Yes! As surprising as that may be for many to read, consistent sports massages will in fact lead – albeit with the odd degree of separation – to greater muscle growth in the mid to long term. The mechanisms through which these results are achieved is often unexpected, but the literature leaves no room for interpretation; if incorporated correctly, massage work will further boost your calf development.
So how do you start using this new information to grow your calves?
Now, I can imagine this is exciting news; if you’ve struggled with calf growth even half as much as I have, this could seem like the light at the end of the tunnel. As ridiculously stubborn as calves can be, anything promising to actually make them pack some tissue on can not only be exciting but also seem too good to be true, especially given how simple this solution presents itself to be.
I assure you though, as suspiciously clear-cut as this may seem at a glance, once we dive into the details, the pieces will begin to fall into place, and paint a picture that’ll make you wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner.
Let’s dive into the specifics and flesh out just how it is that they help, and more importantly, how you can make the most of them in order to really boost that lower leg hypertrophy.
How Exactly Do They Help With Growth?
As I mentioned above, there’s a degree of separation at play here: while supplementing a proper training regime with consistent sports massaging will in most cases result in an improvement muscle-growth-wise, it’s not the massage itself that directly incites increased tissue production.
The many benefits that the massages do bring, however, such as myofascial release, improved blood flow, and acutely heightened flexibility – with some studies (D’Andrea, 2016; Sağiroğlu, 2017; Stroiney et al., 2020) even finding improvements in muscle power, strength and agility -, all contribute significantly to an improvement in recovery and greater performance in concurrent sessions, leading to a higher intensity and total overall volume, which, you guessed it, means better results in the long run.
This isn’t going to be some saving grace, however, on which you can rely in order to lessen your efforts. You can consider more so to be the cherry on top of an already solid routine, helping squeeze out those few extra drops of calf growth from all your hard work.
When Should I Get These Massages Done?
Now, this is all good and dandy, another weapon in our arsenal for the battle against stubborn lower legs, but when is the time to unsheath this metaphorical sword and get to slashing and hacking? How do I fit these massages into the routine to yield maximum results? Two options lay before us, both of arguably similar efficacy:
- The day before a heavy session: As listed above, there are two main benefits to this method: the boost in recovery, and the priming effect for the next session, the latter of which we’d be looking to maximize with this approach. By timing the massage ~24h before your session, you’d both reap the greatest benefit in terms of performance increase, while giving your calves time to recover from the massage itself, lest power output is diminished when it comes time to actually train.
- ASAP post-session: On the other hand, should we choose to maximize the former benefits, ideally we’d get these massages done as soon as possible post-session, to ensure that the gains are capitalized on to their fullest throughout the entire recovery process.
Now to some, this may seem like a trivial difference, but anecdotally, it has proven to have a significant effect on the results athletes have obtained, and while we may not fully understand the mechanics at play, what one cannot argue with is a consistent trend of positive results. Something is at work here, and work well it does.
What About Frequency? How Often is Best?
This factor ties in more to the frequency of your calf training itself, which, contrary to popular belief stating that most if not all muscle groups have a similar enough fiber composition to make bi-weekly training sufficient, in reality evidence suggests up to ~4 sessions a week, typically on a day-on, day-off approach. This is due to the fact that the average gastrocnemius is composed of over 50% slow twitch muscle fibers, which, in summary, means that it isn’t nearly as responsive to the same kind of stimuli that, say, your pectoralis major will be.
Slow twitch muscle fibers tend to be pretty resistant to hypertrophy, period, but some growth can still be incited through lower intensity, higher volume work, i.e., 4 or even 5 sessions a week. This is, however, not the only approach to be taken, as we can’t forget that a 50% composition shouldn’t dictate the entirety of our training approach. Higher intensity methods can and should be applied, but variety will be key for ideal results.
|Increase in Results over previous step
So, circling back to the matter at hand: ideal training frequency comes down to 4-5 times a week, and if that doesn’t seem realistic within your routine, you can simply train them as many days as feasible to you, which would then triangulate into receiving just as many massages (for optimal results).
What Else Can I Do To Grow My Calves?
With the momentum built up from what we’ve just finished reading, I can imagine this question easily popping into your mind; what can I do to push growth further still?
Well, there’s a borderline bottomless depth of knowledge to delve into when it comes to tackling this very question, whether it’s unorthodox training methods, alternative forms of manual stimuli, enhanced recovery techniques, or other novel tackles, there are simply too many options for one to find themselves giving up on this pursuit, e.g.:
- Weighted Hiking/Uphill Walking
- Weighted Jump-Rope
- Explosive Eccentrics
- Cluster Sets
- Heavy Isometrics
And these are just some prominent examples, the list could go on. All this to say that while sometimes a lack of progress is frustrating, we can’t let ourselves fall into the comfortable pit of victimization; “Oh, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to and it’s still not working, it’s not my fault”. It’s a very easy thing to sink into. And while it may arguably not be your fault, it is indubitably your responsibility. Anything you want, training or otherwise, is in your hands to achieve. Whether you do the legwork yourself, seek help, or outright outsource it, it’s always going to be you that must take the initial step; now, speaking of that latter option…
What to Do When It Seems Like Nothing Else Is Working
As mentioned, sometimes, and especially when one simply has a plate too full for any other demanding responsibilities, the solution lies in accepting how others can help you, and outsourcing as much as one can elsewhere. This benefits not only your time management, but also brings to the table much that would otherwise be absent, such as a higher education in the subject matter at hand, years of expertise that have been curated through painstaking trial and error, making mistakes, and learning from them so that you don’t have to.
The advantages you gain from delegating the logistics of your fitness journey to an expert are undeniable, boosting you ahead of where you would have otherwise been, not to mention helping you stay consistent but helping you through the roadblocks that are inevitably faced, and allowing you to avoid the unnecessary ones entirely!
If you’re still on the fence regarding whether or not you need a personal trainer, perhaps sit for a second and evaluate what it means to “need” something to begin with; is it paramount to your survival? No, the only things you really need are food, water, and sleep. Is it going to boost you into a lifestyle that you’ve practically written off as a pipe dream, granting you levels of physical and mental confidence that are quite literally unachievable through other means? You’re damn right it will.
What you have in front of you is a ticket to the body, the physique, the lifestyle that you know you want, not because I’ll pick you up and drop you at your destination, no, but because I’ll help unlock the door, clear the path, and be your guide down the road that you’ll traverse on your own, growing physically (and mentally) along the way.
Sign up now, and let’s take that first step.