Bodily composition and muscular development varies incredibly from person to person, but the most commonly under developed muscle groups among lifters tend to be the calves, forearms, and trapezius muscles. These muscle groups are difficult to develop due to biological anatomy and variance of unique training required to specifically advance their hypertrophy. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s calves were so lacking in the beginning of his career that when he came to the United States to continue his bodybuilding career he famously cut all of his pant legs so that he would be forced to see his calves and continue to train them as much as possible. For complete advancement of the overall aesthetic physique and to achieve an athletic balance, one must not only implement a consistent training regimen but also identify any weak points and surmount them. In this article we will address tips that will help advance the ontogenesis of these particular muscle groups.
Lets look at each muscle and specific ways to address each muscle group for maximum efficiency.
The Calf Muscles
The calf muscles, on the back of the lower leg, is actually made up of two muscles:
- The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle, which is visible beneath the skin. The gastrocnemius has two parts, which together create its diamond shape.
- The soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle.
These two muscles merge at the base of the lower leg, which is connected to a tough connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle that merges with the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus). This synergistic coordination of anatomy allows the specific function of pulling the heel up to allow forward and vertical movement of the body.
The calf muscles have evolved to be used on a daily basis because they are responsible for the forward movement of the body through the axis movement of the foot. This constant use has led to the calf muscle being designed for endurance, and therefore lack the size and strength of short twitch muscles such as the pectorals or biceps. This physiological composition is the source of the difficulty in training the calf muscles because they do not respond to traditional training methods that apply to other muscle groups. Here is what you’re going to do to tailor your workouts for calf development:
- Train them more consistently: As stated earlier, the calf muscles are an endurance based muscle. The bad news is: they don’t respond well to traditional training; the good news is: they recover very quickly and can take a higher frequency of training.
- Train your calf muscles two to three times a week. Implement their training a few days apart but feel free to place them with other body parts to up their training frequency. For example: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday- Calves would be done.
- Vary the exercises, the weight, and the repetitions religiously: Do not do the same seated calf workout three days a week, week in and week out, you will not get results. Go heavier one week, lighter the next, change the foot position, and the exercises each workout to not only keep the heads of the muscles active but to help shock growth.
- Increase the volume of work out: While 5 sets of 5 reps 8 sets of 3, or 8,6,4 may work for strength and mass hypertrophy on other muscle groups, with calves you will have to really increase the repetition volume of your training to see more thorough results.
- How much volume? Well, lets look at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s recent disclosure of his leg workout.
When we look at Dwayne Johnson’s sample leg workout, what we are seeing here is a lot of volume that is being implemented for a maximum pump of the muscle tissue in order to create hypertrophy and thus size development. The calf work out alone is comprised of a total of 625 repetitions. Too much? Obviously you want to work to the maximum of your ability but the results speak for themselves.
The Forearm Muscles
The forearm muscles are comprised of a complex network of flexor muscles that are responsbile for a magnitude of functions such as but not limited to: move the hand, provide grip, finger articulation, wrist joint movement, and provide a vital link between the hand and the rest of the body. The forearms can be a tremendous weak link if they are not trained properly. Without proper forearm development you cannot bench for your chest, grip the barbell to row, or hold the squat bar on your back, and so on.The overall bodily development can be greatly affected by this weak link.
- Develop your grip strength: Your grip strength will not only increase the actual volume of your forearm muscle area but it will help you advance in almost every other exercise. SwoleScience.com has addressed this issue in a complete article that will guide you through exercises, repetitions, and training. Find it here and get started.
- Stop using straps for the whole workout: You should never use lifting straps while deadlifting or rack pulling. Even if you are a professional strongman like Kevin Nee, who can use straps in competition, you still need to work on your grip for maximum muscular performance augmentation. Deadlift/rack pull first, and then continue your back workout, as you fatigue bring out the straps to finish the workout.
- Use Static Holds: Implement forearm holds for a set durational time period. For example 3 sets of 1 minute hold. Use heaviest weight you can and rotate from barbell holds, dumbbell holds, and plate pinchers.
- Increase the training frequency: The forearms share many of the same qualities of the calf muscles. They are meant to be used daily and consistently for everyday tasks. Implement some forearm training after back day and then during arm day to take advantage of their rapid recovery time and give them the level of micro trauma needed for growth.
The Trapezius Muscles
The trapezius muscles are part of a large sweep of muscle in the upper back that mirror the pectoral muscles, help support the spine and neck, allow you to pull, lift, and move your shoulders backwards. These muscles are prominently seen on the body as they outline the physique and provide a balance to the arms and chest of the athlete. The trapezius development in many athletes suffers from imbalance and poor development which can lead to spinal problems, strength gaps, poor posture, and shoulder damage.
- Implement all forms of rows: The trapezius is not just the upper trap which you see along side your neck. Now, this may be what you want to develop but the muscle needs overall hypertrophy and strength to allow for a balanced and powerful muscle. In order to achieve proper trapezius development, implement rows from different angles, grips, and form of tension, such as: bent over rows, cable rows, dumbbell rows, hammer strength rows, etc.
- Introduce olympic lifting movements: The hang clean, power clean, clean and jerk, and so on are all explosive exercises that require tremendous synchronized strength and involve the trapezius in a way that combines strength and volume. The olympic lifts and their variants will allow you to progress the trapezius muscles and overall bodily strength.
- Rest them correctly: Your trapezius muscles are what stabilizes your upper body on the bench press, what helps keep you straight when curling, and so on. So do not overtrain them. The most they can be done is back day and shoulder day. If you only train them once a week, it is suggested to do it on back day as they are part of the upper back.
- Shrug Correctly: Everyone begins doing shrugs and thinks they are the key to trapezius development. While they do develop the upper portion of the trapezius muscle, they are often not implemented correctly.
- Shrugs must be done in variations of grip and angle: use dumbbells, neutral grip, wide grip, barbells, underhand grip, etc
- Hold your shrugs at the top of the rep for a 1-2 second pause.
- Do NOT cheat, allow just your traps to fully raise the weight without jerking or rocking.
- Shrug in circuits to exhaust the area. For example: 4 sets of 12 of barbell shrugs, neutral dumbbell shrugs, and cable shrugs. Each exercise done one after an other in a circuit, 4 times through, with no rest.
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