When I transition from studying music to studying exercise, I had to play catch up. Until that point, I was exercising like every other Bro at the gym, but I wanted to get better. As fortune (and iTunes) would have it, I discovered The FitCast early on, and made it my mission to listen to every single episode. It’s an invaluable resource for lay person and trainer alike, and I recommend it to all.
The FitCast is still one of my favorite resources, and you’re bound to get awesome exercise/nutrition/fitness/general badassery ideas from them. At some point in the past 257 episodes, Kevin and a guest declared an annual “Explosive Calf Raise Day”. That day is today. All hail the mighty calf!
If you’re goal is to have hyooge calves that attract people like magnets, then the explosive calf raise should be your go-to move. You’ll also find an extra boost in effectiveness if you call it an “Xplosive” calf raise. That capital X makes all of the difference in the world.
I’m just kidding; Calves are pretty small and should be low-priority in the grand scheme of things. They do a lot of work during the “big” lifts and throughout the day; any long staircase reminds you that of this. Thing is, I’m not one for counting locomotion as strength training or exercise. That’s like earning a participation trophy. Take the stairs, and then get to the gym.
Let’s go over some of my favorite exercises that light up your calves. None of them specifically isolate the calves, but they’ll certainly create a burning sensation in the back of your legs. We’re going to go in “typical” strength and conditioning order and start with a warm-up, a big bilateral lift, unilateral work, and conditioning. Let’s go:
The second you’re on one leg, your hip and lower leg musculature needs to help you stabilize, unless your goal is to introduce your face to the floor. I doubt that’s the case, and an movement drill like that a Walking Lunge/Single Leg Reach Combo can help you open up your hips and wake up your glutes while incorporating lower leg activity right off the bat.
After your warm-up and movement training, move on to a front squat. They’re awesome for several reasons:
- They’re a squat, and squats are totally awesome.
- Most of us can squat deeper when comparing front squats to back squats. The means you’ll move through a greater range of motion and you’re less likely to cut your squats high. High squats are just leg presses; cut it out.
- Front squats win on safety factor: It’s a lot easier to dump a bar forward than it is to dodge the one that is on your back.
Once you wrap up respectable sets of front squats, you’re ready for single leg work. What you’re doing may depend on your own programming or what a coach writes for you. I’m going to include two examples that you might want to try. One is an offset walking lunge, and the other is a single leg ValSlide SHELC.
The suitcase walking lunge includes an offset load to change hip stability and emphasize a core stability component; you’re staying tall the whole time and resisting the dumbbell or kettlebell pulling you sideways. Here’s an example:
In lieu of or in addition to that, you might include the offset walking lunge. Maintain tall posture the whole time, and make sure you have space to complete enough reps. Example:
You’ve done a big bilateral strength exercise, and at least one unilateral strength exercise. It’s time for some conditioning. You have several options, but one of my all-time favorites is sled pushes. You can complete them even when you’re tired because skill isn’t an issue, and commercial gyms are
realizing that treadmills suck adding new equipment; you’re probably going to find one at your facility. Load that sucker up with plates and push away:
If you’re trying to get carried away, pairing that with a farmers walk is going to smoke your core and grip strength, and include a calf component as well. After all, you’re going to be walking. Here’s an example:
The six exercises I’ve shared with you today can be used as an entire lower body training session, and each of those exercises can be used because they’ll have involvement from the calves. Most of your lower body training should be compound movements which include the calves, but it won’t hurt to include some emphasis on occasion.
You can get away with doing some XPlosive Calf Raises today to celebrate the holiday, but tomorrow they go back on my banned list. Give these 6 exercises a look and consider where you can include them in your training. Also, do yourself a favor and check out The Fitcast.