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I feel like my calves aren't gaining size proportionally to the rest of my body.

In terms of leg exercises, I do all the regular stuff like deadlifts, squats, and a bunch of isolation exercises, including calf raises. But calf raises only work in the sagittal plane of movement, i.e. forwards and backwards. I feel like I'm missing out on something by not having any calf exercises in the coronal plane (i.e. side to side).

It seems like calf size is very genetically inherited. The fat deposits on my calves aren't very big, so even when I'm bulking... Seems like building muscle is the only way for me to gain any reasonable size.

Do you know of any other stuff I can do to build more calf size?

  • I put my answer in, but I was thinking about this question today at the gym (gym nerd alert) and had the thought that you don't see a lot of guys with tons of leg development that have small calves. Huge glutes, huge quads, huge hamstrings, and small calves don't seem to happen together a lot. Some guy pulling 600lbs off the floor is going to have big calves. Just a thought / rambling. – Eric Jul 4 '15 at 0:18
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In the gym I'd recommend cleans and jump rope.

Cleans require you to jump and drive through your calves. I think folks who are doing cleans are putting a lot more load on their calves than the rather always-seems-goofy calf raise. Plus cleans are just awesome in their own right, although they're hard for some to learn (it took me a while).

The other I'd put in there is the jump rope. It's a great conditioning exercise and it's a lot of volume on your calves. Most of the hop is generated by the calves, and you use your calves to bounce on the way down.

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You can try doing single leg calf raise, it would require you to balance yourself front and back and side to side too, so that would work it pretty well. Also, have you tried doing more active type of exercises like jumping or running barefoot, which activates calves a lot and at the same time you have to use muscles in all planes due to the unilateral aspect of running.

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It seems like calf size is very genetically inherited

Anecdotally speaking, I think you may be correct. Some of us have one or more body parts that tend to be stubborn when it comes to gaining mass. Calves tend to be one of those body parts. I know it was for me.

I didn’t really see any improvement until I tried something different. I thought that I might be overtraining them, even though as a relatively small body part, it may seem you can’t. I started seeing improvement when I trained them indirectly. That is, I relied on the indirect stimulation from working other body parts, namely legs, to provide the stimulus. I still, however, occasionally train them directly, but, not as often as before. And, when I do, I vary the pointing of my toes to try to induce growth.

Nowadays, I use the stimulation I get while performing aerobic work (biking or rowing) to aid my calves. In my case, using the indoor rowing machine (ergometer) with proper form indirectly works my calves. The movement almost mimics a calf raise done horizontally. While the majority of the work targets the quads, there is some calf work done at the “catch” position through the "drive" of the rowing stroke.

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I think Eric Kaufman's answer is better, but a good exercise I found recently is jogging on my toes while intentionally pushing myself vertically up more than normal. I am tried to increase air time while running but noticed alot of soreness for just 30 min of doing this each time I do it; which is 2-3 times so far.

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