Many gym-goers strive to unlock the secret formula for beefy calves. Men’s Open bodybuilder Hunter Labrada provided how he builds his calves on April 28th, 2023. He hosted a Q&A on his YouTube channel in which audience members asked eagerly sought questions, one being about calf growth training tips.
Labrada shared what he believes is the ideal rep range and other training cues that could help garner significant gains for calf hypertrophy. Watch the full Q&A below; the calf training tips are shared at the 4:00 mark:
Hunter Labrada’s Tips for Growing Calves
Below are Labrada’s tips for maximizing calf muscle growth:
Train Calves Like Any Other Muscle Group
According to Labrada, the calves should be trained like any other muscle. He stated, “I believe in training them two or three working sets, maybe four in a single session with a total weekly volume to not exceed eight to 10 sets if you’re training them twice [a week].”
Labrada suggests aiming for 10 to 12 reps per set or even slightly higher in the 12 to 15 rep range. Labrada performs one to two hard sets, followed by a drop set (or triple drop set) to take the calve muscles through a full scope of rep ranges — heavy and higher volume loads.
Take the Calves Through a Full Range of Motion
The exercises for the calves don’t need to be complicated, but they should fully extend and contract the calf muscles. As Labrada put it, “I don’t believe in a bunch of fancy exercises or weird foot positions or anything like that. What I do believe in is taking your calves through a full range of motion with everything else completely locked in.”
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Labrada’s beliefs on training calves align with four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Culter’s view. Cutler says the calves should be taken through a full extension with heavy weights to maximize their growth potential. Cutler performs at least three sets of 12 reps and says to train calves like any other muscle group.
No Pain, No Gain
Labrada mentioned many people make errors when training calves via insufficient workout intensity.
“If [a person’s] calves are a weak point, and they can’t seem to get them to grow…either they are not prioritizing them,” he said.
He finds many gym-goers tag training calves at the end of their leg days without proper intensity. The pattern between these gym-goers is yet being capable of “mentally pushing to where they need to in terms of pain threshold.”
Labrada added, “Calves are a very painful muscle to train. There’s a big difference to training to pain and training to true failure, though. It’s those true close-to-failure reps and failure reps that make any muscle grow. And your calves are no different.”
Hunter Labrada is currently training for an appearance in a pro show during the 2023 season to secure qualification for the 2023 Mr. Olympia contest. He ranked seventh at the 2022 Olympia, falling three ranks from his fourth-place finish at the 2021 Olympia. To land his spot in the 2023 Olympia, he will have to win a pro show, as the 2023 Qualification System only allows pro show winners throughout the 2023 season to enter the sport’s biggest show, scheduled for Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, FL.
Featured image: @hunterlabrada on Instagram