For years I’ve heard … in order to build the inner calf, turn the toes in and turn them out for outer calf. Obediently, I’ve gone along until I grew frustrated with poor response.
I never felt any difference from one toe position to the other. After a lot of fiddling around, I found the knee and hip position were the important parts rather than how the feet were placed.
I learned if the knee was bent, you hit the outside of the calf and if the knee was locked out, you hit both the inside and the outside. Further, if the body was bent over at the waist (as in Donkey calf raises) the intensity increased tremendously along with the gains.
I was never sure why until I got a dissection book showing actual cadavers with the skin removed. Then I could see what was happening.
The hamstrings come down from the upper leg and hook around and up under the heads of the gastrocnemius for their insertion points. That’s why, when the body is bent over at the waist, the tightened hamstrings pull up on the heads of the gastrocnemius. This gives much better pre-stretch than when standing erect.
Our recent workshop enabled me to share firsthand these concepts on donkey calf raises. Picking someone out of the audience, I asked Robert May to give me a hand. “Take off your shoes and socks first.” You need a calf machine with a pulley that comes right from the ground and a calf block padded with gum rubber.
“This is the way to build calves … Nothing better!”
Alright, place your feet just far enough off the block so you can hit the ground with your heels and … bend over at the waist with your hands resting on the pad so your upper body is just parallel with the floor.
Now stretch those calves out until the heels touch the floor.
“They won’t go down that far.”
“Yes, they will. Get your feet farther off the block until you are just hanging on with your toes. That’s it. Now you are hitting the bottom aren’t you?”
You need that full pre-stretch. Now raise up on your toes. All the way up until your instep “flips through and you are completely at bone support.”
Rest a minute while I explain this important detail. Normally, this high position along with your bare feet would cause pain on the bottom of the foot. That’s why you have the gum rubber on the calf block so you won’t get any pain from the sole of the foot. Also, as long as you still have tension on the calves they can’t get a fresh shot of blood. If your ankles don’t make it to “bone support” at the top you’ll have to do all 20 reps without fresh oxygen.
You need fresh blood to carry away the lactic acid. Remember red muscle fiber requires high reps to grow, so you want a fresh shot of blood each rep to increase your endurance. “Try it again.” I urged.
Now try leaning a little forward to increase the stretch on your lower calves.
Remember, when you just walk around you are doing one legged, half rep, calf raises. You need a movement which the calves aren’t accustomed to … to make ’em grow.
Donkeys will bring life to your calf program when done in this fashion. Give them a try with this kind of movement. You’ll love the new growth.