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If you want to banish your chicken legs, your current routine of 3 sets of 10 reps of a calf exercise isn’t going to cut it. The fix for skinny calves: high-frequency training (HFT), which involves hitting your calves twice a day. Your body adapts to the extra work bouts by accelerating the recovery process. And since your muscles grow bigger and stronger during recovery, you’ll speed up your gains.
Your calves are the perfect candidates for HFT because they already recover quickly. They have to—you spend hours walking on them, after all. That means you can work them more without compromising your workout the next day. Other muscle groups couldn’t handle that.
Increasing training frequency doesn’t mean you need to spend more time at the gym, though. The exercises below only require your body weight and a step, so you can do them anytime, anyplace, including your bedroom or an office staircase.
DO THIS TWICE A DAY
Perform the single-leg standing calf raise twice a day, resting at least 8 hours between sessions. Do this for 6 days in a row, and then rest on the seventh day. Repeat for 6 weeks.
Single-Leg Standing Calf Raise
Take off your shoes and stand about a foot away from a wall, facing it. Rest your fingers against the wall at chest level for balance. Stand on your left foot with your right foot a few inches above the floor behind you. Keeping your left leg completely straight, lift your left heel as high as you can. At the top of the lift, pause and squeeze your calf hard for two seconds while pushing through your big toe. Slowly lower. Perform as many reps as possible with your left leg, and then switch sides.
DO THIS TWICE A WEEK
For faster results, work the single-leg hop and elevated standing calf raise into your regular routine twice a week in addition to your twice-daily routine above.
For example, you’ll do your twice-daily single-leg standing calf raise routine (from above) on Monday through Saturday. And then on two of those days—like Tuesday and Friday—perform the routine below during your regular workout. It’s best if your workout falls between your two daily sessions of the single-leg calf raise.
Perform the two exercises below back-to-back resting as little as possible in between. That’s 1 round. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat for 2 total rounds.
1. Single-Leg Hop
Stand on your left leg. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle so your right foot is behind you. Hope as high as you can on your left leg. Your left knee should bend only enough to cushion your landing. Perform 10 reps, and then repeat on your right leg.
2. Elevated Standing Calf Raise
Stand on a step or box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Balance yourself on the balls of your feet with your heels hanging off the step. Lift your heels as high as you can. Pause, then lower your heels as far down as you can. You should feel a stretch through your calves. That’s one rep. Do as many as you can.
Chad Waterbury, M.S., is a physiologist in Santa Monica, California, and creator of www.hftmuscle.com