This video started out as a how to sculpt Arnold Schwarzenegger’s calves video using Zbrush and or Blender, but morphed into a two part video on how Arnold’s calves differ from most other bodybuilders, which is instructive in understanding anatomy and form in general. One of the aspects of Arnold’s calves that stands out the most is depth, more so than width or height, in terms of lower leg muscle dimensions. Arnold had a lot of 3 dimensionality to his calves. His gastrocnemius insertions looked a little on the high side from the front but looked lower from the back. There are plenty of photos of Arnold’s calves taken from the front where the inner head of the gastrocnemius, appearing high up on his tibia, dramatically pops out on an otherwise almost slender looking calf. This is not to say that Arnold didn’t have some of the best calves of all time, he did, and we’ll get to that. For contrast, take a look at these front shots of James DeMelo’s and Eric Fankhouser’s calves. They had different shape and development of the gastrocnemius, but the development of their non-gastrocnemius muscles is notable. Here’s an MRI picture taken mid-calf, from Target Bodybuilding by Per A Tesch. If this MRI is any indication, the non gastrocnemius muscles make up the bulk of the lower legs and obviously more so as the gastrocnemius stops and the Achilles tendon continues towards the ankle. Demelo’s and Fankhouser’s calves had extreme thickness from knee to ankle. Arnold’s calves were more gastrocnemius dominant.
Arnold’s calves looked like they had lower insertions when viewed from the back, versus higher from the front, as opposed to Demelo and Fankhouser, whose calf insertions appeared lower, aka longer, regardless of either perspective. In addition to fullness, these shots of Arnold’s calves from the back also show great depth. Notice how his lower gastrocnemius fall off into extreme shadow. These photos all had a strong overhead light source which accentuate the strong drop off where his gastrocnemius met his Achilles tendon. To contrast, here are shots of Tom Platz, for example, with his heels planted firmly on the ground, showing incredible lower leg development and detail but not the dramatic drop off into shadow of Schwarzenegger’s calves, regardless of lighting condition. Even Fankhouser didn’t have the extent of shadowy falloff where gastrocnemius met achilles tendon.
You can notice the Schwarzenegger calf depth most, where you’d expect, in the side view. Arnold’s calves were much narrower near the knee but bowed out tremendously in the back. He had knee joints of a stringier athlete mixed with sudden, jarring mesomorphic attributes arcing out. Schwarzenegger’s calves were gastrocnemius dominant whereas, in this Fankenhouser calf photo, his soleus sticks out more than his gastrocnemius. Arnold had a big mass that was his gastrocnemius, then there was everything else. Fankenhouser, to contrast, had such overall mass that, his lower leg muscles blended in more with each other. But that knee to ankle muscle thickness takes away some of the aesthetics. There’s no defined peak but a continuous arc, as seen in this front view.
In the next installment, we’ll try to make sense of Arnold’s unique, maze like gastrocnemius and why his calves appeared to have higher insertions when seen from the front.