When Do We Hit Calves?

In terms of questions I get asked quite frequently during No Sweat Intro’s (the consultation that you took when you go here), “When do we train X muscle?” Is quite up there on the list.


Well in the United States bodybuilding was the predominant form of weightlifting based exercise. People like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno showed the general public what could be possible with bodybuilding (and some scientific help *flicks needle*). Since people wanted to look like these guys, their style of training became popular and personal trainers everywhere had to use bodybuilding style training to get their clients the results they wanted. 

What Style Am I Talking About?

The style that sparked the question from earlier: Bodybuilding Splits!

A split is just a way to program out your week of exercises into muscle groups. 

For Example:

Monday: Chest (#internationalbenchday)

Tuesday: Back

Wednesday: Legs

Thursday: Abs

Friday: Shoulders

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Rest

Why do your workouts this way?

Well, when you are trying to build the largest muscles you can you’re going to do exercises that tear down and build up a ton of muscle (Hypertophy). As you go through one of the days in your split, you are working your type 2 muscle fibers pretty hard and creating a ton of damage. While your body is a pro at repairing your muscles, it needs time to fully recover from a workout (about 39 hours from an average bodybuilding session). 

Now in Bodybuilding, to get the most breakdown and build-up of specific muscles in specific areas, bodybuilders need to isolate muscle groups to create the body they are looking for. This means that they will focus on Back for an entire session to make sure they are controlling the stimulus in that muscle to create the exact size they want. 

You see this in documentaries with Arnold when he looks in the mirror and says “his delts are looking a little flat.” He will most likely hit shoulders that day, give that muscle everything he has, and then give it time to rest and grow.

How Do We Train Our Calves (and other muscles) in CrossFit?

In CrossFit, our goal is not to make the biggest biceps, largest glute, or sickest abs. Our goal is to prepare our bodies to make life easier. To be able to tackle tasks that come our way. This means that we choose exercises that will prepare us for life’s challenge of picking things up, putting them down, and moving our bodies through space. This means that our bodies will respond to those movements by creating a body that is built to handle those tasks. 

This doesn’t mean abandoning muscles, rather we do movements that recruit all of our muscles rather than just one at a time. 

That being said, we do actually follow part of the split idea in our gym. Just with your metabolic pathways and the various stimulus on your body. We have short MetCon days where your lungs hurt, other days where we destroy your legs for an hour, and so on!

The result is bigger arms, stronger cores, and larger quads over time (although to look like those athletes at the Games, much more food and focus is required to get to those definitions and sizes). 

That being said, we do train some muscles harder than others in the movements we use:

We hit calves in our jumping movements and Olympic lifts!

Abs every time we squat, deadlift, Olympic lift, shoulder press, bench press, do sit-ups, kip, dip, and everything else (bracing is hard on those abs!)

and the list can go on for each muscle group and we look down the list of all our exercises!

The best thing to do if you want to focus on having bigger muscles in a specific area is trust your programming, train 3+ times per week, and eat whole foods. Want bigger muscles? Eat more protein and in some cases more carbs (for more specific help, definitely hit up Katelyn or I for a conversation about your nutrition)!

At the end of the day, stressing about muscle groups in CrossFit is like worrying if you’re gonna eat at a potluck. Just show up and you’ll get something you enjoy!

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