Does the Seated Leg Curl Give You Bigger Calves?
The seated leg curl is designed to give you bigger and stronger hamstrings, the group of four muscles located at the back of your thighs. But there is another muscle that assists the leg-bending motion, and it's known as the gastrocnemius -- the largest muscle of your calves. If you do seated leg curls on a regular basis, then you can get bigger calves. However, you'll need to add some unique twists to the exercise to make your calves work hard enough to eventually adapt and get bigger.
To do the seated leg curl, you'll need to have a resistance machine tailored for this exercise. If you work out at a gym, you'll likely find this machine. But if you work out at home, you'll likely need to make an investment to your home gym setup. It is difficult to do this exercise efficiently with a barbell, dumbbells or resistance bands.
Sit on the leg curl machine and raise your legs over the machine pads. Place the backs of your calves and ankles over the padding and straighten your legs. Lean back so you are in contact with the seat and hold the handgrips on each side for added support. Bend your legs as much as possible and squeeze your calves and hamstring muscles. Hold the squeeze at the end for up to two seconds and then straighten your legs back to the start. Choose a weight you can do for 12 to 15 repetitions per set, and perform four sets of this exercise during your leg workouts.
The most helpful tip to work your calves to a greater extent during the seated leg curl is called dorsiflexion, the exact opposite of plantarflexion. When you dorsiflex, which means to bend the ankles upward, you lengthen the fibers of your gastrocnemius. By doing that, you allow the muscle group a greater range of motion. When you bend your knees during the seated leg curl, your calves will be able to work throughout the entire range of motion. Another helpful tip is to simply focus your mind on your calf muscles, rather than your hamstrings, during the entire range of motion. This is called the mind-muscle connection, according to Dave Dellanave on Schwarzenegger.com, and it will let you better recruit your calves as you do the leg curl exercise.
You can't get bigger calves if you are injuring yourself in the gym and consequently missing workouts. So, always warm-up and cool-down before and after your workouts. Running at a slow pace for a span of 10 to 15 minutes is an excellent activity to warm up your legs, including your hamstrings and calves.
Peter Chou is a journalist with more than 15 years experience. He has coached track and field for 20-plus years and competed as a runner himself. Chou has won several championships during his athletic career.