5 Calf Exercises to Add to Your Workout Routine

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If you’re here, that means you’re wondering how to get bigger calves. Calf workouts are often neglected – even though most fitness maniacs are envious of those with carved lower legs.

Designed to take on almost all of your weight, your calves are the most arduous muscles in your body. Sadly, compound movements alone aren’t enough to properly grow large calf muscles. So, if you want to get bigger calves, the first thing to know is that it takes a lot of work to stimulate them enough to see serious gains in their size.

Typically, a few more reps per set will do. Fortunately for you, we’re about to guide you through some of the best calf exercises and how many reps you should be doing.

Best Calf Exercises

best calf exercises

Standing Calf Raise

Reps:

12-15 reps per set

Standing calf raises (AKA heel raises) are classic, easy straight knee exercises that use your bodyweight to strengthen your calves. They only use bodyweight, so they’re quite a convenient calf exercise that you can try at home. This exercise mainly uses the soleus. 

Execution:

  • Start by standing up straight with your feet hip-width apart. 
  • Hold your hands by your sides and keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Push the balls of your feet into the ground and raise your heels.
  • Elevate your body upwards until you’re on your toes.
  • Hold this position for three seconds, and then gently lower your heels back to the floor.

Elevated Calf Raise

Reps:

12-15 reps per set

To intensify the standing heel raise, perform it on a slightly elevated platform. Elevated calf raises are a more well-rounded exercise than standard raises as they allow you to reach a greater range of motion. They’re easily one of the best calf exercises when it comes to stretching your muscles.  

Equipment and Set-Up:

Grab a step-aerobics platform or any elevated platform that is strong enough to hold your bodyweight. If you can’t find one, opt for a weight plate.

Execution:

  • Stand on the edge of the platform with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure the balls of your feet are on the platform and your heels hanging off the back. First-timers might struggle with their balance, but that’s not going to stop you. Try holding onto something sturdy (the wall) until you find your balance.
  • Slowly push your body up with the balls of your feet to raise your heels until you feel the stretch in your calf muscles. When you’re on your toes, hold the position for a couple of seconds and then lower your heels back down to the original position. That’s one rep!

Single-Leg Calf Raise 

Reps:

12 reps per set

Single leg calf exercises are more intense than those that work both legs as all of your weight is focused on one of your calves instead of both. Feel free to use a kettlebell and dumbbell to intensify the move.

To perform the single-leg calf raise, do it near a wall or next to something sturdy that can help you keep your balance. Single leg calf raises are the most effective calf exercises for unilateral balance. Unilateral exercises train both sides of your body equally, so you benefit by enhancing your balance and preventing muscle imbalances or injuries.

By performing heel raises a single leg at a time, you take off the stress of the move from your body’s dominant side, letting your weaker side work twice as hard. 

Execution:

Stand on one leg with the other flexed behind you. For a more intense single leg calf raise, try to hold a weight in each hand with your arms stretched down your sides.  

  • Push on the ball of your foot to raise your heel, pushing your body up. 
  • Once you’re on your toes and your calf is stretched, hold the position for a couple of seconds. 
  • Then lower your heel down gently until you reach the original position. 
  • That’s one rep! 
  • Repeat the move with the same leg for your first few sets, and then switch legs for a brand new set. 

Donkey Calf Raises 

Reps:

8-10 reps per set

Donkey calf raises are powerful calf exercises because the movement thoroughly stretches the muscles in your calves and strengthens them even more than regular calf raises. You can perform donkey with nothing but your body weight, or you can make the move more interesting by wearing a weight vest or belt to add some resistance.

Equipment and Set-Up:

You’ll need a platform to stand on; try a weight plate or a step-aerobics platform. You will also need something to lean on – your couch or a table or will do, but anything that can stay in place while you lean on it and execute the movement will be fine.

Execution:

  • Stand on the platform facing the couch.
  • The balls of your feet should be on the edge of the platform, and your heels should be hanging at the back.
  • Bend your upper body forward while reaching your arms out to lean on the couch.
  • Slowly raise your heels until you feel the stretch in your calves.
  • Hold once your heels are raised, and you are on your toes.
  • Lower your heels back down until they reach below the level of the platform. That’s one rep!

Bent Knee Calf Raise 

Reps:

8-10 reps per set

To really work the gastrocnemius, you need to add bent knee calf exercises into the mix. Since the gastrocnemius is not made up of as many twitch fibers as the soleus, you won’t need to do as many reps for this movement.

Equipment and Set-Up:

Grab a dumbbell or a barbell if you want to add a bit of intensity to this exercise.

Execution:

  • Stand straight with your feet forward, hip-width apart.
  • Slightly bend your knees down into a partial squat position. 
  • Raise your heels as high as possible while keeping the bend in your knee.
  • Hold this top position for a second.
  • Lower your heels back to the ground gently.
  • Repeat.
Takeaway

Most gym-goers find that their calves don’t grow as much as other muscles do. This means that you need to really challenge and attack your calves if you want to see any gain in strength and size. Conventional exercises simply will not be enough—so enjoy these 5 calf exercises and get to work!

 

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