Last Update  On January 5, 2012
Calves And Genetics

or why high-insertion calves just don't grow

by Vladi
Calves are one of those muscles that either grow from nothing or don't grow at all. The main reason for this is of course the genetic potential of the individual. I will tell you something that most of you may already know - the guys with the biggest calves almost don't train them. Why?

It's simple. The guys with the greatest calves have extremely long muscle bellies - the muscle appears to attach so low, almost to the heel and the Achilles tendon is super short. Those guys/girls have no problem getting their calves crazy big just from walking and basic low-intensity exercises. The bigger the muscle the more potential it has to grow. You can't change the number of muscle fibers. You can only make them bigger. On the other hand if you have too long tendons there's not much muscle to grow in the first place.

My observations are that most sprinters and runners in general have high calves and long Achilles tendons. Experts believe that tendons act like rubber bands - they absorb the force and return it, just like a a rubber band, and the longer the rubber band (the tendon), the more force it can produce.
As you can see Ben Johnson, Wariner Jeremy, Usain Bolt and Tommie Smith have high calves insertions. I don't think it's a coincidence.
And if you look at most successful runners most of them will have high calves insertion and small calves in general. There are exceptions of course but they are quite rare especially on elite level.

Of course there are studies ignoring this fact and suggesting that this is not the end of the story but in the past many running coaches were looking for people with high calves insertions. Some people speculate that the main reason for that are not the calves but rather the rest of the physical qualities that are usually seen in people with high calves - less bodyfat, longer legs, long glutes, lighter built in general. All of those seem to be important for world class runners.

On the other hand high calves have very small potential for muscular growth and take forever to build. There are  world class bodybuilders with great overall bodies and small calves - Ronnie Coleman, Jonhnie Jackson, Dexter Jackson and so on. I don't think it's a coincidence that most of the bodybuilders with high calves and world class sprinters and runners are Afro-Americans. They are just built to
Dexter Jackson with calve implantants or oil injections
Dexter Jackson without calve implantants or oil injections.
Don't be surprised if some professional builders have calves smaller than the those of your fat uncle. It's genetics. Do you think that a professional bodybuilder would ignore his lower legs? No. Do you think that if a person taking steroids and what not can't make his calves any larger you would be able to naturally? Hell no. Some of them would even use some kind of implantants in order to make their lower legs match their quads and hamstrings. It happens more often than you would think. Some people even accused Arnold for doing something similar because at the beginning of his career he had sucky calves and used to avoid poses that would reveal his weak body-part. Later his calves mysteriously exploded. To be honest I couldn't find much information on this subject so to this day people argue whether he used something or found a better way to train. Who cares? It's 2012 already.

As a person with high-calves born in a family with huge calves I used to feel “fucked up” because my mother, father and sister have big calves from watching TV while I was training them. In case you are wondering - No, I wasn't adopted.

I tried a lot of things - rest-pause, heavy negatives, static holds, farmer walks on my toes and what not. Guess what? Zero growth. The only thing I have never tried however is to train them 3-4 times a week as many people seem to recommend. I used to think that 2 times is more than enough. Time will prove if I was wrong. At the same time I share all other running genetics - long legs, narrow hips, long and high glutes, ectomorph body type..etc. Too bad I'm too old to start running competitively.

This article is not meant to discourage you from improving your calves but this is the reality. If you have high calves they may never grow to the size you would like them to. It's not your fault.

Nature gives and takes and in the end of the day we can't have it all.

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