Bodyweight Calf Exercises for Massive Calves?


calvesCould there be a way to make calves grow through bodyweight calf exercises? I’ve always had small calves, I would even consider them bird legs. Calves are, for a lot of people, one of the hardest body parts to train and grow. 

Over the years I have tried to get my calves to grow and the results were always minimal.  I would see a little bit of growth but they never were able to get where I wanted them to be.

Although I always used machines in the past and never attempted bodyweight calf exercises.

Plus, I always felt that my body was out of proportion because of it.  Who wants to walk around with bird legs? I was ashamed to put shorts on during the summer because they were so tiny.

When I first started doing the SL 5X5 I had incorporated calf raises using the calf raise machine into my workout.  My thighs blew up while my calf gains were minimal.

In past research, I’ve found that some people were lucky enough to be gifted large calves and they didn’t even bother working them out.

Some claimed that they use to be fat and the large calves remained after they had shed the pounds.  I used to be about 60 pounds overweight years ago but that weight never went to my calves.

An Answer for Massive Calves?

I came across an article by John Paul Catanzaro of T-Nation called, The Answer for Massive Calves. John discusses how he too had used about every type of training method that he knew about to train his calves but the gains were always minimal.

John’s daughters are competitive dancers and something he noticed about dancers was that most had large calves.  This gave him a clue that he could take a page from competitive dancers and apply what they do to bodybuilding.

Their secret is that they are constantly on their toes. This repetition during dances is the same as performing bodyweight calf exercises on a daily basis.  

After so much daily reputation a dancer’s calves begin to grow rapidly so that the muscles can easily support their body-weight while dancing.

John decided to apply this knowledge to train his calves and create a workout where he would perform 100 reps of body-weight calf raises every day. He did this every day for a month and was surprised by the results.

John’s Results?

John claims that you can easily put an inch on your calves in one month with this method. But you have to do it every day.

Once you are satisfied with the growth you can do the bodyweight calf exercises 2 to 3 times a week to maintain your calf size.

I found his claim to be intriguing, could one really put an inch of size on their calves in 30 days with this method? If so, that would be massive gains and better than any method that I had tried in the past.

bodyweight calf exercises 

Testing the Method

I decided to give this method a try. I liked the idea because it did not need any equipment to perform. Plus, I could incorporate it into my nightly before bedtime routine.

You most likely will not be able to do 100 reps in the beginning. I had to work up to 100 over a few days. Adding 5 reps each day till I was able to reach the 100 rep mark.

The delayed onset muscle soreness was awful the first three days. I did not want to walk up any stairs as the pain was awful. It also made the reps for those days a bit more difficult.

How to Perform the Bodyweight Calf Exercises

This is important as you can perform the bodyweight calf exercises too fast where you are just bouncing up and down, which would be ineffective at properly training your calves.

For the best form, you should perform the calf raises barefoot on carpet. This forces you to balance yourself and the carpet is a bit softer on your feet.  I’ve tried on harder surfaces and after several reps, your feet will hurt.

When you get to the top of the raise you need to pause for each rep for two seconds. It shouldn’t take too long to begin feeling the burn when performing the reps in a slow manner.

The Results

I performed this bodyweight calf exercise for 30 days and kept track with a spreadsheet of the number of reps I executed each day.

Once I was after the 15-day mark it was easy to crank out 100 reps each day. This was the last thing I did as part of my nightly routine before bed. It was easy to do while I was watching TV.  

Typically it takes about 10 minutes to do 100 reps if you are properly pausing for two seconds during the top of each raise.

Here are my before and after measurements:

  • Before: Left Calf 14 inches, Right Calf 14.25 inches
  • Day 20: Left Calf 14.3125 inches, Right Calf 14.5625 inches
  • Day 30: Left Calf 14.5 inches, Right Calf 14.75 inches

In 30 days I gained exactly a half an inch.  I was a bit shocked that the gains were exactly a half inch for both legs.

Now I didn’t reach the gains that John claimed in his article of 1 inch in 30 days, but that half an inch is still a large gain for such a short time span.

Spreadsheet tracking results


I think that the Answer for Massive Calves method is a viable way to grow stubborn calves. I did have some other factors that did affect my gains.

I’m 35 years old and during this test, I kept my calorie intake at maintenance and protein intake around 140 grams per day.  I think that if you are in your teens or 20s that you could probably see a gain of 1 inch in just 30 days, especially on a bulk.

For being at my age and not bulking during the 30 days, a half an inch is quite an impressive gain.

I plan on moving forward with this routine and adding more weight. I will probably move to sitting an Olympic bar on my shoulders and working back towards 100 reps.

This post will be updated in the future with the results of increasing the weight for 30 days.  Maybe I can add another inch with this bodyweight calf exercise?