(SCS) Small Calf Syndrome

Those with small calves would tend to hear it often...

"Sticks". "Chicken legs". "You gotta stop skipping leg day".

And like most of us who have some kind of self-imposed body issue, you're no doubt well and truly over hearing about it. Well the thing is, we might just need to change your train of thought.

Small Calf Syndrome (this is not a technical term, just a heading I thought sounded catchy!) is mainly due to what particular type of Triceps Surae muscles you are born with! The triceps surae is basically the 3 headed muscles of your calf, which more specifically, includes;

a) Gastrocnemius: Both the Medial and Lateral Head

b) Soleus

The calf can be broken down into two distinct types:

1) Long Calf: Where the Triceps Surae extend lower down on the leg.

2) Short Calf: The gastrocnemius and soleus are higher up the lower leg, but as a result, have greater need for a longer achilles tendon.

The long calf type has the advantage of growing bulk easier than the short calf, making for a larger muscle 'belly' and giving it that rounded, hypertrophy effect. However, even though the short calf tends to resist developing this same bulking strategy, it does have a massive advantage when it comes to explosive force/speed.


This is due to the fact that it has a greater tendon length, as this is what creates tension and 'spring' during the stretch shortening cycle of jumping-type movements. The simplest way to think about it is by using the Kangaroo as an example. This animal has HUGE achilles tendons and it's what helps them to be so powerful and dynamic during their jumping and kicking movements!

You can also think about the NBA. Many African-Amercian males in this league tend to have much skinnier legs than their opponents, but DAMN can they jump!! The short calf creates a great ability to sprint, jump and be explosive, so if you have 'SCS' and are getting frustrated with your lack of growth, try focusing on dynamic based activities in which your body was made to excel using these aforementioned exercises.

I'm certainly not saying to stop working on your calves, but simply suggesting that you should also remember to focus on your strengths as well (You'll jump over any "Long Calfer" any day of the week!).


Remember that there are 3 sections to your calf. This means that by changing the angle of the foot, or the angle of motion, you can target the different areas of your triceps surae.

For example, by turning your feet outwards on a Standing Calf Raise, you will be focusing more attention on the Medial head of the gastrocnemius (vice-versa for the lateral head).

Check out this video here: GCP FITNESS CALF RAISE

To target the Soleus, try to use a bent knee position such as a seated calf raise or Barbell Seated Calf Raise . Bending the knees means the gastrocnemius muscle (which attaches above the knee) is relaxed and is therefore only providing a slight assistance in ankle extension, as the majority of the job will be done by the soleus. In addition to this, there's also been some research done in Australia that highlighted when pushing horizontally ie: Sled Push, the soleus has a greater muscular activation than the gastrocnemius.

It must also be noted that our calves have to work extremely hard everyday of our lives, as they need to lug our heavy loads around with every single step we take! This means we should not be afraid of loading them up or planning high volume days for them, as it will take some serious demands to create an adaptation for this muscle group. 

So in summarizing for hypertrophy:

-Change foot position

-Alter the angles of push

-Don't be afraid to load up (Volume, weight, time under tension)

I hope this helps settle your argument regarding 'skipping leg day' and I look forward to seeing you all challenging the 'long-head-calfers' to a jumping competition!

Reward for effort!

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