how to fix your chopstick calves seated calf machine

How to Fix your Chopstick Calves

You’re a hard working lifter, right? You follow a solid training program for months filled with bench pressing, squats, pull-ups, and lots of bicep curls. After all, curls do get the girls.


Your arms are filling out t-shirts, abs have been looking ripped, and those shoulders of yours sure are turning into boulders. You start posting a couple shirtless selfies in hopes of landing a hot date that compliments your physique well. Your hashtags are #allnatty, #fitnessmotivation, and #singlelifter.

No girl can resist your hot body. And with those hashtags are pretty awesome.

After downing your protein shake, you check your phone. Your comments are filled with bros asking how much you bench and what supplements you take? The only female comment is your mom telling you to call her.

Ugh, so annoying.

With deeply lowered expectations you check your DM’s to find some ladies slipping in. I guess its not too surprising hot girls don’t want to chat in the comment section.

You’re a bit surprised, but decide to take full advantage. You send a few more shirtless selfies to them while your pump is still looking good. One of them definitely seems interested, so you set up a beach date next weekend offering to bring your cute Corgi.

That seals the deal for you because, c’mon, what sane women would turn down such a cute puppy?

Next weekend comes around the corner. On your way to her house, you’re mentally patting yourself on the back for landing such a hot date.

You ring her doorbell, ready to take her to the beach. You packed some sandwiches, did some planks prior, and your cute canine wingman is ready to meet it’s future dogmom.

Hot girl opens the door and immediately looks hesitant. She apologizes and changes her mind about hanging with you. You question what is there not to like? My abs are looking fresh. I’ve been squatting heavy, and all those bicep curls are about to rip my shirt.

She sincerely tells you, “You seem like a great guy, your dog is adorable, but your calves remind me of a pair of chopsticks.”

She giggles a bit while staring at your puny calves, waves one last time, and slowly shuts her door.

An overwhelming tidal wave of humiliation succumbs your body. Your traps and head fill up with scorching rage.

Fist is clenched. Body about to explode like a ticking time bomb counting down.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.


Your alarm goes off and you wake up from a nightmare that nearly gave you a heart attack. You’re relieved it was just a bad dream, but lift up your sheets to see your calves are in fact puny.

You realize they’re thinner than chopsticks and have no business being on a body so great.

The scenario above might not happen exactly like this to you, but I’m well aware how small calves are an epidemic ruining the lives of many men.

They’re hard to grow. Men get discouraged and give up.

Not to worry my hardworking reader, here are the powerful strategies I’ve used with myself and clients to make calf training a breeze. Those suckers will finally grow. They’ll look great in shorts, match your epic physique, and no longer will the ladies ever giggle at your legs ever again!

how to fix your chopstick calves calf raise


You Need To Train Them With A Straight Leg

The calves are made up of 3 main muscles. The lateral gastrocnemius, the medial gastrocnemius, and the soleus. They all activate to a certain degree during calf exercises, but the two important ones are the two gastrocnemius. They give you the look that make your legs look big!

The gastrocnemius gets it’s full range of motion from training with a straight leg because it attaches at the knee. This is all just fancy talk for saying when you train calves sitting down, you’re leaving gains on the table especially from the important calf muscles that give you an eye popping limb.

So here’s the triset you need to do if your calves look like little chopsticks. Do this at the end of your workout, but before any cardio work if that’s in your program.

A1. Standing calf raise machine 3 x 12-20

A2. Single leg DB calf raises 3 x 12-20 per side

A3. Calf raise on leg press 3 x till near failure

Notice that there are no seated calf machines. Those are popular, but not effective if you have deeply lagging calves.

Perform Each Rep Like This

You see calves are hard to grow because of the high adaptability they have. We use them daily to walk, step on stairs, and they even play a minor role in squatting.

They also have a stretch reflex which decreases their range of motion. Training with a straight leg helps, but to fight that stretch reflex and overcome their adaptability do this.

  • Go slowly, jerking your reps around is not going to grow your calves
  • Pause actively at the bottom. This means you’re stretching the calf under load, but you’re still squeezing even in the stretched position
  • Squeeze even harder at the top where peak contraction is taking place
  • Don’t stop thinking about the muscle. You can’t lose tension in your calves. They need a lot of intense time under tension. I’ll even turn off my music just so I can focus on the mind-muscle connection

You must feel your calves squeeze for them to grow. Do all of your reps like this and you’ll feel your calves more than ever. It might even feel like you’re on the edge of getting a cramp.

You Need Frequency My Friend

You see, while genetics play a role in calf development, I wholehearted believe that it has more to do with people’s lack of commitment to them.

Most guys barely train legs and the ones that do might throw in some half hearted calf work occasionally. They see little results from their stubborn legs and so they get discouraged.

They train their calves less, get more discouraged, and eventually their calf training becomes non-existent.

The problem isn’t your genetics, but a lack of priority. The most stubborn muscle needs the most frequency not the least.

This means hitting them 2-5 times a week, not once a month. The calves might be stubborn for some, but are still like every other muscle. Stimulating muscle protein synthesis more often still makes any muscle grow faster.

So commit to training them more frequently, even at the end of upper body days.

It will stimulate more growth and give you more opportunities to develop a better mind-muscle connection.

Learning good calf exercises and performing them correctly is great, but they’ll do nothing if you don’t train them frequently.

how to fix your chopstick calves jump rope

Jump Rope

You want to add some volume to calves, get them stimulating the whole workout, and cut down on your warm up time?

Add in some one legged jump roping to your warm up. It’ll raise your core temperature, skyrocket your athleticism, and activate your lower body quickly.

Start with 2-4 minutes of steady jump roping, then do 30 seconds of fast jump roping on each leg individually.

These will be killer especially if you’ve never jumped rope before.

Progressive Overload Still Applies

Everything advised about volume, frequency, and the mind-muscle connection is vital, but progressive overload still needs to be in place.

Many trainers give advice on feeling the calves better and pausing to increase tension, but progressive overload still needs to be in place for long term progress.

Every muscle on your body will adapt to the stress you place on it. All muscles regardless of fiber type still need more work done on it over time or else it will stop growing. When it comes to your calves, it’s common to forget about going heavier.

“But Calvin, if I go heavy, I won’t feel my calves as well”

Look, I’m not talking about 1 rep maxes on the calf raise machine. I’m talking about slow progressions to ensure form stays strict. So if you don’t want your calves to plateau, it’s as simple as adding 2-5 lbs to your high volume sets every couple of weeks.

Progressing the load slowly will still allow you to get lots of volume while not allowing the body to adapt. Form is the top priority, but progressive overload is right behind it to prevent any plateaus. You want your calves to get bigger, not stall out like a broken engine.

Eventually maxing out on the calf raise machine for reps is pretty awesome, too, but will take a while for most of us.

how to fix your chopstick calves foam roll

Stretch and Foam Roll

Here’s an underrated tip for growing the calves. That’s to take care of your calf. You know stretching it and taking care of the tissue quality.

If everything on this list is taken care of, stretching and foam rolling your calves will become crucial. Your contractions will get deeper and tightness will become an issue. After a long hike my calves are mad tight, imagine training them with high volume, pauses, and progressive overload?

This is one of my favorite tips for bigger more monstrous calves. Without stretching and rolling it out, you sets will look uglier over the course of a couple weeks. You don’t want this and to ensure each rep is of the utmost quality, don’t skip this part.

A few minutes after your workout will be more than enough. Here’s why this is important:

  • Prevents cramping in the middle of your future sets
  • Increases blood flow to your calves which has been shown to increase recovery
  • Fights any soft tissue restrictions allowing you to always train in a full range of motion. (extremely important for a stubborn muscle)

I get it. Nobody wants to jam a roller into their calves after a brutal set of calf raises. The short term discomfort will result in long term tree trunk calves my friend.

No More Baby Calves

You want some powerful masculine legs that attract women faster than cute puppies? Start getting more disciplined and strategic with your calf training.

This means not giving up on them and training them more than just once a week. This means staying strict with form and having deep pauses at the bottom and top of each rep.

If they’re extremely stubborn don’t forget to train them with a straight leg rather than on a seated calf raise.

Focus hard on the mind-muscle connection maintain some intense tension.

And to prevent any plateaus on your calf growing journey, increase the weight, foam roll, and stretch them. Long term unending growth is coming for your legs.

Those chopsticks will soon become thick tree trunks. It is possible to grow them. You can overcome genetics with these methodical tips.

Stay disciplined with the frequency and be consistent, my friend. Hope to see you huge calves that will match the rest of your physique.


About the Author

Calvin is an online trainer, strength coach, lover of food, and one awfully bad dancer. He helps busy professionals look great in the mirror with custom programs. When he's not transforming bodies, he's making YouTube videos and writing articles on how sweet gains can be made.