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The top reasons why your calves aren't growing and how to fix them

The top reasons why your calves aren't growing and how to fix them

Although they are often neglected in strength training, calves are crucial to athletic performance and aesthetics. You're not alone if you've been struggling to notice any appreciable increase in your calf muscles.

In this article, we'll examine the causes of poor and frustrating calf muscle growth and give you valuable tips and methods to help you get the desired growth.

Calf anatomy

It's crucial to understand the anatomy of your calf muscles first to understand how to grow them appropriately and thoroughly. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles make up the two main muscles of the calf.

The noticeable diamond-shaped bulge that develops when you flex your calves is caused by the larger of the two muscles, the gastrocnemius. It starts above the knee joint and connects to the heel through the Achilles tendon. The soleus muscle, on the other hand, is situated below the gastrocnemius and contributes more to stabilize the ankle joint.

The two calf muscles cooperate in providing control and power when performing actions like jumping, running, and walking. Each muscle has slightly different functions. The gastrocnemius muscle aids in pointing your toes down by causing the ankle joint to plantarflex. The soleus muscle, meanwhile, is principally in charge of supporting and preserving posture.

To appropriately target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, use exercises that isolate each muscle group.

Causes of slow growth in calves

The amount of muscle mass you can add to your calves is, unfortunately, heavily influenced by genetics. Some people are simply born with more calf muscle growth potential than others. Age can also be a factor. Your body becomes less efficient in building muscle as you age.

Numerous factors than age and genetics might affect how quickly calf muscles grow. These include:

  • Lack of variety: Repeatedly performing the same calf exercises might cause muscular growth to stagnate. Vary your exercises to challenge your calf muscles.
  • Poor form: Calf exercises might be less effective and result in slower muscle growth when performed with poor form.
  • Lack of volume: Because your body weight is carried by your calf muscles all day, they need much more volume to grow. A common mistake people make with their calves is not doing enough sets and reps.
  • Lack of frequency: The calf muscles need to be trained regularly to stimulate growth because they are used frequently in daily activities.
  • Lack of progression: Calf muscles won't grow without progressive overload. To keep your muscles challenged, you should progressively increase the weight or the number of reps you lift.

Genetics and calf muscle growth

Calf muscle growth is significantly influenced by genetics. Studies have revealed that a person's genetic makeup plays a significant role in determining the size and strength of their calves. This implies that regardless of their training regimen, some people may have a genetic predisposition to grow larger, more muscular calves than others.

The genetics of calf muscle growth is a complex and poorly understood topic. Yet, scientists have discovered several genes linked to the strength and size of the calf muscle. In one study, researchers from the University of Iowa found that a particular version of the ACE gene was associated with larger calf muscle size in both men and women.

The myostatin gene, which regulates muscle growth, has been examined in research concerning the size of the calf muscle. A myostatin gene mutation can cause increased muscle growth and a more muscular body generally, especially the calves, in some individuals.

Even if genetics influence the development of calf muscles, it's essential to remember that exercise and proper diet are still crucial for growing muscular, defined calves. If you consistently train and eat a well-balanced diet, you can still get bigger calves even if you don't have a genetic predisposition toward them.

Genetics definitely play a significant role in calf muscle size and strength. However, training and nutrition are still essential for making progress.
Dr. Brad Schoenfeld (Fitness expert and author)

How quickly calves grow

One of the most often asked questions among fitness enthusiasts is how quickly people can expect to see results from their training.

The answer to calf muscle growth is not straightforward, as it depends on multiple aspects, like genetics, the intensity of training, and frequency.

According to research, calf muscles grow more slowly than other muscles in the body. This is the case because slow-twitch muscle fibers, which comprise most of the calf muscles, are more resistant to hypertrophy than fast-twitch fibers. Also, the calf muscles are constantly working to support the body's weight, making it harder to build muscle.

It often takes several weeks to several months of consistent training to see measurable gains in calf muscle size. Based on each person's unique genetics and training regimen, this can, however, vary between individuals. While some people might experience results more quickly, others might require more time to make the same amount of development.

Volume and training frequency for calf muscle growth

It's not just about the exercises you perform. It's also about the volume and frequency of your workouts when building your calf muscles. You must give the muscles enough stimuli for adaptation and growth to stimulate muscular growth.

  1. Volume for calf muscle growth

    The volume describes the work performed during a workout, including the number of sets, reps, and weights. Increasing volume has been shown to boost muscle hypertrophy, or growth, in various muscles, including calves.

    According to one study, performing four sets of calf raises with a heavy load (80% of your one-rep max) led to more significant gains in muscle mass than performing two sets with a lighter load (20% of your one-rep max). This implies that higher volumes and heavier loads are more efficient at stimulating calf muscle growth.

    To prevent overtraining and injury, it's crucial to remember that volume should be increased gradually over time. Volume should only be increased by no more than 10% per week, as a basic rule.

  2. Training frequency for calf muscle growth

    How frequently you exercise your calves each week is called training frequency. Training your calf muscles frequently will help them grow as much as possible. Because the calves are so resistant to fatigue compared to other muscles, they can be worked out more regularly without running the risk of overtraining.

    According to studies, two to three times a week is more effective for muscle growth in the calves than once a week. Training them more frequently enables them to execute more work, resulting in more muscular growth.

    To avoid plateauing and keep your muscles challenged, you should vary your exercises, rep ranges, and training frequency.

  3. Bringing everything together

    Including volume and training frequency in your workout routine is critical to promote calf muscle growth. This means that the amount of work should slowly increase over time, and the calves should be worked out two to three times a week.

Strategies for growing your calves

You can apply a few essential strategies to grow your calves and maximize your gains.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make calf training a priority: If you want your calves to grow, your workout regimen needs to include calf training as a top priority. Instead of treating calf exercises as an afterthought, dedicate time and attention to them. Do isolated exercises to strengthen your calves.
  • Use progressive overload: The foundation of the muscular building is progressive overload. To consistently challenge your muscles and promote growth involves progressively increasing the weight or intensity of your workouts over time.

    Try gradually increasing the weight of your calf exercises, adding sets or reps, or reducing rest periods to apply this approach to your calf training.

  • Vary your exercises: Your calf muscles are made up of different muscle fibers, so you must include a variety of exercises in your training plan to target each of those fibers.

    Calf raises, donkey calf raises, and seated calf raises are a few calves exercises that work well.

    Download the Alpha Progression app for a more extensive selection of exercises.

  • Increase training frequency: The calf muscles may withstand more frequent training than other muscle groups because they are used frequently in daily activities like walking and jogging. To help stimulate muscle growth, consider increasing your calf training frequency to 2-3 times per week.
  • Including high-rep sets: Adding high-rep sets to your calf training can be helpful for muscle growth in addition to the strength-building benefits of heavy weight and low reps. To truly fatigue the muscles and encourage growth, aim for sets of 15-20 repetitions.
  • Proper form: Good form and technique are crucial for successful calf training, so pay attention. Keep your feet hip-width apart, push through the balls of your feet, and lift the weight without bouncing or using momentum.

You may target and stimulate growth in your calf muscles by incorporating these techniques into your calf training regimen. Although calf growth can require time and commitment, remember to be consistent and patient in your efforts.


The growth of calf muscles is a complex process that is controlled by a variety of factors, including genetics, exercise selection, volume, and frequency.

There is no one-size-fits-all method for improving the size and strength of your calves, but combining exercises that work the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, progressively increasing training volume and frequency, and using progressive overload over time will provide noticeable results.

Maintaining proper nutrition, hydration, and recovery habits is the best way to maximize muscle growth and avoid injury. You can obtain the required build muscular, impressive calves by adhering to these tips and consistently challenging your calves with various exercises.

Prioritize your calf training if you want better calves. The Alpha Progression app can help you achieve your goal. With the app, you can create a workout plan tailored to your goals and focus on your calves.