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Thread: Calf raises

  1. #1
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    Default Calf raises

    I'm trying to understand the focus that so many people put on calf raises, of various forms, in the gym and even on sites that favor the big lifts (like T-Nation). Let's exclude anyone who is into bodybuilding and just focus on strength.

    On a recent article at T-Nation about assistance lifts helping with strength development and trying to set PR's in the big lifts, the suggested routine still had calf raises as a regular staple of the program.

    Now, maybe it is the fact that I have big, strong calves and have never focused on isolation work that makes me skeptical. But, maybe it is the fact that I have never seen a comment on this forum from anyone that suggests calves as a reason for failure on a squat or deadlift.

    Also, I believe I have heard/seen you comment before that calves are largely a function of genetics.

    So, forgetting bodybuilding, are the calves ever the root issue in compound lift?

    I say "no" but am I missing a unique situation? (Although that would still not explain the program recommendation for the general population..)

  2. #2
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    I have never seen calf work make a difference in competitive strength for a lifter. They obviously cross the knee and therefore both plantar flex the ankle and flex the knee, but they get enough work stabilizing the ankle angle in the squat and the deadlift/clean that assistance work is just useful for vanity purposes.

  3. #3
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    Might it be useful for jumping? Plantar flexion is part of the triple extension of a jump, so wouldn't calf strength be useful for that?

    Also, wouldn't it be useful for the second pull in the power clean?

  4. #4
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    The plantar flexion observed in the "triple extension" of a pull or a jump is more an artifact of the full extension of the hips and knees than it is the active attempt to jump using the gastroc/soleus. The "on the toes" cue is sometimes useful for causing the pull to be finished in full extension, but training the calves -- Baby Cows, as Starr calls them -- is seldom a productive way to spend time in the gym.

  5. #5
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    My calves are beat to shit after heavy squats, and I've gained an inch and a half on them from just that. I don't have genetically bad calves but they are no means the monsters I see on some people.

  6. #6
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    Now, I know this isn't your area of interest or focus, what do you think their role would be in running... be it sprinting or more distance stuff?

    In my personal experience, lower legs/calves were always a weak link on efficiency. Yes, the big leg muscles do most of the work, however the calves contribute substantially to things like efficiency and leg turnover. So they behave sort of like a spring... the more rigid the spring is, the bigger the "bounce" you get with each step. again... just my anecdotal experience here, which isn't worth much.

    As a collegiate runner, I never trained calves with weights at all... but then again we didn't really train much of anything with weights. So, I'm curious what your opinion is on this.

  7. #7
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    I know vanity is not your cup of tea, BUT......... is there a way to encourage my precious Baby Cows to grow beyond what would be possible with heavy squats and gaining 100 lbs bodyweight? Do you think calf raises actually help them grow for someone who does not take steroids and has shitty calf genetics?

    Not that I was gonna do them anyway...

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    The plantar flexion observed in the "triple extension" of a pull or a jump is more an artifact of the full extension of the hips and knees than it is the active attempt to jump using the gastroc/soleus. The "on the toes" cue is sometimes useful for causing the pull to be finished in full extension, but training the calves -- Baby Cows, as Starr calls them -- is seldom a productive way to spend time in the gym.
    Calf raises are a sure-fire way for someone interested in jumping well to end up with Achilles problems; I've seen it time after time.

    The only training you want besides well programmed resistance training is SILENT jumping practice.

    If you land a box jump; and I can hear you land from across the gym... You're fucking doing it wrong. Ditto any other plyo work.

    Also, I recommend stepping forwards off a box for box jumps, and resetting from there... For the longevity of your ankles.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweakxc03 View Post
    Now, I know this isn't your area of interest or focus, what do you think their role would be in running... be it sprinting or more distance stuff?

    In my personal experience, lower legs/calves were always a weak link on efficiency. Yes, the big leg muscles do most of the work, however the calves contribute substantially to things like efficiency and leg turnover. So they behave sort of like a spring... the more rigid the spring is, the bigger the "bounce" you get with each step. again... just my anecdotal experience here, which isn't worth much.
    I think there is a good body of evidence that the achilles tendon is as responsible for the rebound effect/elastic deformation storage/force turnaround as the gastroc/soleus complex, and in some animals more so than humans. Some calf training may be helpful for a sprinter. I am not a sprint coach.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guillaume View Post
    I know vanity is not your cup of tea, BUT......... is there a way to encourage my precious Baby Cows to grow beyond what would be possible with heavy squats and gaining 100 lbs bodyweight? Do you think calf raises actually help them grow for someone who does not take steroids and has shitty calf genetics?
    It is widely recognized in bodybuilding circles that calves are genetic. Sorry.

  10. #10
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    I am going to jump on the genetics train for this. I always had very well developed calves in my younger days, and I certainly did not do calf raises to get them. What I did do, was a lot of sprinting and jumping. I was one of 3 girls on the basketball team who could touch rubber on the backboard. Not bad for a short chick. Though, with a proper weight training program, or any weight training program, I could have gone farther in sports. Oh well.

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