From walking and running to squatting and jumping, the calves muscles are responsible for various activities in our daily lives. However, people often forget to work this muscle and leave it underdeveloped.
When it comes to training your calves, you have many exercises to train them using multiple equipments, such as machines and barbells, but this article is for dumbbell lovers, particularly those who exercise at home. Here, I’ll share the five best dumbbell calf exercises that help build sturdy calves and add strength and definition to your legs.
You’ll see and learn various things about calf muscles in this guide. For example, anatomy, functions, proper technique to perform calf raises for strength and size, benefits of stronger calves, and dumbbell calf raises alternatives. So keep reading to find out all.
Related: Dumbbell Exercises for Each Muscle Group
The Anatomy and Functions of Calf Muscles
Calves are small muscles located on the rear side of your legs below your knee joint. They are made up of two main muscle groups: gastrocnemius (which lies on top) and soleus (which lies underneath).
The Gastrocnemius muscle group is the largest of the two main muscles that make up your calf. IIt’salso one of the most important and responsible for helping you to lift your toes and push off with your foot when you walk or run.
The soleus is a long muscle that runs along the outside part of your calf from the heel to just below your knee. It is responsible for helping you walk and run efficiently by controlling foot movement, stabilizing joints, and moving your leg forward while supporting it at the same time.
The Achilles tendon is another muscle that connects your calf muscles to the heel bone. It is sturdy and has a lot of stretchy muscle fibers that allow you to bend at the ankle when you jump or run.
You can solidify all these muscles with the help of different calf raise variations.
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Benefits of Training Calves Muscles
The calves are very important in our daily life activities because they help us to walk, run, and perform various exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and higher jumps, by providing power and strength to our legs.
Let’s why you should equally focus on this muscle compared to others.
- The calves are the muscles that support the entire leg. They help in bending and straightening your legs, as well as keeping them stable when you walk or run. When these muscles are weak, it can lead to a lot of other problems like pain during exercise and even arthritis later on in life. So it’s best to keep them strong and healthy by training them frequently.
- The calves involve in almost every leg exercise you do, such as squats, lunges, and step-ups. So having solid calves provide stability to the other muscles of your legs, such as the hamstrings and quads, and reduces stress on the Achilles tendon1Masood T, Kalliokoski K, Magnusson SP, Bojsen-Moller J, Finni T. Effects of 12-wk eccentric calf muscle training on muscle-tendon glucose uptake and SEMG in patients with chronic Achilles tendon pain. J App Physiol. 2014;117(2):105-11. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00113.2014, and enhance your performance.
- If you’re an athlete, stronger calves will help you run and jump efficiently and maximize your performance.
Advantages of Doing Calf Workouts with Dumbbells
Dumbbells are moveable, easy to carry, and a small piece of equipment that allows you to perform calf raises in several ways, for example, in the standing and seated position, double leg, and single leg.
By doing calf workouts with dumbbells, you can make sure that your calves get worked from every angle while still providing enough resistance to challenge yourself. Another advantage is that you can do the calf dumbbell exercises at home.
Calf Raises Exercise Technique
When it comes to performing calf raises effectively, the technique is important, especially your foot position and range of motion.
You can use the three different foot positions during the calf raises, such as the foot pointed outward, inward, and forward.
A study has shown that doing calf raises with your feet pointed outward increases the muscle thickness of the medial gastrocnemius, while performing calf raises in inward feet stance provides greater gains for the lateral gastrocnemius head in nine weeks of training.2Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy, 2020 Aug – Journal of Strength Conditioning Research
So, it would be best to perform calf raises with different foot positions to achieve the maximum results.
The second thing you need to take care of is the range of motion during calf raises. For example, calf raise is a kind of workout that needs to be done at a controlled pace so you can feel the stretch in every rep you do.
The 5 Best Dumbbell Calf Exercises to Do At Home
You can do the following calf workouts with dumbbells to increase your calf size and strength as well as improve your balance.
- Dumbbell One-Leg Leaning Calf Raise
- Alternate Dumbbell Standing Calf Raises
- Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise
- Dumbbell Sumo Stance Calf Raise
- Farmers Walk on Toes
You can include these exercises in your dumbbell workout routine to work on your calves specifically.
1. Dumbbell One-Leg Leaning Calf Raise
The one-leg leaning dumbbell calf raise is a great exercise for targeting your calves. It’s an isolation exercise, meaning that it allows you to focus only on the calves. It makes it particularly effective for building up the calf muscles and improving their strength and size.
- Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, stand against the wall.
- Lean your body forward and place your left hand on the wall.
- Lift your left foot off the floor and bend your knee. TThat’sthe start.
- Raise your heel as high as possible and slowly lower it until you feel pain in your calf muscle.
- Perform three sets of eight to 12 reps on each side.
2. Single-Leg Dumbbell Standing Calf Raises
The standing dumbbell calf raise is an excellent exercise for strengthening and toning calves muscles. It is a unilateral exercise, meaning that it allows you to work on one leg at a time. It also helps improve balance as well as stability of your ankle joint.
- Place a stepper on the floor against the wall.
- Grab a dumbbell in your right hand and stand on your right foot on the stepper.
- Slightly lean forward and place your left hand on the wall.
- Raise your heel as high as possible, pause for a second, and then slowly lower it down.
- Once you complete 15 to 20 reps, switch legs and repeat on the opposite side. Perform three to four times.
3. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raises
The seated calf raise is a great exercise to help build the calves and strengthen the lower leg. It is one of the easier calf raise variations, especially suitable for beginners.
Follow these steps to perform seated calf raises with dumbbells.
- Holding one dumbbell in each hand, sit on the edge of a flat bench.
- Place the toes of your feet on the stepper platform.
- Keep the dumbbells on your knees in the standing position.
- Raise your heels as high as possible, squeeze your calves at the top, and then lower them down.
- Aim for three to four sets of ten to fifteen repetitions.
You can also perform single-leg calf raise with dumbbells to target one leg at a time.
4. Dumbbell Sumo Stance Calf Raise
The sumo stance calf raises are a great way to target the calves and build strength in your legs, including the glutes. It targets your calves from a different angle and helps increase strength and mobility. You can do it alternatively with other dumbbell calf exercises to achieve the best results.
- Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand in the sumo squat position, feet two times wider than your hip-width and toes pointing slightly out.
- Bend your torso forward and hold your arms straight below your chest, dumbbells touching the floor, and maintain a flat back. This will be your starting position.
- Raise your heels and torso simultaneously until your calves are fully contracted.
- Pause for a moment at the top and slowly return your heels to the floor. That’s your one rep.
- Perform as many sets and reps as you like.
5. Farmers Walk on Toes
The farmer’s walk is a great exercise for strengthening the lower part of your legs, including calves, especially when you walk on your tip toes instead of your entire feet. It also helps you to develop balance and coordination and burn decent calories in a quick time.
You can use this exercise as a warm-up to increase the blood flow before you start the main exercises on your leg day.
- Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand upright with your feet together.
- Walk out as far as you can on your tip toes and then return to complete one round.
- Do it until you feel the pain in your gastrocnemius muscles.
Dumbbell Calf workout Alternatives
If you don’t have dumbbells at your home, you can try some alternatives. For example, you can do bodyweight standing calf raises against the wall and donkey calf raises. These exercises require no equipment, and you can easily do them in the corner of your home.
Bodyweight standing calf raises
To perform bodyweight standing calf raises, stand against the wall, slightly lean on it, and raise your heels as high as possible, contracting your calves.
Donkey Calf Raises
To do the donkey calf raise, stand upright on the stepper with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your torso until your chest is parallel to the floor. Keeping your back straight and core, raise your heels until you feel the full strength in your calves. Pause for a moment and repeat.
If you train at the gym, you can do barbell calf raises and machine calf raises to isolate your calves efficiently.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often should you perform calf raises?
You can train your calves two to three times a week on any training day. But make sure to alternate the different variations of calf workout to get the best results.
What is the suitable reps and sets range for optimum training?
Keep the number of repetitions between 15 to 25 to feel the contraction in your calves. Calf raise is an isolation exercise with a limited range of motion, so it’s best to perform at least three sets of 15 reps while holding a suitable weight.
Are calf raises reduce lower body fats?
No! Calf raise exercise is excellent for strengthening calves, increasing lean mass, and providing stability to your entire leg, but it doesn’t helps reduce fats. You need to cut calories from your diet to lose weight. Moreover, you can do dumbbell HIIT to burn significant calories and speed up your weight loss while developing muscle.
- 1Masood T, Kalliokoski K, Magnusson SP, Bojsen-Moller J, Finni T. Effects of 12-wk eccentric calf muscle training on muscle-tendon glucose uptake and SEMG in patients with chronic Achilles tendon pain. J App Physiol. 2014;117(2):105-11. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00113.2014
- 2Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy, 2020 Aug – Journal of Strength Conditioning Research