The calves are one of the most under-trained muscles for the average gym-goer. You might blast through your squats and deadlifts on leg day, but how often do you turn your attention to the muscles just further south? Well, since you’re searching how to do a calf raise you’ve taken the first step, and you won’t regret it! This exercise is the absolute go-to for building stronger, more defined calves.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore several variations of the calf raise so no matter your experience or fitness level, there’s something for you here!

Why are calf raises so awesome?

Come summertime when you’re rocking a nice pair of shorts or a skirt, it looks good to have a pair of killer calves. But trust us, there are some serious, practical benefits to training these muscles:

  • Enhanced Athletic Performance: Strong calf muscles can improve your balance, stability, and overall athletic performance in activities like running. They’ll even help you lift more in your squats and other weightlifting exercises!
  • Injury Prevention: Reduce the risk of injuries, such as sprains, by providing better support and stability to the ankles and knees.
  • Functional Strength: Strong calves are vital for everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and standing for extended periods.
  • Balance and Posture: They also contribute to better overall balance and posture, which can help alleviate back and knee pain.

Right, enough with the hard sell, let’s get into a calf raise!

Man performing a calf raise exercise on a Major Fitness hack squat leg press machine

Classic Calf Raise

  1. Start by standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and head facing forward.
  2. Slowly lift your heels off the ground by pushing through the balls of your feet, and as you rise onto your toes, focus on contracting your calf muscles.
  3. Hold the raised position for 1-2 seconds before lowering your heels back down to the starting position.

Main Benefit: Even this basic calf raise effectively targets and strengthens your calf muscles and can be done any time, any place.

Close-up of a man’s legs performing a standing calf raise exercise

Seated Calf Raise

For a less intense variation, try the seated calf raise.

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair or bench with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Place a weight plate or dumbbell on your thighs to add resistance.
  3. Press through the balls of your feet to lift your heels off the ground, contract your calf muscles, and hold for 1-2 seconds, before lowering your heels back down.

Main Benefit: Allows you to isolate and focus on your calf muscles, making it an excellent option for beginners or those recovering from injuries.

Single-Leg Calf Raises

This exercise challenges your balance and strengthens your calf.

  1. Stand near a wall or chair for support.
  2. Shift your weight onto one foot and lift the other foot slightly off the ground.
  3. Push through the ball of your foot to raise your heel, hold for 1-2 seconds, then lower your heel back down.
  4. Perform the same number of reps on both legs.

Main Benefit: Single-leg calf raises help to improve balance, stability, and muscle symmetry by targeting each calf individually.

Weighted Calf Raises

If you have access to dumbbells, barbells, or other weighted equipment, you can add resistance to your calf raises.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand or place a barbell across your shoulders.
  2. Perform the classic calf raise as described above. Just be mindful of keeping your balance, holding that contraction at the top, and maintaining a smooth movement.

Main Benefit: The extra intensity from the weights means your muscles work harder for every rep, offering a more efficient workout and greater muscle gains.

Box or Step Calf Raises

This one provides an awesome, extra stretch for your calf muscles while also building strength.

  1. Stand on the edge of a step, platform, or weight plate, with your heels hanging off.
  2. Hold onto a railing or wall for balance if needed.
  3. Lower your heels below the level of whatever you’re standing on, then push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as possible.
  4. Hold briefly before lowering your heels back down.

Main Benefit: It allows you to achieve a deeper stretch, targeting the muscles more effectively and promoting greater flexibility.

When should I do calf raises?

Calf raises are fine to do as a standalone exercise but most people incorporate it into their standard leg day. One option is to add them as a superset after a squat or other compound exercise, or you can perform a few sets of calf raises at the end of your regular workout.

Just remember to cool down with static stretches afterward to reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility.

Conclusion

So, that’s it! A series of options for the mighty calf raise, leaving you with no excuse not to give them a try! Remember, incorporating these into your routine will not only help you achieve a stronger, more defined lower body, but also boost your performance in other exercises, reduce your risk of injury, and many other benefits.


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