can anyone suggest what sort of difference that could make to my riding - other than adding excess weight? And are there any routines that can be done from home, in addition to calf raises on the stairs?
    Lose weight, get rid of any excess body fat and you'll look more in proportion.

    That's the problem though - as mentioned above, I'd like to add a little bit of weight (ie muscle) back on everywhere as that's been disappearing with the fat. Sure, I could still probably lose an inch or two more from my waist perhaps, but that's not gonna help make the calves look any better!
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    I suppose it depends what your exercise goals are. If your goals are cycling related, then leave the muscle off and concentrate on improving your sustainable power and aerobic capacity (by riding your bike). On the other hand, if you are worried about your bird leaving you for a hunkier guy, then the gym stuff may be appropriate.
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 5,607
    Make sure your legs are nice and tanned (it helps) and stop worrying about it.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,422
    As this is purely a cosmetic issue - have you considered getting implants?

    +1 That's the quickest way, and doesn't involve any exercise.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    If you want bigger muscles (non-cycling-functional) then you will have to train the whole leg, not just the calf. You can't just do isolation exercises to get results with small muscles as you need the growth/repair hormones to be stimulated by a bigger workout . You want heavy, low rep, reverse pyramid type training.

    6, 8, 10 heavy - lighter.

    see http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bbinfo.php?page=Calves
  • If you want bigger muscles (non-cycling-functional) then you will have to train the whole leg, not just the calf. You can't just do isolation exercises to get results with small muscles as you need the growth/repair hormones to be stimulated by a bigger workout . You want heavy, low rep, reverse pyramid type training.

    6, 8, 10 heavy - lighter.

    see http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bbinfo.php?page=Calves

    Ah yeah, that's true, forgot about that. Looks like it will all really have to wait until winter then, when I plan to hit the weights on days when I don't ride. Not sure how well they respond to low rep training though - my understanding has always been that you need at least 15 reps to make things like calves and forearms grow. Not that it ever really worked for me, of course...
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • rafletcherrafletcher Posts: 1,155

    So yes, it's probably a moot point, but am still curious as to what difference it would make to my riding.

    Not a lot. In cycling the job of the calf muscles is to stabilise the ankle and stop foot rotation. Power comes from higher up - quads, glutes etc.
  • That's what I sort of suspected - I've had tired legs plenty of times, but has always been the upper bits - I've never really felt like the calves have ever let me down. But seeing as they're the bits on show, would still be nice to boost them up a bit...
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,422
    That's what I sort of suspected - I've had tired legs plenty of times, but has always been the upper bits - I've never really felt like the calves have ever let me down. But seeing as they're the bits on show, would still be nice to boost them up a bit...

    Here's the thing. If your calves are not very muscular and on the spindly side you most likely won't be developing a massively muscular set at anytime in the near future. There have been many, many pro and amateur bodybuilders who don't have "good"(for lack of a better word)calves even though the work them relentlessly. They just don't get them. To be honest, this sounds like your case.
  • Yeah, I'm not expecting major gains, that's for sure, but I've been checking back thru my training diaries and over the years, my calf size has fluctuated between 14.5-15.5in, so it does obviously have a little effect. As I said above though, they were almost always trained as an afterthought and not as often as they should. ATM, they're down to 14.5in again - not that that is having a negative effect on my riding by any means - I haven't been as fast as I am now in 20 years...

    I remember reading once about some bodybuilders who would wear high-heels during the day to put their calves under more stress, or at least, that was their excuse. Unfortunately I'm in full-on flipflop mode at work these days, which is about as far away from stilettos as you can get.
    Job: Job, n,. A frustratingly long period of time separating two shorter than usual training rides
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,362
    If you're really bothered about it try moving your cleats further forward. Or take up running or hiking. It won't make you any faster though! :)

    Also, how your calves look is much more to do with body fat percentage than how big they actually are. Have a look at the actual sizes of the calves of people around you, the biggest ones are on post-menopausal overweight women who carry several bags of shopping up several flights of stairs every day...
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