Building bigger calves is a key goal for any bodybuilder or muscle-minded athlete and gym-goer. Even if you're not looking to turn your calves into cows, making the muscles a little bigger can help to improve your physique and adds definition and musculature to your lower body. While you can make the calf muscle bigger through weight training, the size of your joints is determined by genetics. Forget about physically building bigger ankles and focus instead on making the most of your calves.
Muscles vs. Joints
Your joint size is genetic, so unfortunately if you were born with skinny ankles, that's the way it's going to stay. That being said, by building up your calves, you can make your whole lower-leg look bigger, which draws focus away from your ankles and will have people marvel in awe at your muscular calves instead.
Stubborn Calf Solution
When it comes to building muscle, calves can be one of the most stubborn areas, notes personal trainer Kassem Hanson of Functional Fit Mag. Most people don't train them with enough frequency, volume or intensity though, so increasing these three is your first port of call. Hanson advises either dedicating one whole session to calves each week or picking one exercise for three sets and adding this in to your sessions four or five times per week.
A Call for Calves
Picking the right exercises to hit your calves is vital and variety is key, according to strength coach Charles Poliquin. Include both straight and bent-leg moves in your routine. The former hit the gastrocnemius part of the calf and the latter hit the soleus section of the muscle. Straight-leg moves include standing calf raises on a machine or standing on a step while holding a dumbbell, as well as leg press calf raises and raises on a donkey calf machine. For bent-leg moves, use a seated calf machine or sit on a bench with weight plates on your thighs and perform raises.
Eat to Grow
You won't build any appreciable calf size unless you also address your diet. To get bigger and build lean muscle, trainer Nate Green of Scrawny to Brawny recommends forming healthy dietary habits. Drink a protein shake blended with almond milk, bananas, spinach and peanut butter every morning. For lunch, have two fist-worths of vegetables, a fist of starchy carbs and a serving of meat or fish twice the size of your palm and employ the same rules at dinner. Green recommends snacking between meals too and suggests boiled eggs, cold meat, nuts and fruit mid-morning and Greek yogurt with nuts, protein powder and dark chocolate mid-afternoon.