Steve Reeves arguably had the best calves of his era, stocky all the way down to his ankles. Reeves was in the category of Erik Fankhouser and James DeMelo as far as, not only having exceptional gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis anterior development, but also exceptional development of the smaller calf muscles, those closer to the ankle. Contrast with Mike Matarazzo, for example. Some of the biggest calves of all time. Undeniably exceptional gastros, soleus, and tibialis anterior but his calves don’t have Reeves’s thickness near the ankle. The ankle area is more than just tendons. Some people have enough natural muscular development in that area that it looks like they’re, quote, big boned, but the development of those muscles, in a way similar to having fat deposits, can add substantially to what people perceive as big boned. Muscle can add significantly to ankle and wrist size, depending on factors like muscle length and your potential for development. Gunnar Rosbo had slabs of muscle around his wrists that no doubt increased his wrist measurement. Sergio Oliva also had a lot of flexor muscle near the wrist. Some people naturally have or develop the non-gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis muscles indirectly but a lot of people would benefit from equipment or machines that dorsiflex, invert, or evert the foot in order to obtain development like Reeves around the ankle.
Here’s Steve Reeves, a little later in his bodybuilding career, not certain the occasion, could be guest posing, but look at the thickness near the ankle. The tibialis anterior is here. This extra bowing is below the tibialis anterior. There are multiple smaller muscles on the inner and outer lower calf which contribute to muscle size above the ankle. On Reeves, you can notice on his left leg, because the tibialis anterior is more relaxed, that his tibialis anterior blends with the lower, outer calf muscles and gives the appearance of a powerful tibia bone, like you’d see in a heroic Renaissance era sculpture or painting. But a lot of that appearance is muscle augmenting the perception of bone structure. In this image, Matt Mendenhall is leaner, has less developed and or more tendinous lower calf muscles, and probably, to some extent smaller bone circumference, but it’s hard to tell to what extent with those other factors in the mix. The narrowness of his knees and ankles amplified his already enormous upper calf size. Like Arnold, his calves were on the high-side but not overly high. Also like Arnold’s, they peaked out at different heights but Mendenhall’s much more noticeably than with Arnold.
Here’s a Mendenhall, Dorian Yates, and Berry DeMey photo lineup taken at the 1995 World Games. Of the three, Yates probably had the most similar calf structure to Reeves, except Yates actually had smaller knees and ankles. Not sure why his left inner knee is sticking out in this photo. It’s uncharacteristic of any other image seen of Yates then, or ever. Yates always had smaller knees and a great flow to his legs. Overall, Berry DeMey had the most Reeves-like physique and appearance.
Foot flexibility obviously plays some role in calf development. There are numerous shots of Steve Reeves showing great flexibility in his feet, probably more so than any other bodybuilder. We decided to research bodybuilders with great calf development and foot flexibility starting with Chris Dickerson because he studied ballet and also had great calves. While he did have a few photos showing foot flexibility, there nearly weren’t as many as Reeves or to Reeves extent of flexion. Urs Kalecinski’s mother was a professional ballerina but any photos or stills from his posing routines where he displays Reeves-like flexibility were illusive. On a side note, Urs Kalecinski’s calves have Mendenhall-like narrow knees and ankles but with lower gastrocnemius insertions. The extra inch or so range of plantar flexion motion must have some effect on calf development so part two will break down how other bodybuilders compare to Reeves in that regard and determine if the bodybuilder with the most Reeves-like flexibility also has great calves.