Most men and women who do weight training complain that they can’t get their calf muscles to grow. It’s not just their imagination, American sports scientists reported in the late eighties in Physical Therapy. The researchers got their subjects to train their calf muscles well for eight weeks, and observed that their efforts had no effect on the size of the calf muscle.
The researchers got a dozen men and a dozen women to train their calf muscles on a machine like the one shown below, three times a week for eight weeks.
The subjects trained using a weight with which they could just manage 9-13 reps. Each training session consisted of four sets.
The subjects in the control group did no training.
The researchers measured the strength of the subjects’ calf muscles before and after the training period. They measured the circumference of the calf muscles using a scan.
The subjects who had trained their calf muscles gained strength. The men built up slightly more strength than the women did, but the difference was not statistically significant.
The calf circumference did not increase as a result of the training. On the scans the researchers were able to see that the training had led to an increase of one millimetre in the triceps surae calf muscle of both the men and the women. This effect was not statistically significant either.
“Eight weeks of heavy-resistance training involving the triceps surae muscles elicits similar significant increases in isotonic muscle strength in both men and women without concurrent increases in muscularity”, the researchers wrote.
Effects of heavy-resistance triceps surae muscle training on strength and muscularity of men and women.
The purpose of this study was to determine selected functional and structural effects of heavy-resistance training on the triceps surae muscles of men and women. We pretested 28 men and 28 women for triceps surae muscle isotonic strength and muscularity after five practice sessions that familiarized them with the study equipment. Triceps surae muscle isotonic strength was determined using a 1-repetition maximum seated heel raise. Muscularity involved the measurement of relaxed lower leg circumference and net circumference and ultrasonically determined triceps surae muscle thickness. Twenty-eight subjects (14 men, 14 women) were selected randomly after pretesting to participate in 24 sessions of standardized weight training primarily involving the triceps surae muscles, and the remaining subjects (14 men, 14 women) served as nontraining controls. After eight weeks of training, triceps surae muscle isotonic strength had increased significantly (p less than .001) for both men and women in the Treatment Group when compared with the Control Group. No other dependent variables changed significantly. We concluded that eight weeks of heavy-resistance training involving the triceps surae muscles elicits similar significant increases in isotonic muscle strength in both men and women without concurrent increases in muscularity.
PMID: 3340658 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]