As most ectomorphs, I have calf muscles with extremely high insertions (long Achilles tendons). As a result, my lower legs and ankles have always been skinny looking. Naturally, my awareness of this fact increased when I joined the muscle game.
Sadly, high calves just can’t grow in the cases I have observed. There’s overwhelming evidence suggesting that calf growth is at least 90% genetic.
ARE HIGH CALVES BUILT FOR SPEED?
Most sprinters have tremendously short calf muscles. In the photo below you can see the lower leg muscles of the sprinter Shawn Crawford.
Pay special attention to the length of the muscle. Similar insertions make his lower legs look like two fragile sticks even though they are not.
According to some, high calves are more suitable for sprinting and jumping since the Achilles tendons act like rubber bands – the longer the rubber band, the higher the power generated on the way back.
However, in this article, which focuses on the issue in detail, the author suggests that small calves are not that beneficial to sprinting. The material states that the actual benefits are the other physical characteristics that most people with high calves share – short torso, long legs (high hips), narrow hips, lighter bone structure. Those structural qualities are more important for running fast than having small calves.
My logical conclusion is that high calves just don’t have a good potential for growth. When a muscle group is short, there are not many fibers to grow in the first place.
Hey, NattyOrNot, do you even sprint?
I have a perfect body for sprinting. Ironically, the only time I have actually exerted some sprinting effort was when I was trying to get out of my permabulking state.
I went for a run in the yard of an old and forgotten school. It’s the type of place that makes you extra vigilant, but not because you are scanning the sexual material running around. It’s the fear of getting robbed that forces you to be attentive.
Anyway, I remember my fat gut bouncing up and down while I was running as fast as I could. The next day my hamstrings felt like they have endured some kind of medieval torture. This is probably the most profound soreness I have ever experience in my whole life. My calves, however, behaved as if nothing had happened. This proves once again that the true sprinting speed comes from the posterior chain which is the reason you will never meet a sprinter with underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings.
WHAT ABOUT PROFESSIONAL BODYBUILDERS?
There are even more facts showing that high calves are extremely unlikely to grow. A good example would be professional bodybuilders like Dennis Wolf and Johnnie Jackson. They are both massive and yet their calfs are underdeveloped.
It would be naive to believe that bodybuilders (people doing the craziest things on the planet to gain muscle mass) would have small calves because “they don’t train them right.”
Don’t you really think that a professional bodybuilder and his trainers are more educated on the subject than the average gym rat reading FLEX magazine?
Bodybuilders with small calves are well aware of the fact that there are teenage girls with bigger lower legs.
Are you telling me that even steroids can’t help in the fight against high calves?
It seems that way. Every bodybuilder with small calves has high insertions. Conversely, every bodybuilder with massive calves has mid to low insertions.
As Lyle McDonald states in this article, the calves have a low concentration of androgen receptors. This explains their poor response to steroids.
Everybody knows that your traps and shoulders blow up when you are on gear. Well, the same obviously does not hold true for the lower legs. Consequently, even the insane steroid dosages of professional bodybuilders fail to produce the needed growth.
What about fat people? They told me that if I get fat as hell, my calves will get monstrous…
If you have calves with high insertions and thin ankles, you are most likely an ectomorph with a small frame (not to be confused with being short). This means that you are less likely to reach something like 30% body fat.
You can still get fat as hell if you are willing to eat a ton, though. Guess what will happen? You will acquire a big fat gut. Your calves will remain small as far as actual muscle size is concerned. Water and fat do not count.
It’s true that there are many fat people with enormous lower legs, but every single time they have low insertions and good overall genetics for growth (thick bones) in the first place. When you add 100 pounds of extra fat, those suckers will grow from taking all that lard to the park.
Does this mean that I should give up on having huge calves?
You could do anything you want, but if they are puny because of genetics, they will remain small. As you can see, there is plenty of evidence pointing in that direction.
I used to do about 10 sets on the standing calf machine followed by 10 sets on the seated calf machine for many months. Nothing happened. My father still has calves three times the size of mine without training at all. He is over 30 years older too. How is this even possible? Better insertions for growth and bigger ankles
The only exception that I have ever seen to the rule is Michael Lockett. He also has high calves, but they are very well-developed. But even in his case, you can see that they are relatively weak compared to the rest of him.
But Arnold says that I need to work on my calves for 500 hours before complaining…
Oh, brother! Don’t say!
I know the story. Arnold had small calves, took river photos to hide them, then trained under the wing of Reg Park and returned with water melons. The truth, however, is as follows: Arnold never had truly weak calves. They were average and with good insertions, which is why they responded so well to training.
Don’t be sad!
At the end of the day, there are more serious issues than the size of your calves. Trust me, you will get over it.