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The John Meadows Calf Workout | The Ultimate Guide!

John Meadows is an IFBB professional bodybuilder and one of the best bodybuilding coaches in the world.

John believes that anyone can build a huge pair of calves if they learn how to train them properly. He says that genetics do play a role but it’s rare to see someone train calves as hard as they train their chest, arms or back. Check it out:

“Number 1, people like to use the genetic crutch. I don’t have good genetics for calves.

But what happens is people come into the gym, they do 2 sets of bouncy calf work at the end of their workout and they see see, my calves don’t grow.

I do think genetics play a role but I don’t think people are even close to getting their full potential out of calves because they don’t put any work into it.

So get this mess out of your head that it’s all genetic – it’s not!”

So how does John Meadows train his calves? Here are some calf training principles that he believes in: 

John Meadows’ Calf Training Principles

  • Rule #1: Use low-volume, high-frequency workouts!
  • Rule #2: Perform high-rep sets to failure!
  • Rule #3: Emphasize the stretch!
  • Rule #4: Train the tibialis anterior!

John says most people get their best results training the calves 4-5 times per week with low-volume, high-intensity workouts. He would train his calves almost every time he was in the gym!

John likes to pick about 1-2 calf exercises and perform 3-4 high-rep sets to failure per workout. John also likes to train the tibialis anterior muscle during his calf workouts.

Don’t worry, I’ll show you exactly how he does this in the workouts below. Here is one of John Meadows’ simple, low-volume calf workouts that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Calf Workout #1

  • Exercise A1: Standing calf raise, 2 sets of 8, 30 reps**, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise A2: Tibialis anterior raise, 2 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 minute rest

**On the second set perform a 10-second iso-hold in the top part of the exercise on reps 10, 20 and 30. You will perform a total of 3 iso-holds on your 30-rep set.

Here is the training video:

This is a very simple calf workout. John performs 2 sets to failure on the standing calf raise and on the tibialis anterior machine.

If you don’t have a tibialis anterior machine then you can perform the same motion without a machine – just rock your toes up towards your shins, hold for a second and lower back down.

Here is John describing his calf training philosophy:

“Calves are a unique muscle. Personally I think they can handle a lot of frequency.

When I really started to train them more frequently, 4-5 times  a week, I saw massive growth, in particular when I mixed in the tibia raises.

If you can train your calves more often, every single time I was in the gym I trained them, unless my feet were sore.

OK, if my feet are sore I should back off. But I do think it’s reasonable to train them 4-5 times a week.”

Here is another very simple John Meadows calf routine that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Calf Workout #2

  • Exercise #1: Leg press calf raise, 5 sets to failure, 20 seconds rest
  • Exercise #2: Tibialis anterior raise, 1 set of 10-12 reps

Here is the training video:

This workout is as simple as it gets. John performs 5 sets to failure on the leg press calf raise and then performs 1 set of tibialis anterior raises.

John says calf training is really simple. You just hit them hard several times per week with 1-2 exercise per workout.

“Just forget overanalyzing. Train your calves really hard with a good full range of motion, very intensely, low volume, high frequency and I think you’re going to see really good results.”

When John is performing his calf exercises he really emphasizes the stretched position on every rep. John is a huge believer in using loaded stretches to build hypertrophy.

When it comes to the calves he says it is safe to stretch out the muscle on the first exercise. You don’t need to perform any “pumping” exercises first like you do with chest or back. Check it out:

“People don’t really emphasize the stretch. They say well you gotta get a full contraction at the top.

The calves are used to walking around. They’re very used to that. But what your calves aren’t used to is coming out of a stretch!

Every single rep that you do, you should really focus on the stretch!”

So far we’ve looked at some of John’s lower volume calf workouts. Here is a higher volume calf workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Calf Workout #3

  • Exercise A1: Machine tibilialis anterior raise, 2 sets of 10-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Machine donkey calf raise, 2 sets of 10-12 reps, 1 minute rest
  • Exercise B1: Standing calf raise, 4 sets of 8 reps, 1 minute rest

Here is the training video:

For this workout John performs 2 exercises for his calves.

This is about the most that he will perform in a single workout. As usual John supersets his calf work with some tibialis anterior raises. He is a huge believer in working the tibialis anterior – he says it balances out your lower legs and just seems to help with calf growth. Check it out:

“Do you think if you trained only your biceps and not your triceps, that your arms would get to their biggest? How about training your quads but not your hamstrings, would your legs get to their biggest? Probably not.

I started to think to myself, what about training your tibia? That muscle dorsiflexes your foot, so that’s when you are pulling your foot up. Plantarflexing is pushing your foot down, dorsiflexing is pulling your foot up.

Why don’t we train the front of your tibia, just like we train both sides of our arms or thighs? I started to superset tibia raises with my gastrocs exercises.”

Everyone once in a while John will perform giant sets for his calves. Here is a mega pump calf workout that you can try. Check it out:

John Meadows Calf Workout #4

  • Exercise A1: Leg press calf raise, 1 set of 10-15 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A2: Standing calf raise, 1 set of 10-15 reps**, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A3: Tibialis anterior raise, 1 set of 10-15 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • Exercise A4: Seated calf raise, 1 set of 10-15 reps, 1 minute rest

**Perform 10-15 reps to failure, then perform 10 partial reps, then perform a 30-second iso-hold in the stretched position.

Here is the training video:

For this workout you are going to perform 4 exercises in a row with only 10 seconds rest between sets. This is John’s way of getting a huge pump in the calves in a very short period of time.

During the workout John gives some great advice on not going too heavy on your calf exercises. Check it out:

“I think this goes without saying, but I think a lot of people just go too heavy on calves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to do heavy raises, particularly in the stretched position. But when the weight is so heavy that you are just jumping, you’re not going to get the growth that you want.

So don’t be so obsessed with going heavy until you’ve mastered that form. Then go heavier and heavier.”

John Meadows trains his calves using low-volume / high-frequency workouts. He likes to perform 1-2 calf exercises per workout plus some direct work for his tibialis anterior.


If you want to add some serious muscle mass to your calves then I highly recommend you give John Meadows’ calf workouts a shot. If you enjoyed this content then make sure you check out the following articles:

These articles might be just what you need to take your training to the next level.

“I looked up to the guys who could really take their training to another level. They would not leave the gym until they won. And that’s the mentality I’ve always had – I would not leave the gym until I put everything I had into it.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!