Peary Rader, Calf Specialisation (1946)


Since the calves are perhaps the hardest part of the body for most bodybuilders to develop properly, and since they usually lag behind the rest of the body we will give them our attention here.

The muscles of the calves are very tough and dense and possess great endurance. This tissue is difficult to break down and requires extreme measures.

We will not discuss the anatomy of the different muscles not will we give you a large number of exercises to perform, as this would only confuse you. We give you the best exercises for this purpose and allow you to choose two or three for your special work.

The most popular calf exercise is the raise on toes, and properly performed it is probably the most effective of all. We recommend that you use this exercise. We ask that you hold a light barbell in the hands or on the shoulders, (some of you won’t need any weight at all for a while) and standing on a 3 or 4 inch block with the toes and ball of foot and with the back against a post or wall of other such solid support such as a door frame etc., raise up and down of the toes with back sliding against the support.

You should do a set with the toes pointed out, another with the toes pointed ahead and another with toes pointed in. This latter style will be a hard one to assume. We have found that best results will be had from doing 20 to 30 repetitions for most fellows. You should rest a few minutes between sets and lightly massage and stroke the muscles to aid the circulation. When the ache leaves the muscles you are ready for another set. Gradually work up to 3 to 6 sets in each position. This many sets will run into a lot of hard work and may not be necessary in all cases. However, if your calves are very stubborn you will have to work them this hard.

The proper number of reps will vary with different men. Use the number we have given to determine for yourself if it is right. It is important that you lean against a post of support to prevent your cheating by swinging the body. As you raise on the toes you will reach what seems to be your limit but make an extra effort to raise still higher. You will find this extra effort is the most effective part of the exercise. Allow the calf muscles complete extension by using a block of ample height. This height will be determined by the length of your foot. Don’t use so much weight that you can’t make the movements complete. At the same time use enough for plenty of resistance. After a workout on this exercise your calf muscles will ache so much it will almost make you sick, but this won’t harm you, as tough calf muscles require such extreme measures if they are to be forced to grow. Don’t allow anyone to convince you that this is a poor calf exercise. It is the most direct, natural and effective calf exercise known WHEN PROPERLY APPLIED.


For the front of the lower leg you just reverse the above procedure by placing the heel of the foot on the block and raise up and down on the heel. This will be a little hard until you get the muscles accustomed to acting over the full range of their movement. We seldom use these muscles over a very great range so they must be retrained. Raise the toes high toward you and make a secondary effort to raise it still higher. Work up to about 4 sets of 20 repetitions in this exercise, which should be enough for most cases. Use the sliding post in this again so that you won’t cheat.

Although there are other good calf exercises we feel that these are the most direct and effective so we are not giving any others. Most fellows will find the three workouts per week will give the desired results but some may find that they can thrive on as many as 5 calf workouts per week. Allow at least 3 months for satisfactory results on this program.

It will sometimes help if you lay off calf exercises one week after a month of heavy exercise. This will allow the calf muscles to soften up a little and they will respond better then from added exercise. It is also wise to remain off the feet as much as possible during calf specialization.

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