How to train the calf muscles

In general, the calf muscles are one of the most difficult to train. To do this, you have to design a training program that helps maximize the growth of these muscles. But, in order to come up with it, it is important first to know those factors that have to be taken into account and how they affect the different variables.

To train the twins , we must understand how to train them; therefore, we have to know its anatomy, the regional anatomy; as well as the movement and resistance they need to grow, among other factors.

Discover the correct way to train the twins .

Guide to training the twins

1. Anatomy of the twins

The calf muscles are known as the gastrocnemius-soleus complex , the triceps surae, and the calves. The group comprises the gastrocnemius (medial and lateral head) and soleus, in addition to the much smaller plantar, which is not present in all humans.

The largest calf muscles vary in size, with the soleus being the largest. One study found that the soleus, medial gastrocnemius, and lateral gastrocnemius accounted for approximately 52%, 32%, and 16% of total calf muscle volume, and approximately 62%, 26%, and 12% of total calf muscle (Albracht, Arampatzis and Baltzopoulos, 2008).

Thus, despite the fact that it lies deep in the lateral gastrocnemius, and is therefore less obvious to the eye, the soleus actually provides the largest contribution to calf muscle size.

2. Regional anatomy of the calf muscles

Research on the medial gastrocnemius has determined that it contains a single unipininate region, with muscle bundles ranging from origin to insertion. However, it may appear bipinnate due to the central location of the tendon, which means that the fascicles on the lateral and medial sides of the muscle curve inward toward insertion (Wolf and Kim, 1997).

Although data for the lateral gastrocnemius are sparse, it seems likely that it shows a fairly similar appearance. In contrast, anatomical studies of the soleus have revealed two separate regions , a bipinnate anterior region and a posterior unipennate posterior region. Even so, there is substantial variation between individuals and the larger soleus is more likely to show distinct regions (and therefore benefit from multiple exercises) than the two gastrocnemius heads (Finni et al., 2003).

2.1 Muscular subdivision of the twins

The muscles can be subdivided into functional regions that are activated in response to the need to perform different tasks. This probably occurs in tandem with the varying length of the arm at the internal moment of the various regions (because muscles and muscle regions appear to be recruited according to their mechanical advantage). It also requires motor units to control the muscle fibers that are grouped within those regions.

Several investigations using surface electromyography (EMG) have found evidence indicating that the human medial gastrocnemius muscle shows regional activation , and that said regional activation is linked to the performance of specific and different tasks (Vieria, Loram & Farina, 2011).

3. Length of internal moment arm

The calf muscles have internal plantar flexion moment arms . The length of these internal moment arms can theoretically change with the angle of the ankle.

Some investigations carried out have determined that the length of the arm of the internal moment of plantar flexion of the calf muscle does not change substantially with the angle of the ankle joint (Klein, Mattys and Rooze, 1996). However, other studies have found that it increases with the plantar flexion angle, so it is greater at shorter muscle lengths.

Unfortunately, since the calf muscles share a common insertion point in the Achilles tendon, little work has been devoted to understanding the differences in the arm length of the internal moment of each individual muscle.

3.1 Muscle activation of the calves

It seems highly likely that the calf muscles evolved to function optimally when walking, this is reflected in their tendency to display long internal moment arm lengths for plantar flexion.

During the gait cycle of walking, the ankle joint begins at a moderate level of plantar flexion on contact with the ground, reaches a moderate level of dorsiflexion during the initial posture phase, then reverses to a high level of flexion. plant in late position.

Still, when walking, the calf muscles are primarily active during the first half of the posture phase, and are largely inactive thereafter. They do not act to propel the body’s center of mass forward at the end of the gait cycle as they do during running. But, interestingly, some studies have determined that the angle of rotation of the hip can affect the relative activation of the medial and lateral gastrocnemius during plantar flexion.

Specifically, while the medial gastrocnemius typically has a much higher activation than the lateral gastrocnemius (probably due to its larger size), internal rotation of the hip (so that the toes point inward) can increase the contribution. of the lateral gastrocnemius to force production by increasing its activation (Cibulka, Wenthe & Strube, 2017).

Similarly, external rotation of the hip (when the toes point outward) can increase the contribution of the medial gastrocnemius to force production by increasing activation. This effect can occur due to changes in the length of the arm from the internal moment of the affected muscles.

4. Working lengths of the sarcomere

Some limited research has studied the working sarcomere length ranges of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. This research indicates that the two muscle groups contain sarcomeres that work on the ascending limb, plateau, and descending limb of the length-tension relationship. However, the gastrocnemius appears to start down the ascending limb and also appears to extend further down the descending limb.

If we compare the muscles of the quadriceps, those that obtain sarcomeres that reach lower the descending limb of the length-tension relationship experience a higher level of hypertrophy when exposed to active stretching. Therefore, we should expect the gastrocnemius to show greater increases in muscle fiber length and diameter than the soleus. However, this does not happen. In fact, it shows a greater increase in size than the gastrocnemius.

4.1 Why does the soleus experience greater growth?

This can be explained in two ways:

  1. It is possible that current measurements of sarcomere length ranges are inaccurate, and that the soleus actually does have sarcomeres that reach lower down the descending limb of the length-tension relationship than does the gastrocnemius.
  2. It is possible that the proportionally larger soleus size leads your motor units to be recruited to a preferential degree greater than the gastrocnemius during voluntary submaximal calf muscle contractions.

Speaking in other words, bodybuilders have used the phenomenon of active insufficiency for years, training the soleus with seated calf raises . This position helps shorten the gastrocnemius, which is a flexor of the knee.

Since these two muscles show active insufficiency over short distances, this exercise is likely to place the gastrocnemius in a greater degree of active insufficiency than the soleus in a greater part of the exercise range of motion; therefore, it allows the soleus to contribute to a greater measure.


Calf muscles are very difficult to train, since increasing their size requires a lot of work. But not only is it a lot of exercise, but it is also important to know the muscles that make up the calves , in this way you will determine which exercises are most beneficial for your training and muscle development.

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