Top 5 Calf Exercises
For The Best Calf Workout

By Lee Hayward

Standing Calf Raise

Standing Calf Raise Machine

Standing Toe Raise

This is a basic calf movement that works the gastrocnemius muscles.

Position yourself on a standing calf raise machine. Space your feet a bit closer then shoulder width apart. Keep your knees straight. Stand up on your tippy toes and hold this position for a second to enhance the peak contraction in the calfs, then lower your heels as far down as you can getting a good stretch throughout the calfs.

Smith Machine Calf Raise

Barbell Calf Raise

Smith Machine calf Raise

This is a good standing calf raise variation to do if you do not have access to a standing calf raise machine. This exercise can also be done with a free weight barbell, but it is much harder to maintain your balance.

Unrack the bar as if you were going to do squats. Space your feet shoulder width apart or a bit closer. Keep your knees straight. Stand up on your tippy toes and hold this position for a second to enhance the peak contraction in the calfs. Lower your heels back to the floor.

Seated Calf Raise

seated calf raise machine

seated calf raise machine

This exercise targets the soleus muscles because it is performed with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. This exercise also works the gastrocnemius muscles are as secondary muscles.

Adjust the knee pads of the machine so that you can sit with your knees snug to the pads. Place the balls of your feet on the foot block, with your feet a bit closer then shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward.

Rise up as high as you can on your tippy toes. Hold this position for a second to enhance the peak contraction in the calfs. Lower your heels until your calf muscles stretch down as far as possible and hold the stretched position for a second.

Leg Press Calf Raise

leg press calf raise

leg press toe raise

Sit in a leg press machine with your toes on the bottom of the foot plate and your heels hanging off the bottom edge. Press the weight sled up with your feet until your knees straight. Press up with your toes and the balls of your feet, pushing the sled up a few inches. Feel your calf muscles contract, then lower your toes back down, getting a good stretch in the calfs.

An important note: Leg press machines vary considerably in design. If the foot plate doesn’t allow you to hang your heels off the bottom edge, the leg press calf raise will not be as effective, due to only working the muscles through a partial range of motion.

1 Leg Calf Raise

dumbbell calf raise

1 leg calf raise

This is a good calf exercise for developing balance and proportion between both calfs.

Hold a dumbbell in one hand at your side. Step onto the ledge of a sturdy platform (at least 6 inches high) with the balls of both feet. With your free hand, grasp a fixed support bar for balance. Keep your chest up, abs tight and your eyes focused forward.

Keep your working leg (dumbbell side) straight as you keep your nonworking leg off the floor. Concentrate on maintaining perfect balance, keeping the dumbbell steady at your side. Slowly lower your heel toward the floor until it can go no farther; hold briefly, feeling a good stretch in the calf. Without bouncing, forcefully press through the ball of your foot to drive your body up as high as possible. Hold the peak contraction for a second before lowering your heel and repeating.

Once you complete all reps for one leg, repeat with the other leg.

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