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Default Developing the Calves - Vince Gironda
by BendtheBar 02-15-2012, 08:09 AM

Developing the Calves
by Vince Gironda (1984)


A note on training style, exercise performance, and "creative cheating":

Basically, I am not for or against any particular style of training. I am not interested in taking sides on any issue concerning the techniques for improving the size and shape of the human physique. Years ago the York camp, headed by Bob Hoffman, had an ongoing feud with the Weider outfit, headed by Joe and Ben Weider. One of the bones of contention was training style.

At that time, Weider promoted the cheating principle (leaning rearwards excessively during curls, etc.) and the use of basic exercises, such as presses, squats and bench presses. On the other hand, the York people claimed that a very wide variety of exercises were needed to train the physique, and every exercise must be performed in superstrict style, otherwise it had no benefit. York proclaimed that the cheating principle was valueless.

While all this was going on, I was doing my own experiments. What I learned was that each exercise could be performed, not only in several ways, but that each way had its own set of pros and cons. There were no hard and fast rules about training style. Besides, the York camp, while claiming that cheating exercises were of no value to the bodybuilder, was ardently professing that Olympic lifting was the only way to achieve true physical perfection. And it doesn't take a genius to realize that the Olympic snatch and clean-and-jerk lifts were two of the most "cheating" exercises man's inventiveness could concoct!

Cheating! It makes you feel that you're breaking the law if you do any exercises in less than perfect form. Sure, there's a lot to be said for using superstrict style in some exercises, but don't become a slave to it. Some guys train strictly 100% of the time. They look like robots. You can't always get to the muscle you want to work by using ulta-strict form. You may have to perform, what I term, a little "creative cheating." Don't be for or against either strict form or loose form. Simply go with whatever it takes.

In essence, it would seem that the more you lift, the bigger you will become. While this is true enough,the weight you use is only part of the story. Obviously, light weights can seem like heavy weights if the leverage factor is changed. You can press a heavy dumbbell straight overhead with more ease than if you lift it at arm's length. Tempo (workout speed and amount of rests between sets) is another factor. Nutrition, rest, and concentration all play enormous parts. When it comes to exercise performance, there are really only two points to keep in mind:

(1) to tax or "damage" a muscle to its limit in the shortest possible time (in musclebuilding you must break down muscle cells on a regular basis for them to develop), and

(2) to isolate the exact muscle you want to work, as much as is possible.

A high percentage of people who are into the sport of bodybuilding feel that I advocate some pretty unusual exercises, and that even when I do regular exercises I perform them in an irregular way. They can't believe that I prefer the hack lift to the back power squat. My answer is: Do you want a big butt?

Then there's my habit of crossing one leg over the other while doing seated dumbbell curls. I do this to prevent the dumbbells from hitting my thighs! Frequently, I am asked if I really prefer the wide-grip parallel bar dips to bench pressing. My answer? You bet I do! Dips build the outer flair to the pectorals -- something no bench press will ever do. And what about my favorite way of chinning -- pulling upward until the bar and chest meet instead of the bar and chin? My way works the lats more thoroughly!

I am often asked what "burns" are since I recommend them. They are the addition of 3 to 4 half or quarter reps at the end of a set of an exercise. The motion involved is usually only 2 to 3 inches. The idea is to maximize the pump before ending the set. Actually, not every exercise should be concluded with burns. you have to work it out for yourself. Go by the feel of the movement. Ideal exercises to use burns on are Scott curls, CALF RAISES, chins, and dips. You probably wouldn't find them useful at the end of a set of bench presses, deadlifts, or squats. However, if you feel there's a benefit, you can give it a try on more exercises than you can imagine.

All of my recommendations -- whether for doing half-reps, mid-range curls, or eating two dozen eggs a day over certain period of time -- are me. They are the result of 40 years in the bodybuilding business, training myself and thousands of other men and women . . . day in and day out. Perhaps one day you will be able to improve on my bodybuilding methods. But for now they are the best there is. They are designed to build and shape the human body . . .

and isn't that what this sport is all about?


Developing the Lower Legs

My vote for the best-looking calves goes to Chris Dickerson. Somebody once told me that Dickerson's brother, who has never done any bodybuilding or weight training in his life, has lower-leg development even bigger than Chris's. So much for genetics! What makes a calf muscle look spectacular is the smallness of the knee and ankle. Dickerson has very small joints. Reeves had small knees; his ankles were a little more robust, but what a pair of lower legs he had! When he was winning contests, Reeves was just about the only guy who had that real diamond shape. Delinger, Grimek, and a few others had the size, but Steve Reeves had the size and shape.

If your calves aren't developing to your satisfaction, I'd suggest training them on a three-day cycle. Do a heavy workout the first day, a short pumping session the next, and rest them completely on the third day. The second-day pump actually stimulates recovery, because it forces blood into the muscles and pushes out waste products. As a general rule, calves require more reps than any other muscle in the body due to their great number of muscle fibers. The biceps have about 40,000 muscle fibers, while the calf muscle has over 1.2 million fibers in a concentrated area.

I've noticed that men with great calves can invariably get up on their toes like ballet dancers and stretch their heels well below them. I believe that you should be able to touch your heels to the floor when you are on a 4-inch block. And you should also be able to get fully up on your toes. Most of the weight should be on the first two toes. [If you have trouble getting up all the way on your toes, raise up as high as you currently can, then simply point your toes. This will raise your weight onto the toes and give you a stronger contraction. Master this first while doing seated raises, then work on the standing and bentover versions.]

Today we see more good calf development on bodybuilders than at any time in the past. I put this down to the fact that every gym now has both a standing and a sitting calf machine, whereas years ago they were rare. And if a gym did possess one, it invariably didn't have the capacity to offer a large amount of resistance. Like any muscle, the lower legs must be worked both regularly and progressively. Work them two or three times a week and make sure that you put the pressure on them to grow. Don't forget to stretch them out. You should see the range of motion that men like Boyer Coe have. He worked for it with stretches using no weight, and the results speak for themselves.

I have experimented for one year with heavy weights and low reps (10 reps) with no success. 20 reps is the answer. If you wish to develop the diamond peak of the calf, you must keep the knees slightly bent during the movement. Here are the exercises:

Donkey Calf Raise --
Stand on a 4-inch-high block about 24 inches back from a a table or bench about 3 feet high. The front end of some hyperextension benches work well for this. Place your forearms on the table and bare feet (toes) on the block. Have a workout partner sitting on your lower back. Lower your heels to a fully extended stretch position. Keep knees straight. Slowly raise to a contracted position with most of the weight on the big toe. Perform 12 strict reps and 8 pumping reps. Use "creative cheating" to maximize the pump (as explained above). If a workout partner is not available, or you train alone, other methods can be accessed. Attach a weight belt, and if the weight you can comfortably attach is too light for two-legged donkey raises, do them one leg at a time. Alternately, a Smith machine or vertical leg press can be adapted to this task.

Hack-Slide Calf Raise --
Face inward on a hack machine. Stand with your feet about 10 inches apart. Keep your knees locked and raise to the top position. Hold the full contraction for two seconds and then lower to starting position.

Seated Calf Raise --
Sit on a seated calf apparatus, or place a padded barbell over your knees (when using a barbell, you may have to exercise one leg at a time when heavy weights are worked up to). Place your hands in any position that is comfortable, or, if using the barbell, that aids in stabilizing it. Raise the weight by going up on the toes fully. Lower to a full stretch position so that the back of the lower legs really feel the stress. Your feet should be pointing slightly outward throughout the exercise.

Howorth Heel Raise --
Assume the standing calf raise position but have the feet approximately 16 inches back of the shoulders. The body should be angled about 80 degrees. Lower heels to the maximum stretch position and slowly raise to a fully contracted position on toes. Keep thrust coming from your big toes. Perform 12 strict repetitions followed by 8 midrange pumping reps (creative cheating).
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:21 AM   #2
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Great post BTB. If you are wanting to build an aesthetically looking body, Gironda is one to read. He is the king of fine tuning looks.
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