Dorian Yates had some of the best calves in bodybuilding history. Although Yates was known as a mass monster, he didn’t get enough credit for having an aesthetic leg structure as well. Legs in general, not just calves. While Yates was under six feet tall, his legs had good length in proportion to his upper body, his quads had classic shape with long, tier drop-shaped vastus medialis, and his calf bones were in good proportion to his femur. His adductors weren’t clownishly big and his overall thigh development didn’t detract from his calf size. His thigh and calf development were in proportion to each other. Unlike Ronnie Coleman, Yates didn’t appear to augment his calves with any substances. He didn’t need to. Synthol or related augmentations are acts of desperation that add to calf size in the short term but detract from calf aesthetics. It’s an ugly trade off and ultimately a lose lose. We can likely determine Yates to have never injected any oily substances into his calves but, none the less, whether through nerve damage, muscle tear or some other factor, his calves seem to be affected by at least one of the conditions that are causing high-level bodybuilders calves to have a melted appearance.
Age can also factor into why some bodybuilders are losing their calves. Sarcopenia is defined as the loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process. However, the inner head of the general public’s gastrocnemius doesn’t naturally start flattening out in one’s forties, fifties or sixties.
Determining how Ronnie Coleman’s calves deteriorated involves too many variables to quickly make sense of. Exactly how each of his injuries and surgeries contributed to his calves’ current look is something that would be hard for anyone to qualify or agree upon. Whatever Ronnie Coleman added to his calves likely contributed to their current look as well. When you try to determine what happened to Coleman’s calves, there is the augmentation variable, and the long term consequences of that, on top of possible muscle tears, nerve damage, or other factors.
Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone had similar issues. Wheeler at the 2017 Classic Mr. Olympia and Kevin Levrone at the 2016 Mr. Olympia and 2018 Arnold Classic Australia. Current Mr. Olympia Mamdouh Elssbiay aka Big Ramy already had calves hopelessly disproportionate to his thighs but appears to have the mysterious disappearing calf issue starting as well. The inner calves are flattening out and the inner head of the gastrocnemius has a higher insertion look. His calves appear shorter. Ramy already was similar to Paul DeMayo who, although having well developed calves, had calves that could never keep pace with his thigh development. Flatter and shorter calves only magnify an existing issue. Here is an artist’s interpretation of how big Ramy’s calves would have to look to keep pace with his upper leg development. Notice that the illustration is adding on structure that he is currently missing due to whatever is plaguing his lower legs. In reality, Ramy has less calves to work with than he did a year ago due to his calf issues.
Lee Labrada was never particularly known for his calf development but also seems to have developed Ramy-like shortening of the calf muscles. Even though Labrada is older, one’s calf muscles generally don’t shorten that much by age 60. Sixty is not that old and Labrada’s upper body muscles haven’t dramatically shortened. If something training related is causing bodybuilders calves to look smaller than the average person as they age maybe they should lay off training their calves so intensely so as to at least keep their calf muscles intact. Dennis Wolf is yet another bodybuilder affected by melting calves. Like Wolf, Gunter Schlierkamp’s inner calves started flattening while he was still competing. Top bodybuilder’s calf muscles shouldn’t end up being less developed than the average person.
And although bodybuilders like Dorian Yates have photos and recognition of their glory days, the average person who trains in a manner to destroy their lower legs ends up with no calves and no former glory or recognition. You’d be better off keeping your calves. Recently deceased bodybuilder Doug Brignole also had the muscle shortening issue with at least one of his inner calves.
Classic Mr Olympia competitor Wesley Vissers, at age 29, has inner calf issues starting with his left inner calf. He seems to be losing control of the inner head of his gastrocnemius, which starts to flatten out during certain poses. Age issues and synthol use can be safely ruled out in Wesley Vissers’ case. This growing list of bodybuilders who have developed these calf issues is not exhaustive. It would be interesting to discover what is actually causing these calf problems on a case by case basis and if the years of extreme supplementation may factor in in some way shape or form to long term nerve damage or other issues.
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