Want to know the best exercises for calves? When it comes to leg workouts, your calves might not always be on the top of your list. They are relatively small and tend to work on themselves, but it's always great to focus on them to help build strength and muscle along with the rest of your legs.


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  1. Standing barbell calf raise
  2. Seated calf raise
  3. Calf raises on leg press
  4. Donkey raises
  5. Standing deficit raise

close-up of calves during exercise

Standing barbell calf raise

The standing barbell calf raise is simple and effective, and that’s why it’s most people's go-to calf exercise. It has a pretty exclusive activation, and you can add the weight of your choice which gives you all the control you need.

To do it, you need to find a barbell with a suitable weight for your set. Fatigue is easy with calves, so take it easy. It is wise to use a Smith machine to really nail it. Simply push yourself onto the balls of your feet, hold, and slowly return.

Seated calf raise

Although it shares similar motion ranges, the seated calf raise, with use of a machine or a dumbbell, offers you more variety. The change in position means that you can really isolate your calves singularly.

Performing a seated calf raise is relatively straightforward. You simply need to be sat under the bar of the calf raise machine or have a dumbbell on your leg in a secure position. Once you’re ready, push your heel up, hold, and return to initial position.

Calf raises on leg press

Flipping the exercise is also an excellent way to go about it. The leg press machine is a great way for you to do this, providing you do it correctly and safely. Instead of lifting your body and your weighted addition off the floor, you are pushing yourself down and the weight up.

Get yourself comfortably positioned in the seat of the leg press machine so that you can support yourself and the weight. You only need to have half of each foot on the machine with a close stance, rather than the usual distance apart. Once you’re ready, push down with your feet as you contract your calves to move the plate the furthest you can. Do not engage your legs. Otherwise, your calves will not see the benefit.

Donkey raises

Donkey raises are one of the more obscure exercises on the list but they're great at building up your calves. You will need a partner for this one. Keep your back straight to make sure that you are in the safest, best position to work your calves. Lean over and support yourself by placing your hands on a bench or a wall. With your partner perched on your back safely, contract your calves to lift their weight upwards. The forward lean of your own body will hit your calves in a different way to most of the other exercises on the list.

Standing deficit raise

Finally, the standing deficit calf raise. This is almost the same as the first exercise, but it does have variation, which is going to change the angle and the contraction.

You need to stand on something sturdy. Boxes are a good option if they are weighted enough, as well as steps and stairs. With your heels hanging off the edge, lower yourself as far as you reasonably can, and then lift as high as you can just using your calves.

All of these exercises may be challenging to do all in the same workout, so it’s a good idea to do them at the end of your overall leg workout.

close-up of calf raises

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.