Incline Barbell Bench Press
B. AMRAP 10
- 6 Chin Ups/ Weighted Chin-ups (let’s hit those biceps HARD!)
- 6 Hang Power Cleans
C. 4 sets: Accessory work
- 10 Ring Dips (accessory to Bench)
- 20 BB Calf Raises (accessory to vertical jump)
- 10 DB Bent Over Row (accessory to deadlift)
- 10 Tibia Raises (Antagonists are plantar-flexors of the posterior compartment such as soleus and gastrocnemius.)
CALVES: Two main muscles
Two major muscles are collectively referred to as the calf.
The lump just below the back of the knee is the gastrocnemius, often nicknamed the gastroc. This muscle is used to extend the foot when your leg is straight. Stand up straight and rise up on tip-toe. You will feel your gastroc contracting.
The longer, less-noticeable muscle that runs the length of the lower leg, below and beneath the gastroc, is the soleus. It is the muscle you feel flexing when you extend your foot with your knee bent. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. When you lift your heel off the floor, you can feel your soleus contracting.
Training the soleus
The soleus gives your lower leg most of its mass. People who appear to have bigger calves generally have large, thick soleus muscles.
The soleus consists primarily of slow-twitch muscle fiber. Because of this characteristic, it is best to train it with high-repetitions – generally in sets of 50 or more. It responds very well to aerobically-fueled exercise such as running and other low-intensity leg toning exercises.
Unfortunately, the soleus is one of the most difficult muscles to train using free-weights. If you want to try, you can perform seated calf raises with a heavy barbell resting on a pad across the top of your thighs. Some well-equipped gyms have soleus machines which simulate this movement, and hack-squat machines can be used in a pinch. But these movements are awkward and probably unnecessary. If you do any running or stair-climbing, you are keeping your soleus in shape and building muscular calves.
Training the gastrocnemius
The gastrocs are somewhat different in makeup from the soleus muscles. Unlike the soleus, gastrocs are made up of mostly fast-twitch muscle fiber. Accordingly, it’s advisable to use low reps and heavy weight when you target the gastrocs.
Standing calf raises with a barbell across the back are the classic calf-building movement. Trainees are often advised to stand on a block to get a full range of motion. I disagree with this technique. It is dangerous and unnecessary to stress the Achilles tendon in this manner. A full stretch under the weight, especially if there is any bouncing or position adjustment, is just asking for trouble. Don’t play ill-advised games with your tendons. Work out in a functional manner and forget the bodybuilding routine.
Training the rest of the lower leg
Of course, there is more to the lower leg than just the two main muscles mentioned earlier.
The tibialis anterior – or shin muscle – runs up the front of the leg and contracts to lift your toes up.
Like the soleus, this is a muscle best worked with high reps. A set of “tibia raises” is probably the best way to target this muscle. Stand with your upper back pressed against a wall and your heels on the ground a foot or two ahead of your center of gravity. Then, repeatedly raise your toes off the floor as far as you can. You’ll soon feel the burn in the front of your lower legs. Be careful not to stub a toe after your set – your ability to lift your toes up while walking will become impaired after an exhausting set of tibia raises.