Building great calves is notoriously difficult for even the fittest body builders. Unfortunately, not only do weak calves make you look disproportional, but strong calf muscles are necessary to keep the rest of your body in balance and working at its best.

Experts at reiterate this, saying, “It’s vital that your calves support you through every movement or you risk serious injury. Likewise, it does little good to train the rest of your body but leave your calves alone. You won’t be able to effectively stabilize the weights you’re moving and lifting outside of general workouts.”

Read on to learn how to make your good calves great calves, keeping your body in balance and injury free.

The Calf Conundrum

There are a number of reasons why your calves may be lacking in size, which range from bad genetics to neglecting this muscle group at the gym. And though many are left feeling perplexed, there is one simple solution to building great calves: breaking your calf workouts down into the various muscle groups, ensuring that you’re targeting each part of the calf to form tight and strong lower legs.

Working Each Part

Your calf is broken up into three main muscles, which require different targeted workouts. Be sure to include all of these to get a well-rounded calf workout.

The Gastrosnemius: This muscle is made up of the medial head and the lateral head. This is what most people think of as the calf, and is what you can visibly see when you stand on your toes and the calf contracts. This is often the only region trained, though it needs to be supported by strength from the other muscles, as well.

Improve this muscle group:

  • One leg calf raises on a step gives you the most range of motion, allowing you to fully stretch and strengthen this area of your calves. Stand on the edge of a step or curb with your right foot, resting the other on the ground. Raise your right foot on to your toes and back down. Switch back and forth.

The Tibialis Anterior: This part of your calf, when properly trained will make your calf look bulky without flexing. In your workout, it’s this muscle group that helps keep your entire body stable and when you’re running up a steep hill, it’s this group of muscles that you feel burning.

Improve this muscle group:

  • Short, intense hill runs or walks will work this muscle. Whenever you’re doing a workout where your toes are higher than you heel, this muscle is in use.

The Soleus: This muscle can be felt when performing a seated calf raise because it’s this muscle that is doing all the work. The soleus is used when moving from a seated position to standing, and should be treated differently in training because it’s made up of slow-twitch muscle fibers. So, instead of pushing through multiple sets of a move, this muscle responds better to many repetitions in, one light-weight set.

Improve this muscle group:

  • Seated calf raises are best for this muscle, as it rip equires no extra work from the other calf muscles, allowing you to properly target the area. Sit on an exercise bench, with a weighted barbell on your lap to beef up the move. Remember not to add too much weight, though.