Fitness Friday: Meet me calf-way, across the gym

Ronald Martinez

If a man achieves victory over his body, who in the world can exercise power over him? He who rules himself rules over the whole world. --Vinoba Bhave

Just a quick note for all our readers who entered last week's 'Beats by Dre' contest: We had a couple of people late to the party, so I've extended the deadline through this weekend. Click here to see what you missed and get those retweets going!

Now, on to business.

One of the recurring themes of Fitness Friday is symmetry. Your workouts, much like your daily nutrition intake, should be well balanced. That's one of the reasons I don't support diets like Atkins or Paleo, which completely eliminate several food groups from their regimens.

You can eat bacon all day long, but for god's sake man, don't touch that banana!

Look, I know people -- who value being thin over being healthy -- who have lost a substantial amount of weight on the Atkins diet. That's great. Think of how happy your next of kin will be when they learn they don't have to purchase the XXL coffin after you drop dead of a heart attack.

It's a philosophy I share in the gym, as well.

The most common form of failure, symmetrically speaking, is the musclehead with no abs. I used to be that guy. I could bench press a Volkswagen, but had to wear a shirt in the swimming pool to hide my moobs. What a waste of time!

Working out like crazy every day and still embarrassed about my physique. Sad.

The good news is, the fitness culture has helped turn that around, so we're seeing more and more people embrace the benefits of a fit core. So too, are the lagging legs of yesteryear finally being fleshed out and brought into the 21st century.

But everybody has that one "sticking point" they can't seem to get over.

I use the term "disposable calves" because those poor little bastards are the most commonly neglected muscle group. Somehow, it became acceptable to label them stubborn and unwilling to grow, when in fact, it's just the opposite.

They don't respond because they don't get the same love and attention that most other body parts do.

This isn't a phenomenon exclusive to beginners -- I've seen even the hippest cats in the room commit the same fatal flaw. It's leg day and they spend an hour blasting the shit out of their quads. After they pulverize them to the point of failure, they focus on their hamstrings.

Whew, my legs hurt just thinking about it.

Then, after they guzzle down a gallon of anti-freeze or whatever that hell that green sludge is in their water bottle, they plop down on the seated calf machine and bang out three quick sets using heavy weight.

That's it. Boom. It's a wrap.

"I don't get it bro, I train calves, but they just don't respond."

While calves are the usual suspects, there are disposable body parts everywhere in the gym. I've seen meatheads do a brisk run for 10 minutes on the treadmill -- post workout -- then towel off, high-five their homies and pat themselves on the back.

"Did cardio today."

I was the same way with my abs. I'd wait until the end of my workout, lay down on that nice comfy bench, and crunch out 100 reps. That was "doing abs." And yet I couldn't figure out why they were lagging behind. Truth is, I might have been inclined to do more, but I was just so damn tired by then.

Instead of breaking up your workout by specific body parts, try breaking it up by circuit.

Not only do you save more time in the gym by eliminating lengthy rest periods, you hit the muscle group from different angles at different times, which really goes a long way toward shaping and strengthening them. Let's look at a comparison using some of the more popular machines.

Standard routine grouped by body part:

Squats: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Leg press: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Leg curls: 1-3 set x 10 reps

Lying hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Standing hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Adductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Abductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Standing calf raises: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated calf raises: 1-3 set x 10 reps
Calf press (on leg press machine): 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Standard routine grouped by circuit:

Squats: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Lying hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Adductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Standing calf raises: 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Leg press: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Abductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated calf raises: 1-3 set x 10 reps

Leg curls: 1-3 set x 10 reps
Standing hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Calf press (on leg press machine): 1-3 sets x 10 reps

If you're using heavier weight and don't want to have your muscles cool down on a longer circuit, you can break them up or mix and match.

Squats: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Lying hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Leg press: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Leg curls: 1-3 set x 10 reps
Standing hamstring curl: 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Standing calf raises: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Adductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Seated calf raises: 1-3 set x 10 reps
Abductor machine: 1-3 sets x 10 reps
Calf press (on leg press machine): 1-3 sets x 10 reps

Note: The fitness industry has demonized the adductor/abductor machine (I've seen some experts call it a "waste") and people will laugh at you when you use it, but this is a MUST for any grappler (think triangle chokes).

While my quads are resting, I'm working my hammys, instead of standing around or wandering the gym aimlessly. In addition, it helps eliminate disposable muscle groups, like calves, because your taking them off the caboose and putting them right on Broadway.

One of the challenges of grouping the sets by circuit is having to play round-robin with the machines. People think I'm nuts, because I'm racing back and forth across the gym. This actually help me because it keeps my heart rate up and my blood pumping, so even though my sets are grouped close together, I don't suffer from cement legs by standing or (gasp) sitting.

If someone else is on the machine, I can usually sneak in by telling them "One and done, brother, I'm on the express program today." They don't need to know that today = every day. The end result is taking legs that look like water balloons and turning them into chiseled shit-kickers.

When I'm done, I usually coordinate my cardio so that I burn out my legs and don't get cramps or stiffness later on. The treadmill is a little too friendly for this job, but 20 minutes on the Stairmaster usually does the trick. And by "does the trick," I mean it brings me close to death.

Seriously, fuck that machine. If it wasn't so effective, I'd take it out back and shoot it.

The drawback to doing legs, I mean really doing them, is the "ugh" factor. I've never seen anyone do legs and say, "Man, isn't this great?" I rarely take energy drinks, but sometimes my schedule gets turned upside down when my kid has a school function or some other wacky commitment leaves me in the dead zone.

Everyone has a dead zone.

It's that one time of day where it takes every ounce of willpower just to stay awake. For me, it's 2-4 p.m., give or take a half hour. Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock? My blood pressure is 3/1. In those kinds of emergencies, especially if I have legs waiting for me, I need a little something.

Oh, hello ViSalus.

I called the boys at V-town and asked them to help me out and they hooked me up with "GO," their patent-pending, grape-flavored energy shot specially formulated to deliver instant energy to support peak muscle performance.

You know me by now, and I'm not the kind of guy to buy energy shots from the counter at the local Kwik-E-Mart, so I asked them to pull back the curtain and let me know what I was ingesting. I want my heart rate to go up from working out, not from drinking goop.

Here's the rundown:

Powergrape®: Whole Grape Extract. While other brands only use the fruit's powder, ViSalus GO uses this patented and clinically tested grape extract for the ultimate power source, thus supporting cell uptake of oxygen for optimal performance and endurance.
Black Currant Extract: A strong antioxidant.
Rhodiola Extract: Used by Russian Olympic athletes for over 30 years, supports stamina, endurance and energy.
Cassis Pigment Extract: Supports the body's responses to oxidative stress
Citrulline Malate: Supports Nitric Oxide production, which supports a healthy vascular system, including oxygen and blood flow.
Isomaltulose: A non-insulin-spiking sweetener that helps support muscle performance.
5 Essential Vitamins to support the body with healthy benefits.

All systems GO as far as I'm concerned. You can break it down even further at the ViSalus website by clicking here.

The next time you're in the gym, take a step back and evaluate your program. Which part of your physique gets the rush job? I'd also like to hear how some of you fitness fiends got past your own personal "sticking points."

Fess up!

Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here.

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