The calves are an often forgotten muscle. They do play a big role in athletic performance but also looks when wearing shorts. You figured out your calves are lagging behind your other muscles so you’re wondering if it’s possible to train the calves every day to make them grow faster. Here’s what you want to know:
Calves shouldn’t be trained with high intensity every day. The muscles and tendons won’t have enough time to recover which can lead to injuries. 3 workouts a week, evenly spaced throughout the week, with high intensity gives the body enough time to fully recover before the next workout.
Why you should train calves hard every day and what you can do to grow them as fast as possible can be found below.
Can You Train Calves Every day?
You have to use pretty much all of your muscles every day. There is nothing wrong with that and it’s necessary to maintain a basic level of muscle mass and central nervous system control. If you’ve ever had an arm or leg in a cast for a few weeks, you know that the muscle in that body part has getting a lot smaller at the end.
So normal use of any muscle every day is not a problem. However, we’re not talking about normal use here, we’re talking about training. Said simply, training is using a muscle to beyond what is normal for the purpose of letting it get used to use beyond normal. Doing this is a signal for the body to make the muscle bigger and/or stronger.
However, muscle growth doesn’t actually happen when you lift weights, it happens after. Yes a muscle might look bigger after a good training session but this is temporary. It’s just extra blood being sent to the muscle which gives it a fuller appearance.
What happens in practice when you ask a muscle to do something beyond what it’s used to is that the muscle fibers start breaking down or get damaged. This is a normal process and nothing to be scared of but you should be aware of it.
The damage to the muscle fibers activates different processes in your body that repair the muscles. This repair process is actually what grows the muscle. The body fuses two ends of a muscle fibre together with new protein which is what adds mass.
This is a process that doesn’t happen immediately and takes a while. The more damage you did by training, the longer the recovery process takes. How quickly your body recovers also depends on; age, gender, diet, sleep, other activity and hormone levels.
In general, it takes about 24 hours after a light workout for the muscle to recover. For more intense workouts 2 or 3 days is expected but if you went really hard, even longer is possible. If you train a muscle before you’re fully recovered, there is a good chance the result is actually detrimental.
Those are averages though. Some muscles just recover faster than others. The main thing is size; big muscles recover slower than smaller ones. Calves are not the largest muscle in the lower body but still bigger than the biceps for examples. Also, in most people, calves tend to lag behind because they require a lot of training volume to actually grow. So you have to get quite a bit of training volume but also want to give the muscle time to recover.
That means for calves 2-3 workouts a week with 16-20 heavy sets spread out over those workouts is optimal for muscle growth. The workouts should be evenly spaced throughout the week. That way you get enough training volume for growth while also having enough time to recover.
Potential Problems Training Calves Every day
As explained above, training calves daily is not optimal for muscle growth. In the end it has to do with how quickly you can recover. The higher the training intensity, the longer the recovery time. So it largely depends on the intensity you train your calves with if it’s a problem. You could train calves every day if the intensity is low enough. However, by training a muscle every day without breaks, can lead to certain injuries and might not even give you the result you want.
For calves, training three times a week is enough as long as you use moderate to high intensity. More workouts than that is a bit of a waste of time that could be used to train other things. Three high intensity workouts is going to be more effective than daily low intensity sessions. Besides not getting any more muscle growth, there are actually a few other problems with training your Calves every day without breaks;
- You could get weaker: If a muscle is not recovered properly, it can’t produce as much force
- Joint and/or tendon pain: Tendons and joints don’t get a lot of blood flow compared to muscles. That means they get less nutrients and this means longer recovery time. Even if your muscles would keep up, your joints and tendons might not.
- It will detract from your other training: You’ll have less time, energy and recovery potential left for other muscle groups.
Training your Calves two or three times a week with higher intensity is more sustainable than doing a light workout every day unless that workout is light enough to not actually result in much muscle growth.
Is Training Calves Everyday Good For Muscle Growth?
For growing a calves, more volume is often the right way to go. Most people don’t do enough training volume (sets and reps) to get good results. If you do it every day, you can do more sets and repetitions so will that lead to more muscle growth?
As you can read above, muscles need time to recover. Muscles grow because your body repairs the torn muscle fibers and adds new proteins to ‘glue’ the ends back together. If you put your Calves through another hard workout, you are potentially tearing muscle fibers that haven’t been fully repaired yet + more which means the recovery will take longer.
That means you might be undoing recovery work your body hadn’t finished yet and setting yourself back. If you start the next workout when a muscle is fully recovered, you can use more force and intensity which means more muscle tearing and more growth. How long that takes is different for everyone but it’s probably not the next day. (Unless you’re using performance enhancing drugs)
On top of that, you dramatically increase the risk of injury by training the same muscle hard every day. If you get injured, this will set you back more than getting in that extra workout it worth (which isn’t actually much).
Calf muscles need a lot of training volume to grow but daily workouts is not the way to go to get them to grow. Doing more training volume in fewer workouts is better.
How to improve Calves Muscle Growth?
Of course you still want all the muscle gains and you want them now. What can you do to optimize your calf workouts and get the most out of them?
There are two parts to this calf growth equation: During your workout and after.
During the workout
While working out, that’s your chance to signal your body that it has to grow the muscle. Here are some ways you can do this best.
- Use the right intensity (Sets, repetitions and weight). Calves are strong (they can lift your body many times without problems) so don’t be afraid to use heavy weights on exercises you load up.
- Aim to do about 7-8 challenging sets per workout. This means with exercises directly targeting the calves. Warmup sets don’t count. If you’re just starting out, aim for 6 heavy sets per workout for the first few weeks.
- Use 3 different exercises during one workout.
- Use progressive overload. (Increase weight or repetitions every workout)
- Use different exercises that target different parts of the calves (it’s not just one muscle)
- Use a mix of heavy weight/low repetitions and light(er) weight/high repetitions.
- Don’t rest too long between sets. Muscle growth is optimal with 30-90 seconds rest between sets.
- Stop 2 repetitions before failure. If you have a lot more left, do more reps or increase the weight. If you can’t make the reps, reduce the weight.
If you’re interested in the optimal training volume for calves, check out this article from Renaissance periodization.
After The workout
As you can read above, the actual growth of the muscle happens in the 1-3 days after the workout. So after you gave your body the signal to repair the Calves, now it’s time to give your body the best chance to actually do this. Muscle recovery is a very complicated topic and not possible to fit into a few paragraphs. On top of that, everyone is different and has different needs for recovery. That said, here are some general pointers that help everyone recover.
- Take enough time off between working out the Calves: As you can see above, 2-3 workouts spaced out evenly throughout the week is best.
- Sleep more: Most recovery happens during sleep. Sleeping more means your body has more time to work.
- Eat enough calories: To gain muscle, you’ll have to eat slightly more calories than you use during the day. A 200 calorie surplus is a good place to start.
- Eat enough protein: Muscle is mostly made up of protein. Giving your body enough means there is more building material available for repairs. There is no need to go overboard, aim for +-1.6 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.
- Make sure to get enough micronutrients: The body doesn’t only use macronutrients to work and grow. It’s best to eat a complete nutrient dense diet but supplements are a good option too (but not a replacement for healthy foods).
If you notice fatigue and can’t recover quickly enough, adjusting the factors above doesn’t help and you absolutely want to focus on growing your calves, consider reducing training other body parts. You body has only so much capacity to recover, no matter how good the circumstances. Reducing the training of other body parts means there is more capacity to recover the Calves.