Calves are a bit of a mystery muscle group. Some people seem to be genetically disposed to growing huge calves. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people. They do seem to be a relatively sought-after muscle group though — you can always expect a queue for the calf raise machine at the gym.
Stan Browney, the king of 30-day challenges, decided he was going to take on calves, completing 333 calf raises daily. That’s every day. For 30 days. Before you whip out your calculator, that adds up to 9,900 calf raises.
The participants were split into two groups at the beginning of the challenge — the blue and red teams. Stan’s friends Arjen and Sten made up the blue team and were going up against Stan and his brother Jorg on the red team.
The teams rolled dice to see which team would take on the more difficult challenge and which would have it easier. The unlucky team would have to complete 333 raises every day, and the other team would only complete them every other day.
Tensions were high as the rolling commenced, with both teams knowing what was at stake. The blue ended up with the first laugh, rolling a higher score, meaning they’d only need to complete half as many raises over the course of the challenge. The red, knowing the challenge ahead of them, were far less jubilant.
The participants weren’t particularly optimistic for the challenge. They were expecting, or maybe hoping, to see between 1-2cm of growth per calf, which seems fairly realistic.
Prior to the challenge, everyone had their calves measured.
|Arjen (team blue)||33cm|
|Sten (team blue)||38cm|
|Stan (team red)||39cm|
|Jorg (team red)||40cm|
And it’s worth mentioning no one tried to gain any weight to skew the results of the challenge — they all ate around their maintenance level of calories throughout.
4 levels of the challenge
Calf raising is like a whirlwind romance — there's love, there’s hate, and then it ends. The participants went through all four stages of calf raising.
Level 1: Gains
In the early stages of the challenge, the guys were motivated and raring to go. With gains in mind, there was no stopping them. Yeah, it would be a bit tedious, but they were going to have huge calves at the end of this. It was going to be so worth it.
Level 2: Pain
The initial excitement quickly wore off, which is when level two began. Pain. DOMS soon set in, leaving everyone in crippling pain. Sore calves all day every day made life uncomfortable. This meant that the challenge was not only taking 20 minutes a day, but even fun stuff, like football, was difficult to enjoy.
Level 3: Boredom
And if the pain wasn’t bad enough, the guys were also quickly overcome with boredom. They’d often put off daily reps simply because they found them just so damn boring. This was an enticing idea at first but led to having to catch up on missed days later.
Level 4: The end
But after 30 long, hard, painful, boring days, the challenge was over. And with that came relief and the results.
Brace yourselves …
|Arjen (team blue)||33cm||33cm|
|Sten (team blue)||38cm||38cm|
|Stan (team red)||39cm||40cm|
|Jorg (team red)||40cm||40cm|
Stan was the only participant to see any growth, but even that was just 1cm. After completing 10,000 calf raises. But all experienced intense pain and boredom. It's a good job it’s just the taking part that counts …
Take home message
The two teams completed 30,000 calf raises between them, with a collective return of 1cm of growth. 30 hours, more or less, spent doing the challenge and countless more hours spent in pain. We're sure it wasn’t a waste of time, but we’re not sure it was entirely productive either.
Only one question remains. How can you actually build your calves?