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Old 06-16-04, 10:19 AM   #1
ManBearPig
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Cycling does nothing for my calves (?)

Is it a myth that cycling develops calves?

I have gleaned a strong association between a cyclist and his/her legs, particularly the calves. People seem to get their initial impression of a cyclist's level or years of commitment by how developed his/her calves are. "Look at his calves - that dude must be a serious cyclist." or "look at his puny calves - must be a beginner."

I have been riding several times per week in the last few months, so I figured I must be getting a good calf workout -- enough, at least, to partially substitute for weights. Well, the other night I went to the gym and I worked out my legs with weights for the first time in several weeks, and now my calves are SORE. My muscles do not get sore with regular workouts though -- only when I have let a muscle group go idle for a few weeks or more. If cycling is such a good workout for the calves, then why are my calves sore after a mild calve workout?
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Old 06-16-04, 10:28 AM   #2
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In my opinion, calves usually tone up heaps, but they don't really get bigger.
I'd say runners, even the skinny ones, tend to have larger calves than
cyclists -- generally speaking, of course. The cyclists we see with big calves
were born with them. My calves didn't grow a bit, they just toned up.

I worked in a gym for 5 years, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't see anyone's
calves grow, EVER!! I always thought the toughest workout for your calves was skipping.
There's not really a huge load on the calves when you cycle, nor do they go through a full range
of motion.
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Old 06-16-04, 10:38 AM   #3
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A cyclist's quads will often show larger size, especially if they do a lot of hillwork.
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Old 06-16-04, 10:56 AM   #4
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I ride year round, and don't have large calves, of course no one in my family does either.

My quads on the other hand are HUGE, I already had big legs, but 3 years of year round cycling has made them freaky looking.

Phil
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Old 06-16-04, 10:59 AM   #5
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Towlie you are talking apples and oranges.

Cycling is a repeditive endurence activity, whereas weight training is a targeted low rep muscle building excercise. Nothing in cycling can or will replace gym work for muscles. Therefor you will / should be sore following a gym session after taking a break for a while.

As for growing calf size....be patient. =) As with any muscle it will respond to overuse by repairing itself and in the process growing, provided all the ingredients are present (protien, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals). But because of its unique placement and job in the body it is a pretty fit muscle to begin with. Every step you take calls on your calf muscle. So to get growth you train it like you would any other muscle, but realize that the amount of use it gets daily works against your body investing much in growing it.

Also, as with anyone that is fit, dont confuse definition with size. Vascularity also plays a role in percieved size (visible viens)
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Old 06-17-04, 05:22 AM   #6
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The calves accroding to Arnold Schwarzenegger(I have some books on his life), are the hardest muscle to develop in your body. You can target your calves for hours and still hardly get any results. Calves will be your last muscle to develop.
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Old 06-17-04, 05:47 AM   #7
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Quote:
Is it a myth that cycling develops calves?
I think it's a false premise, rather than a myth. Think about it though - where in a pedal stroke could calves come into play? unless you're doing some kind of weird down-movement with your toes at the bottom of a stroke, they don't feature much at all. Genes play a large part in good calves. that's sorta punny
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Old 06-17-04, 07:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swoop
unless you're doing some kind of weird down-movement with your toes at the bottom of a stroke,
Isn't that called "Ankling"?
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Old 06-17-04, 07:34 AM   #9
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A family thing. My dad road and i ride and you would never know by my legs or by my body. I just dont tone up and show no muscle.
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Old 06-17-04, 07:51 AM   #10
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Calves, middle chest (pecs), shoulders are some of the hardest muscles to develop into a bigger size.
Calves are so dense that you need to do weight training to get them bigger. Cycling is good for your legs period but really will make your thighs huge.

Size of calves is genetic (if you don't weight train them). Cycling isn't going to make them grow in size nearly as much as weight lifting.
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Old 06-17-04, 08:05 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Towlie
I have been riding several times per week in the last few months...
How far is each ride?
How many days per week?
Any hills?
Are you working hard or just pedaling along at an easy pace?
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Old 06-17-04, 08:31 AM   #12
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BIG, BIG FAT caucasions always have huge calves! So, apart from genetics and steroids, the only way to get big calves is to be a big fat white guy.

I agree with Nutbag; I also worked in a gym for a few years, and NEVER EVER saw anyone's calves grow...EVER!!
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Old 06-17-04, 09:22 AM   #13
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I guess in this regard I picked good parents, cuz if I were to work my calves in the gym I would see growth.

Your calf is used on every single downstroke. What do you think is keeping your foot level? Reach down and touch your calf as your are peddling (make sure its in a pace line so others get some fun out of it. /grin) you will feel it contract on every stroke.

Muscles can only pull. As your quads are pulling (ie you exert force downwards) your heel would drive downwards as a result, were it not for the calf muscle contracting to pull the heel upwards.
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Old 06-17-04, 10:10 AM   #14
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So if i lift weights with my penis, oh never mind, it must likly wouldnt get bigger either.
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Old 06-17-04, 01:46 PM   #15
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Like others said genetics are an important factor in shape and size potential of the calves .Also keep in mind that they are a red fiber endurance muscle so need a lot of volume to grow.General cycling will develop the aerobic capasity of muscles including the calves without doing much for size.Faster or uphill cycling will be more anaerobic so more likely to develop size.Keep in mind as others have alluded to cycling uphill uses more of the calves and hams as compared to level ground where the quads are more stressed.
As to the weight training it sounds like you experienced doms where you had a good workout and hit the muscle effectively anaerobically for the first time in awhile.But with repeated effective workouts you will eventually lose this soreness but it does not mean the workout isn't effective.
Generally for weights you want to train for high reps(with moderate to light weight) and you should consider the real workout starting when the burning starts.
I never had larger calves than when I use to ski all the time(and walk around the lodge) wearing a pair of racing boots a half size too small with only a pair of liner socks.
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Old 06-17-04, 01:52 PM   #16
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My calves have gotten a little bigger from cycling, and I have this goofy muscle that bulges out in the front my calf. But then, my genetics are such that I started with larger than average calves, and I can pack on a lot of muscle quickly too.
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Old 06-17-04, 02:02 PM   #17
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My calves are actually disproportionately larger than the rest of my leg. I think one issue is that a lot of you are talking about road cycling, but remember there are other types of cycling. Climbing steep singletrack trails on a MTB is an excellent calf workout.
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Old 06-17-04, 03:51 PM   #18
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I almost exlusively ride road and my calves are much bigger than before i was cycling so much. I even have trouble getting pant legs over my calf muscles. Maybe I ankle more than most. Or maybe I have a genetic disposition to bulk up (which unfortunately means I will weigh more too I take it).
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Old 06-17-04, 06:44 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutbag
I worked in a gym for 5 years, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't see anyone's
calves grow, EVER!! I always thought the toughest workout for your calves was skipping.
There's not really a huge load on the calves when you cycle, nor do they go through a full range
of motion.
Did you work out in a fitness centre? Sorry but i was a gym rat for years and many of the weight lifters saw increases varrying on their natural size. The only reason I did know is because in 2 of those gyms, they were bodybuilders and kept measurements on the wall. Competition you know

Calves are a genetic muscle. Guys who have big calves grow them easily. Guys who don't work their butts off. No matter how much you bike, if you don't have the genetics for the size, they will probably always be small. Working them out? I can't be much help. Genetically I have always had big calves. Toss on basketball and football for years and then throw in a recent dose of mtbiking and my calves continue to grow. I don't work for leg growth in any way. Ironically the one thing I do know worked wonders for most of the people I know was to do the opposite of what is commonly used (and commonly doesn't work). A lot of people load up a lighter weight and do raises by the 100's...doesn't work. Load up that smith machine and go to war. Hurt those calves and dont baby them
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Old 06-17-04, 07:29 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by shokhead
So if i lift weights with my penis, oh never mind, it must likly wouldnt get bigger either.
Oh man I was waiting for Merton to say that.
The penis needs blood to grow, try something that enlarges your blood vessels.
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Old 06-17-04, 08:38 PM   #21
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maelstrom makes a good point of not overdoing the light weights for calves.I generally do a couple sets of standing raises with moderate weight pyramiding up in weight with reps up to the low 20's going for the burn then I will load on more weight for seated raises with much lower reps(less stress on back this way).Another tip to bring out potential of calves(fuller more balanced development)is to hit the antagonist muscle the shins.I do this by varying my foot placement on the seated raises moving my foot placement on the block foward to hit the shins more.
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Old 06-17-04, 09:21 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Maelstrom
Did you work out in a fitness centre? Sorry but i was a gym rat for years and many of the weight lifters saw increases varrying on their natural size.
Yeah, it was more of a fitness place. The guys with big calves probably would've achieved hypertrophy, but didn't work their calves because they didn't want them bigger, and the people who worked their
ass off were obviously the skinny/medium built guys who would never see results no matter what.
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Old 06-18-04, 12:15 PM   #23
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Don't freak out.....this is my calf
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Old 06-18-04, 12:20 PM   #24
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my calves have become much more defined, but the actual size hasn't really changed at all.
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Old 06-18-04, 01:15 PM   #25
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Kerny....1 word...MACH3!
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