Calf raises exercises & Benefits (An Ultimate Guide)

Whether you want to improve your athletic performance or increase calf muscle, you can incorporate seated and standing calf raise exercises in your lower body workout routine. You can do the calf raise exercises with and without equipment. They have several variations such as dumbbell calf raise, barbell calf raises, smith machine calf raises, bodyweight calf raises, and resistance band calf raises exercises.

You’ll see how to do different variations of the calf raise exercises with step-by-by instructions and what are their major benefits based on studies in this article.

The calf muscles are located on the backside of the lower legs and help you perform several movements, such as walking, running, jumping, squatting, and deadlifting.

Many people forget to train their calves and some completely miss the leg day. However, for a stronger and aesthetic physique, each muscle of the body should be trained equally, whether its calf, quads, hamstrings, Glutes, chest, arms, back, or shoulder.

You can easily access the exercises of each muscle group by simply typing the muscle name in the search box of this site.

Calf Raises Foot Position Technique

Different foot positioning during the calf raise exercises targets the muscles differently.

You can use the three different foot positions during the calf raise workout, such as foot pointed outward, foot pointed inward and foot pointed forward.

 The study1 Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy – The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggested that doing calf raises with your feet pointed outward increases the muscle thickness of medial gastrocnemius while performing a calf raises in inward feet stance provides greater gains for the lateral gastrocnemius head in nine weeks of training.

Okay, so let’s see how you can do weighted calf raises with different equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, smith machines, and resistance bands. And if you work out at home, you’ll also see how to do calf raises without equipment.

Dumbbell Calf Raise Exercises

 seated and standing calf raise exercises
Woman photo created by Aleksandarlittlewolf – www.freepik.com

You can strengthen and build your calves with dumbbells at the home as well as in the gym.

The dumbbells allow you a full range of motion so that you can target your calf muscles more specifically and build strong calves.

You can do multiple calf raise variations with the dumbbells, such as;

  1. Dumbbell standing calf raises
  2. Alternate calf raises with dumbbells;
  3. DB Leaning single-leg calf raises
  4. Seated Single Leg dumbbell calf raises
  5. Dumbbell Downward Outer Calf Raises

Here are the stepwise instructions to do the calf raise exercise with dumbbells.

1. How to do Standing Calf raises with the dumbbells


  1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart holding one dumbbell in each hand with your arms are straight at your sides.
  2. Start raising your heels as high as you can while keeping the balls of your feet firmly on the ground. Try focusing on the calves and squeeze them when you raise your heels at the top.
  3. Hold for a moment and then lower your heels back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do as many reps and sets as you like.

2. Dumbbell Alternate Calf Raises

The dumbbell alternate calf raise can be done in the same way as you do both leg calf raises.

Instead of raising both heels at once, you can raise them alternatively.

The alternate calf raises allow you to target one calf muscle at a time and also help you perform more repetitions.

3. How to do Leaning Dumbbell Single-Leg Calf raises

  1. Stand straight holding a dumbbell in your one hand; lean forward and place your other hand on the wall or something for support.
  2. Keep your one foot on the ground while lift your other foot off the ground and bend your knee, feet facing the floor. That’s your starting position.
  3. Raise your heel as high as possible and make sure your feel stretch in the calf muscle when your fully raise your heels.
  4. Hold for a moment and then lower your heel to the ground.
  5. Repeat as many times as require each side.

4. How to Seated dumbbell single-leg calf raises

To perform the seated dumbbell single-leg calf raises, you need a bench where you can sit and perform the exercise. You can also do both legs calf raises.

  1. Sit on the corner of the bench, holding a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Place your left foot on the calf block and hold the dumbbell on the upper part of the left thigh. That’s your starting position.
  3. To begin the second step, start raising your heel as high as possible and make sure your feel stretches in the calf muscle when fully stretch.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds and then lower your downward. That’s one rep.
  5. Do as many reps and sets as you like on both sides.

5. Dumbbell Downward Outer Calf Raise

The stance of the dumbbell downward outer calf raises is similar to sumo deadlift or squats but instead of focusing on the upper leg, you need to focus on the calves during this exercise.

Here are steps to do the Dumbbell downward outer calf raises:

  1. Holding one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, stand in the sumo squat stance (i.e. your feet two times wider than hip-width and slightly out to sides).
  2. Bend you knees, push your hips back, and bring your torso parallel to the ground. Your back should be straight. That’s the start.
  3. Raise your heels as higher as possible and squeeze your calf muscles at the top.
  4. Pause for a moment and lower your heels back to the start. That’s one rep.
  5. Do as many set and reps as you like.

Bodyweight Calf Raises Exercises

The calf raises exercises can also be done without equipment.

If you work out at home, you can do bodyweight calf raises to increase your calves’ stability and strength.

You can do a couple of bodyweight calf raise workouts, such as standing calf-raise against the wall and lunges pulses with no equipment.

Let’s see how to do them with step-by-step instructions.

1. Bodyweight Calf-Raise Against The Wall

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of the wall.
  2. Slightly lean forward and place your hands on the wall for balance.
  3. Keep your back straight and lower body in a vertical position for smooth movement. That’s the start.
  4. Keeping your hands firmly on the wall, raise your heels as high as you can.
  5. Squeeze your calves when you raise your heels at the top.
  6. Hold for a second and then lower your heel back to the start. That’s one rep.
  7. Do as many reps as possible.

2. Lunge Pulses

The lunge pulses are almost similar to the forward lunges. They engage several muscles at once, such as quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Here are the steps to do lunge pulses:

  1. Start with standing in a split-stance.
  2. Bend your knees together to 90-degree.
  3. Keep your back straight, chest up and look forward. That’s the starting position.
  4. To begin the second step, start lowering your backward leg, until it touches the floor and then slowly pulse up.
  5. Hold for a couple of seconds and then push through your forward heel to return to the beginning. That’s one rep for one leg. Repeat with another leg to complete your desired reps and sets.

Are Bodyweight Calf Raise Exercises Effective?

Weighted calf raise exercises are better for strength and gain but bodyweight is also good. Doing calf raise exercises consistently will surely help you increase calf stability and strength, if not muscles.

Performing bodyweight standing calf raise exercise may also help you improve walking, running, jumping, and squatting performance.

Several calisthenics trainers use bodyweight standing calf raises to strengthen their gastrocnemius muscles.

Calf Raises Exercises on Machines

The most sophisticated way to train your calves is using the calf raise machine. A calf raise machine allows you to use heavyweight and help you target the calf muscles specifically.

You can do calf raises on the machine in a couple of ways such as; standing calf raises, and seated calf raises.

Let’s take a look at how to perform both movements with proper executions.

1. Standing Calf Raises on Machine

  1. Stand straight on the foot platform with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure calf raise machine pad stay on your shoulders.
  2. Keep your back straight and hold the lever handles for balance. That’s the start.
  3. Brace your core and raise your heels slowly as high as you can.
  4. Pause for a moment, squeeze your calves and then slowly lower your heels downward. That’s one rep! Do three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.

Seated Machine Calf Raise Exercise

  1. Sit on the seated calf raises machine; place your feet on the calf platform and keep your thigh under the pad and maintain flat back. That’s the start.
  2. To begin the second step, raise your heels until your calves are fully engaged.
  3. Pause for a couple of seconds, squeeze your calves and slowly lower your heels downward. That’s one rep!
  4. Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each with as little rest as possible.

Smith Machine Calf raise Workout

The calf raises exercise can also be done with the help of the smith machine. Smith Machine allows you to perform calf raises in a controlled motion and help you activate calves efficiently.

You can do smith machine standing and seated calf raises.

Below are the steps to perform calf raises exercises on smith machines.

 Standing Calf Raises on Smith machine

  1. To begin the workout, set the smith machine bar to an appropriate height, so when you stand on the calf block then smith bar should be rested on the back of your shoulder.
  2. Keep your back straight and hold the bar on your shoulders and grab it with your hands.
  3. To begin the second step, raise your heels as high as possible.
  4. Squeeze your calves for a couple of seconds and then slowly lower your heels downward. That’s one rep!
  5. Repeat for the desired number of times.

Seated Calf Raise Workout On Smith Machine

  1. Set the smith machine bar to an approriate height, so when you sit on the bench, the bar should be rested on your knees.
  2. Place a thick sponge in middle of the bar, keep the balls of your feet on the calf block and hold the smith machine bar on your knees. That’s the start.
  3. To begin the second step, slowly start raising your heels as high as you can. Hold for a moment, squeeze your calves and then slowly lower your heels downward. That’s one rep! Do as many reps and sets as you can.

Barbell Calf raises Exercise

The barbell calves raise is a free weight exercise that is a bit difficult for beginners because it requires good balance and strength.

To perform the standing barbell calves raises you don’t need a calf block, you can simply do this on the floor.

Here’s how to do standing barbell calves raises:

  1. Stand straight on the calf block with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a barbell on the back of your shoulder.
  2. Keep the balls of your feet on the calf block and hold the bar with your hands. That’s tthe start.
  3. To begin the second step, slowly start raising your heels as high as you can.
  4. Squeeze your calves, create full stretches on the calf muscles when you raise your heel, and then slowly lower your heels as low as possible. That’s one rep! Do as many reps as you can.

Resistance Band Calf Raise Workout

The resistance band is one of the most efficient and useful exercise tools that can be used to target calf muscles.

Doing calves raise with a resistance band can be more effective than bodyweight and barbell exercises.  

You can incorporate a couple of resistance band calf raise exercises in your routine to build stronger and muscular calves.

How to do a calf raises with a resistance band?

  1. Sit on your buttock with your legs are straight in front of you.
  2. Wrap the one end of the band on your right foot (leaning slightly backward) and bend your left knee.
  3. Hold the other end of the band firmly with your right hand. That’s the start.
  4. Press your right forward and curl as much as you can. You’ll feel the contraction in your calves during the stretch.
  5. Pause for a couple of seconds when your calves stretched forward and then return to the start and repeat as many times as you like.
  6. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 reps each with as little rest as possible.

5 important Benefits Of Calf Raises exercise

1. The calf raises the target and strengthens gastrocnemius muscles and helps you build stronger and bigger calves. A study done for 6 weeks has shown that the calf raises exercises and its variations increase calf muscle thickness. 2The Effect of Calf-Raise Exercise on Gastrocnemius Muscle Based on Other Type of Supports– Journal of The Korean Society of Integrative Medicine

2. The Calf raises exercise also targets and strengthens the soleus muscles which is located exactly in the middle of calves. The strong soleus muscles help you perform many activities such as running, jogging, jumping, pushing, etc.

3. The calf raises improve ankle strength and stability that helps you perform high strength activities as well as other explosive workouts.

4. The calf raises improve lower body muscles and joints power which helps prevents injuries and pain. The ankle, heel, calves, and knees should be strong otherwise we’ll get injured while doing the strength-based workouts.

5. The stronger calves help you improve your overall lower body performances such as; they’ll help you in squats, deadlifts, leg press, lunges, running, walking, jumping ropes, etc.

Final Words

The above calf raises exercises to help you tone, strengthen, and increase the size of your calves. Those exercises are great for improving lower body strength because they also work on your hamstrings and glutes other than calves.

Strong calves help you perform running, jumping, squatting, and deadlifting efficiently.

You can try all calf raise exercises such as seated dumbbell calf raise, bodyweight calf raises, standing calf raises on the machine, smith machine calf Raise, and resistance band calf raise exercises to build stronger and bigger calves.

You may also like: Best Compound Glute Exercises For Bigger Glutes
Featured image edited by me and created by Shtarka1 under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

References

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