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Calf exercises

These are the two most popular calf exercises that can be done to directly work your calf muscles. There is no point in re-inventing these exercises, so if you are looking to build great looking calves, then these will hit the spot.

Introduction to your Calf muscles

Calf AnatomyThe calf muscles are made up of several muscles, the most commonly known is the large diamond shaped gastrocnemius muscle and the smaller soleus muscle. The gastrocnemius muscle runs the entire length of the calf area and can be seen from the front poking out either side of the shin bone. The smaller soleus muscle lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle. The calf muscles help you get up onto your tiptoes, but also help with the movement of your ankles, feet and toes, especially when walking or running.

My calf exercise list:

Standing calf raises

Function: Primarily works the gastrocnemius muscle.
Form: Begin this exercise under a standing calf machine/smith machine or holding a dumbbell. With the ball of your feet on a raised edge, lift the weight up by raising your heels up, then slowly lower the heels back down to a gentle stretch. Repeat for required reps and sets.
Tips: Stand with your body straight, tight abs and a very slight bend at the knees. Push up with the balls of your feet on the step and not your toes. If you don’t have access to a calf machine, see the variations below. Also if not using a calf machine use a chair or other stable structure to hold on to for balance and maybe an aerobic step as a platform to stand on.
Key notes: The gastrocnemius is a fast twitch muscle that responds to lower reps and heavier loads, although it can still be stimulated with lighter higher rep training with good results.
Variations: You can also do a single leg dumbbell calf Raise. To do this, hold a dumbbell in your right hand and only place your right foot on the platform (put the left foot behind your right foot heel) and raise just the one foot, repeat for the left foot after you have completed the required reps for your right foot. You can also use a weight belt/dip belt or a weight vest to add weight to a standing calf raise at home.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

Standing calf raise Standing calf raise Standing calf raise Standing calf raise gif

Seated calf raise

Function: Primarily works the soleus muscle.
Form: Seated at a calf machine, place the balls of your feet on the block edge/step and knees under the pads. Raise your heels up to lift the weight up and squeeze at the top. Slowly lower back down to the start position. Repeat for required reps and sets.
Tips: If you have not got access to a calf machine, you can try using barbell/dumbbells/triceps bar. To do this you can use a seat bottom, such as an old computer seat bottom or dinning room chair cushion turned upside down to give you a soft pad for your thighs and a hard surface for the weight to rest on. With the soft side on your lap and pushed over towards your knees a little, you can place the weight on top of the hard surface of the underside of the chair seat.
Key notes: The soleus is a slow twitch muscle that responds to higher reps and lighter weight.
Variations: You can also try varying your foot angle to hit a different part of your calf.

Click on images below, the last one is a GIF animation:

Seated calf raise Seated calf raise Seated calf raise gif

My final thoughts on exercising your calf muscles

The calf muscles can be quite stubborn to build and normally require more reps than other muscles of the body due to the high amount of endurance they have to cope with. The shape and size of the muscle will be mostly down to your genetic makeup.