Many say that getting big calves is impossible if you haven't got the right genes. As the saying goes, 'gym bros who were born with big calves will preach about working the calves, although they never had to work for theirs'. To put this urban legend to rest, Back Guy (opens in new tab), a Youtube content creator famous for his compilation videos, set out to work his calves every single day for 100 consecutive days and to see if he can get big calves by using sheer will and determination only.
Why would a person called 'Back Guy' train his calves? "I've always had, like, pretty underwhelming calves and even though I trained them in the past, I never actually done so over a longer period of time. This was mostly due to lack of programming and follow up on my part", he explains in the video.
He goes on by saying "getting bigger and stronger calves probably wouldn't be beneficial for my one rep maxes in squat, bench press and deadlift, which are what I mostly focus on in training." But thanks to a Youtube poll he conducted a few months back, he accepted the challenge of training his calves for a number of days and share the results on the same platform.
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The first 60 days
The training programme was broken into two sections: the first 60 days and the last 40 days.
In the first 60 days, Back Guy mainly used bodyweight exercises (e.g. calf raises) and focused on gradually increasing training volume. In layman's terms, throughout the initial training period, he increased the time his calf muscles spent under tension as well as the reps and sets for each exercise. For calf raises, this meant going from three sets of 40 seconds at the beginning to doing six sets of 90 seconds by the 60th day.
He also added one or two new exercises every 20 days to increase intensity and add some variety to his training plan.
"After 60 days, I decided to significantly increase the load because doing sets that lasted almost up to two minutes got kind of boring", Back Guy summarises the initial phase of his 100 day calf training.
The last 40 days
"I started doing heavier sets of bilateral calf raises using the Smith machine and also on the leg press where I usually do between 15-25 reps", Back Guy explains the second phase, "and slowly increased the weight and the training volume." He also implemented a few days of active recovery sessions per week which are "essential if you want to train the same muscles every single day", he concluded.
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100 days of calf training: the results
Back Guy was genuinely surprised by the results: "I managed to increase my anatomical muscle thickness a.k.a. the calf muscle circumference by around an inch on each side, but the most astonishing change to me was that my calves got a lot more vascular and appeared a lot leaner than before."
Looking at his training and the results, it's hard not to point out the obvious: if an athlete who's used to resistance training puts a training plan together and follows it to the T, there will be some muscle increase. Back Guy's training plan used a pattern that's considered the best way to build muscle right now (progressive overload + volume increase) and he also had access commercial gym equipment such as a Smith machine.
Nevertheless, the results speak for themselves and this challenge very clearly exemplifies just how much progress can be made in just 100 days if someone is willing to put the effort in. Better still, the blueprint of this workout pattern can be used on any other muscle in the body, probably even more successfully.
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout 2021 to get everyone fit and healthy. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a challenging year for many. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.