Q: In The Ultimate Mass Workout you suggest doing the hills setting on a treadmill or interval cardio with sprints as the Ultimate Exercise for calves. Can you explain more about the interval sprinting and treadmill effects on calf training, as well as how to integrate intervals into my workouts?
A: The Ultimate Mass Workout is our first e-book, the original X-Rep manual, and after we published it, we discovered a big midrange exercise for calves you can do as part of your leg workout in the gym—knee-extension leg press calf raises…
You do leg press calf raises, but you bend your knees a bit on the downward stroke of each rep and thrust the weight to toes-pointed lockout. It’s like a cheat set that brings in the soleus and quads as synergist muscles. It takes time to get the form and keep the stress primarily on the calves, but once you get it, it’s a great gastroc developer.
To get the form right, think of how your legs and calves work when you pedal a bicycle; you bent your knees about the same amount. But on the leg press, it’s like you’re pumping both pedals at the same time (check out the calves on serious cyclists—full development of both gastroc heads and soleus too).
As for how to integrate intervals—such as sprinting the straightaways and walking the curves on a running track—you could do that once a week for calves as well as for extra fat burning (it ramps up your metabolism much more than steady state cardio). We often do intervals on one weekend day.
At your in-the-gym calf workout later in the week, you can use the treadmill after your weight workout on a setting that alternates hills with flat walking. Remember, you burn more fat doing cardio after weights because all the sugar in your bloodstream is gone and you tap into fat almost immediately—plus, you’re building your calves.
Or you can use the knee-extension leg press calf raise as your big midrange calf exercise before your stretch exercise, donkey calf raises, and your contracted-position move, standing calf raises.
Keep in mind that interval cardio is tough on the joints; it’s really just another hard leg workout—quads and hams get shocked as well as calves. That’s why once-a-week interval cardio is sufficient for most trainees, with your interval workout as far away from your leg workout as possible.
Note: There’s more on interval cardio—how to use it as well as the pros, cons, and better alternatives—in The Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout e-book.)
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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