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26.05.2020


Calves do respond to strength training, says Brad Schoenfeld

If you train your calf muscles, they can indeed grow. And whether you train the calves with long sets with relatively little weight or with shorter sets with a higher load, does not really matter. That is the conclusion of a study that American strength trainer and exercise scientist Brad Schoenfeld published in Physiological Reports.

Study
Schoenfeld had 30 male untrained students train their calves twice a week with the seated calf raise and the standing calf raise for 8 weeks. The students trained one leg with weights that allowed them to do just 6-10 reps, and trained their other leg with a load that allowed 20-30 reps.

Results
After 8 weeks of strength training, the muscle thickness of both the soleus and gastrocnemius had increased just as much in the calves trained with light weights and many repetitions, as in the calves trained with heavy weights and few repetitions.

The soleus consists for the most part of type 1 muscle fibers, which respond to training with many repetitions with relatively little weight. The gastrocnemius consists of approximately the same amount of type-1 as type-2 muscle fibers. Type-2 muscle fibers respond to training with few repetitions and a high load.


Calves do respond to strength training, says Brad Schoenfeld


Calves do respond to strength training, says Brad Schoenfeld


MG = medial gastrocnemius, LG = lateral gastrocnemius, SOL = soleus.

Conclusion
According to Schoenfeld, the results of his research question two dogmas in bodybuilding. One is that you have to train calves with a relatively low weight and lots of reps, the other that calves hardly respond to strength training.

"Our findings cast doubt on the claim that training muscles based on their fiber composition provides an additional benefit for enhancing muscle strength or hypertrophy", Schoenfeld writes. "The results also indicate that the triceps surae muscles respond robustly to regimented exercise, and the associated adaptations are independent of load used in the training program provided that sets are performed with a high level of effort."

We have some difficulty accepting Schoenfeld's first conclusion. There is a non-significant trend that calves trained with high reps grow a little better than calves trained with low reps. What would have happened if the study had lasted longer than 8 weeks? Or if the subjects had trained their calves in an even higher rep range?

Source:
Physiol Rep. 2020 May; 8(9): e14427.

More:
Your calf muscles won't grow? It's not your fault 16.11.2016
A slightly better - yet silly looking - way to train your calf muscles 08.04.2015
Weakened soleus causes older women to fall 22.10.2013
Calves grow quicker if you restrict the blood supply 29.01.2010

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Resistance Training


Strength training with high reps great for building muscle mass, not for building strength You'll be most motivated to do strength training when you chose the weights yourself Study shows you build up just as much muscle with low weights and lots of reps

Strength training with high reps great for building muscle mass, not for building strength
If you do weight training to build muscle mass, you may as well use weights that you can do 30 reps with instead of weights that you can only manage 10 reps with.

You'll be most motivated to do strength training when you chose the weights yourself
Trainers who want to prevent their female pupils from stopping strength training should let their students choose the weight they use themselves.

Study shows you build up just as much muscle with low weights and lots of reps
After a training session using weights at 30 percent of your 1RM your muscles build up just as much protein as they do after training at 90 percent of your 1RM.