For Men’s Health Fitness Director B.J. Gaddour, the calf struggle is real.
Men with calves that sit high up on their lower leg—like Gaddour’s do—have trouble making the muscles appear bigger, no matter how much time they spend in the gym.
Most of this is due to genetics, and the length of the tendon that runs from your ankle up to your calf muscle. (Men with shorter tendons have calves that take up more real estate, so the muscles automatically look larger.)
But there are certain things you can do during a calf raise to maximize your gains, he says.
1. Train slow. Most men want to crank out their reps. When you go at a quick clip, however, the work shifts from your calf muscle to your powerful Achilles tendon.
2. Focus on the eccentric. Take at least 3 seconds to lower down every rep. This creates prolonged time under tension, spurring muscle growth.
3. Pause at the top of the rep and squeeze your calf for max contraction.
4. Pause at the bottom of the rep for max stretch.
5. Perform your reps on one leg at a time. This forces the calf of the working leg to carry more of your body weight. Watch the video above to see Gaddour perform the calf raise, and to find out how to program it into your own workout.