So we already know that barbell squats pack on more mass than air squats; no mystery there. But I am wondering about the role that calves play in both of these. I have heard air squats involve minimal calf use, while barbell squats stress them out a lot. Is this true; and why would this be? Is it simply because of the extra weight?
Somehow 'yes' - but the sad truth is, that both of the squats don't do too much to icrease the size of the calves, the most development (rather minimal) you will get from Olympic-style squating because they get better streched while under load, but are acting more as a dynamic stabilizer than synergist. As we know if we put a muscle under load and stretch and contract it, it grows. For bigger calves I would rather count on high intensity and volume + direct and isolated work and giving it the right priority ex. first exercise after warm up.