James' Three Minute Calf Workout

By James Collier – MuscleTalk Co-Owner
May 2011

I originally wrote the Three Minute Calf Workout for the January 2003 edition of The MuscleTalker and, since then, it's been used by people from around the world and has become rather famous, especially for the extreme DOMS* it causes! With this in mind, I've put it in its own article together with more information on calf training.

When I originally compiled the article I'd been using the calf workout for years with great results. I still use it now and, although I don't train with the same enthusiasm as I used to, my calves are still one of my better developed body parts. The beauty of this routine is that it only takes approximately three minutes and yet gives maximum pain and maximum results to develop muscular calves! It's a great routine designed for new trainers, experienced bodybuilders, ladies, those desiring more leg power or people with stubborn calves.

You can perform the routine on any one of the main calf exercises: standing calf raises, seated calf raises, toe press or donkey calf raises, even on a Smith machine. Simply adapt the principles below to the relevant calf machine.

This short but extremely effective calf workout may be enough for your weekly calf training. Give it a try and let us know on the forum how you get on. Get ready for some pain though; I frequently hear feedback of extreme DOMS following it, especially on the first time you try it. One way to minimise DOMS is to stretch the calves lightly after the workout for a minute, then put your feet up later.

Let's use standing calf raises as the exercise to demonstrate the routine:

bodybuilder calves
  1. Put the stack onto the maximum weight you can manage for 10 reps, then perform each rep very slowly, taking two seconds per rep. The last reps should be good form but heavy enough so you can just squeeze them out; i.e. train to positive failure.
  2. Immediately move onto a platform and hold onto something for balance and squeeze 10 more two-second reps out but this time there is no weight on your shoulders. The reps must be slow and controlled.
  3. With no rest, step onto the floor, hold onto something for balance, point your toes inwards and immediately bang out 10 quick calf raises. By now your calves will be hoping that's the end, but you're only one third of the way through!
  4. Immediately move back onto the standing calf raise machine, drop the weight by half of what you previously had it on and perform another 10 x two second reps.
  5. Again without rest, move onto the platform and perform as before: 10 x two second reps with no weight.
  6. Then onto the floor again to pump 10 quick reps.
  7. Your calves will now have an unbelievable pump, but you must continue and repeat all three steps again. Move onto the standing calf raise machine and drop the weight by half again and perform 10 x two second reps.
  8. Then the platform for 10 x two second reps unweighted; the same as before.
  9. Lastly, the floor for 10 quick but full reps.

The calf workout comprises of these nine steps with three movements completed three times with no rest at all and the whole giant set should take only about three minutes, although it will be a long three minutes! You'll hate me afterwards and you'll hate me even more for the following days, but in a few weeks you'll love me when you're showing off bigger and more pronounced calves.

* DOMS = Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness