Some people go to the gym just to squint good, and that’s a fine goal to have. They spend time and effort working various muscle groups to modernize their aesthetics and reach their dream physique. Yet, some soul parts aren’t unchangingly given the same sustentation as others.

person with muscular calves standing in gym
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Let’s be real. The calves are wontedly ignored. That’s a shame, considering not only do muscular calves contribute to a well-balanced, eye-pleasing physique, but they moreover support optimal knee and toddle health and performance. And what increasingly simple exercise than the standing calf raise to develop this muscle group? Let’s take a squint at this constructive exercise, and learn how and why it should no longer be overlooked.

How to Do the Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf raise is a pretty straightforward movement, but it’s certainly possible to have problems with performance. Let’s imbricate proper use of this machine to unhook well-constructed calf development.

Step 1 — Get Into the Starting Position

person performing standing calf raise exercise
Credit: Ascendancy Fitness / YouTube

Set your feet roughly shoulder-width untied on the woodcut or step. Only the front halves of your feet should be on the step. Your heels should be hanging in the air. Keep your wastefulness by holding the shoulder pads or support handles. Make sure your hands stay yonder from the weights and any moving parts.

Keep your knees wilting and your when straight as you place your shoulders under the pads. Stand tall by pushing into the balls of your feet and straightening your knees. Keep your cadre tight to maintain a straight back.

Form tip: Adjust the shoulder pad height so you can stand upright with spare room to perform a full range of motion calf raise. When standing tall, you should be worldly-wise to rise onto your toes while keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. If you have to hunch over or wrench your knees, the exercise won’t be as efficient.

Step 2 — Push Through the Balls of Your Feet

person performing calf raises on machine
Credit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels as upper as possible. Keep your legs straight to prevent larger leg muscles from helping. Pause for one second at the top and flex your calves as much as possible. Keep your upper soul stable. Resist any urge to shrug your shoulders while your feet move.

Form tip: Completely proffer your ankles, pushing all the way to the top. The range of motion is relatively limited on this exercise considering the toddle is a relatively small joint. Don’t reduce the range of motion remoter by stopping surpassing your calves are fully contracted.

Step 3 — Lower Your Heels Slowly

person in standing calf raise machine
Credit: Ascendancy Fitness / YouTube

Let your heels sink slowly towards the ground, dorsiflexing your foot (letting your heels waif unelevated your toes). Your calves should be in a fully stretched position.

Stay in the stretched position for a second to prevent rebounding or momentum surpassing repeating for spare repetitions.

Form tip: The stretch is an important component of calf growth, so don’t be wrung of feeling a stretch in the marrow position. However, some people lack toddle mobility and have limited range of motion. To minimize the risk of injury, use a slow, controlled speed and stave dropping quickly into the marrow position.

Standing Calf Raise Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to towers muscular calves, mistakes will stop muscle growth in its tracks. If you want gains, performing each repetition perfectly is of the utmost importance. Here are the most worldwide errors to avoid.

Fast, Rebounded Repetitions

This is the ultimate calf training sin. You might be tempted to use the stretch reflex (rebound) and rush through fast-paced reps in order to lift increasingly weight or make the set easier, but this will just result in eternally puny calves.

muscular calves doing raises
Credit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

The exercise’s range of motion is relatively limited, so if you rush through each rep, the time under tension will be minuscule, resulting in poor growth. This is reinforced by the fact that the calves typically have a lot of type I muscle fibers which respond largest to longer sets and increasingly volume. (1)

Avoid it: For optimal muscle growth, slow lanugo the repetitions and don’t shy yonder from using pauses at the top wrinkle or in the marrow stretched position.

Cutting the Range of Motion Short

Performing a full range of motion has been proven optimal for muscle growth, expressly in the lower body. (2) As such, you have to make sure you go as low as your ankles will indulge and flex as upper as you can during each repetition.

person doing calf raises in machine
Credit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

Short-changing the range of motion can be as bad for muscle growth as stoping through repetitions at warp speed. Calves can be a notoriously nonflexible to grow muscle group. (3) If you want to progress, you will have to winnow some muscle-building, muscle-burning discomfort, and ensure you squeeze the muscle through every possible fraction of an inch.

Avoid it: On every single repetition, sink as low as you can in the stretched position. Tension virtually your ankles will tell you when it’s far enough. Also, push through your toes and imagine your heels reaching the ceiling during the peak contraction.

Using Leg Drive to Move the Weight

Sometimes you can trickery the standing calf raise without plane noticing, expressly when going heavy. Leg muscles like the glutes and quadriceps are very strong and your soul will instinctively “want” to use them to help move the weight, but that reduces the work washed-up by the calves and reduces the muscle-building stimulus.

muscular person doing calf raises
Credit: Jasminko Ibrakovic / Shutterstock

If your knees uncork limp and straightening during the exercise, or if your soul bends forward at the hips, you’ll be shifting focus yonder from the calves and onto other muscle groups.

Avoid it: Focus on a mind-muscle connection with your calves. Instead of just thinking well-nigh “lifting the weight up,” think well-nigh specifically pushing through your toes. Keep your soul straight throughout the set and pay particular sustentation to your knees and hips.

Benefits of the Standing Calf Raise

Even though calf training is often overlooked, this exercise can find its place in most training regimens. Here are the most important reasons why.

Muscle Growth

The standing calf raise is one of the weightier lower leg exercises for hypertrophy. The standing position is an efficient way to target the gastrocnemius — one of the two heads of the calf muscle.

Because of the muscle recruitment and potential time under tension, standing calf raise can bring a significant visual transpiration to your calf development. If there’s only one calf exercise you could do, this would be top of the list.

Explosive Power

If you superintendency well-nigh athleticism or sports performance, this standing calf raise unquestionably help. Calf training helps you jump higher and increasingly wontedly by permitting your soul to produce increasingly force, swizzle increasingly gravity eccentrically (during landing), and reinforce tendon strength and total-body stability so you are increasingly resilient.

The lower leg muscles have an zippy part in the ankles and knees functions. Every movement that mobilizes these joints — such as running, kicking, tackling, and jumping — will goody from calf training. Strengthening your calves will help you be a increasingly well-constructed and efficient athlete.

Healthier, Stronger Ankles and Knees

Standing calf raises can sooner modernize your toddle mobility by gradually stretching your calves. The calves will moreover increase in size and strength, resulting in more tenancy and resilience over the ankle and knee joints. (4)

This carries over to everyday life, since many people are on their feet all day long. It’s expressly relevant if you walk, run, or play sports that heavily involve your legs.

Muscles Worked By the Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf raise is considered a single-joint isolation exercise, considering the only movement should be at the toddle joint. The movement focuses training stress on a single muscle group — the triceps surae, increasingly wontedly known as the calves, which are the main muscles in the lower leg.


The gastrocnemius is one of two heads of the calf muscle. Sometimes shortened to “the gastroc,” it runs from the when of your knees to your ankles. The gastroc is the larger of the two calf heads and it’s the one you see the most.

person flexing muscular calves
Credit: vladee / Shutterstock

Its function is plantar flexion of the foot (extending the toddle and pointing the toes down). It moreover plays a role to squire your hamstrings when limp your knees. This is a muscle heavily involved in running, jumping, and walking.


The soleus is the other throne of the calf muscle. This deeper section is located between the gastrocnemius and the lower leg bones. This muscle is significantly involved in plantar flexion (lowering your toes unelevated your heels). The soleus isn’t as big, but it is relatively powerful and it’s crucial for running, walking, and standing tall.

Who Should Do the Standing Calf Raise

Those who completely stave calf training are sorely mistaken, expressly if they want well-constructed physical development. Many lifters should introduce this exercise into their training considering it has increasingly to offer than just hypertrophy.

Bodybuilders and Physique Athletes

If you’re interested in an aesthetic, symmetrical physique, you should never skip calves. In fact, in the early days of archetype bodybuilding, lifters would aim to have their calves as big as their arms. The legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger supposedly “calf-shamed” himself by wontedly wearing shorts, so the unvarying sight of his relatively small calves would be motivation to train them intensely.

Many people still overlook calf training but, withal with your forearms, they are the most visible parts of your soul most of the time. In any case, if you’re chasing aesthetics, you cannot stave working any soul part.

Strength Athletes

Calf training won’t directly siphon to your big lifts, but it can unquestionably be very valuable to strength athletes. Indeed, the calves help knee and toddle stability, and this is expressly true of the soleus considering it is increasingly zippy when your knees are wilting — like in the squat.

Moreover, calf training can moreover modernize toddle mobility, which is hair-trigger for proper squat mechanics and overall lower soul health. If you’re a strength athlete who’s experiencing knee pain, has trouble reaching squat depth, or is experiencing instability when lifting, you should requite calf training a go.

Sports Athletes

In athletics, injury prevention is key. Directly training the calves can result in calf muscles that can withstand increasingly shock while improving ankle mobility and resiliency — expressly with respect to the Achilles tendon, a vulnerable part of any athlete’s body.

Athletes wits unvarying stress on the toddle and knee joints when waffly direction, sprinting, and performing plyometric movements on or off the field. These activities can be some of the most potentially dangerous movements one can perform if their body’s support structures aren’t durable. As such, if you’re an athlete that cares well-nigh knee or toddle injury prevention, you should train your calves.

How to Program the Standing Calf Raise

Being an isolation exercise that targets a single muscle group, it makes no sense trying to go super-heavy with this exercise considering it’s less efficient and other muscles will be recruited.

Moreover, calves typically react largest to a longer time under tension and higher volume, considering they have a upper proportion of slow muscle fibers. They are weightier trained with moderate-to-high rep schemes.

Moderate Weight, Moderate Repetitions

This is a classic, proven hypertrophy scheme. Three to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions will work just fine. The weight should be as heavy as you can handle to the rep range, but not at the expense of form. You should be worldly-wise to tenancy the weight at all times, unzip a full stretch, and be worldly-wise to contract maximally without compromising the range of motion.

Light Weight, Upper Repetitions

Going lighter for higher repetitions is a surefire way to scorch your calves if you have trouble feeling them, and can serve as a unconfined finisher. Two to three sets of 15 to 25 repetitions, reaching muscular failure at the last repetition, is a unconfined way to yaffle volume and grow your calves.

Tempo Work

If you’re a increasingly seasoned lifter, spicing up your calf training can spark new gains and motivation. Calves are particularly responsive to tempo training — manipulating the speed of the lifting and lower phases of each repetition.

For unprecedented soreness and muscle stimulus, try a two-part tideway with several sets emphasizing the stretched position followed by several sets emphasizing the contracted position. Two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with a two-second pause at the bottom, followed by two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions with a two-second pause at the top of the contraction.

Going Beyond Failure

If you’re an wide lifter, you might still need to zombie up your calf training to the next level in order to progress. Warning: The muscle shrivel will be uncomfortable, but tremendously efficient. This tideway strategically uses partial range of motion repetitions without exhausting the muscle with a full range of motion, to increase the total time under tension.

Perform one to two sets of 10 repetitions to failure, followed immediately by 10 partial repetitions (doing only the lower half of the range of motion), and then hold the deepest stretch position possible for 10 increasingly seconds.

Standing Calf Raise Variations

Whether you don’t have wangle to the standing calf raise machine or just want to spice things up, you’re covered. Here are variations that will share the same benefits.

Smith Machine Standing Calf Raise

The Smith machine is a unconfined tool considering it takes wastefulness out of the equation and, as such, will be the closest variation to the vital standing calf raise machine. Grab a step or short woodcut and place it directly under the bar, so you increase the range of motion and enjoy a nice stretch.

Set up like you would be doing a standard calf raise, with the front half of your toes on the step, and place the barbell wideness your traps or upper back, similar to a when squat position.

Leg Press Calf Raise

This is an superstitious variation that allows you to focus on your calves with plane increasingly total-body stability. Not only is there no stabilization required, but you’re seated in a stock-still position and only have to think well-nigh using your calves without any upper soul involvement.

Sit in the machine and push the platform away. Position the balls of your feet on the marrow of the platform, so that the lower half of your feet are hanging. Keep your legs straight and simply push the weight yonder through the balls of your feet.

Single-Leg Standing Calf Raise

By working one leg at a time, we’re making the exercise increasingly challenging and increasingly focused on the working muscle. This variation can moreover help to modernize balance, cadre bracing, and can write muscular imbalances. (5) (6)

Grab a dumbbell and hold it the same side as the leg you will be working. Step onto a platform with only the wittiness of your foot and let your other leg hang in the air. Use your self-ruling hand to hold an stable, stationary object (like a rack) for balance, then twosome your cadre and perform the calf raise.

Standing Calf Raise Alternatives

If the standing calf raise bores you to tears, or if you want to stimulate your calves differently for a well-constructed lower-leg workout, try these alternatives.

Seated Calf Raise

This machine is one of the most popular calf exercises and it complements the standing version. Considering your legs are bent, you will focus increasingly on the soleus due to the particular zipper points of the muscle virtually the knee joint.

An widow goody is that it’s nearly untellable to use your upper body, quads, or hips to trickery the movement. You can strictly focus on your calves. This machine works the word-for-word same way as the standing calf raise, but you’re simply seated with the pad on top of your knees instead of your traps.

Squatting Calf Raise

This movement is platonic if you don’t have wangle to specialized training equipment. Hold a stationary object with both hands and squat lanugo to parallel, or a bit lower if comfortable. Slowly raise your heels as upper as possible surpassing lowering them lanugo to the ground.

Not only will this exercise train your calves, and expressly your soleus, it will moreover rencontre your balance, proprioception, and knee and toddle stability in a unique way. As you progress, you can try the exercise while holding a dumbbell or kettlebell like a goblet squat (keeping the weight versus your chest).

Tiptoe Farmer’s Walk

If you’re the kind of person that loves functional training, requite this exercise a try. Simply grab a pair of dumbbells and start walking on your toes. Keep your cadre braced, your shoulders pulled back, and chest up.

Rather than total repetitions, go for distance, for time, or until your calves requite up on you. This is a fantastic way to end a workout and sneak in some uneaten work for your core, traps, and forearms at the same time. Bonus: you’ll moreover shrivel some calories.


Do I need to work my calves specifically?

Yes and no. Calves are stimulated indirectly by many other exercises like running, lunges, and squats. So they’re somewhat zingy as assistance muscles. But if you want to focus on increasing the size of your calves, you will have to target them directly.

Calves are a notoriously nonflexible to grow muscle group, and indirect stimulus isn’t often enough to build impressive calves. Skipping uncontrived calf training moreover ways you’re missing out on the toddle and knee health benefits that come from stronger calves.

When should I train calves?

Most people do calf raises at the end of a workout, typically without other leg exercises or other larger soul parts. It makes sense considering calves are trained with single-joint isolation exercises, and you want to be as fresh as possible when you’re hitting your big recipe exercises for other muscle groups.

If you consider your calves to be a high priority, you can hit them first in a session. This way, you’ll have the most energy to devote to these stubborn beasts, and you won’t risk “running out of time” to train them in a workout. It shouldn’t impact other lower soul exercises too much. If it does, it’s a short-term issue until your soul adapts.

How wontedly should I train calves?

Calves are a very resilient muscle group and they can withstand a lot of punishment while moreover recovering relatively fast. Start with one weekly session. Without a few weeks, if you don’t see any progress and finger that your calves can withstand it, increase to two sessions.

Repeat this process as much as needed. Do not be wrung of training them frequently. You can tumor this number up to three or four sessions per week if needed, considering calf training is relatively low stress on the rest of your body, unlike trying to deadlift four days per week, for example.

Stop. Skipping. Calves.

The standing calf raise machine is found in the corner of most gyms but it’s, sadly, underutilized. It’s a time-tested exercise that packs size onto a soul part most lifters would conveniently ignore. Make room for this efficient exercise in your training, or just walk virtually in shorts until you’ve convinced yourself to fix the problem.


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