Best Calf Exercises (Must Do Exercises For Strength And Size)

Before I list the best calf exercises, I feel we need to have a little discussion about this stubborn muscle group.

Calves, probably the most neglected muscle group in the gym.  Closely followed by abs.  It’s very rare people attack calves with the same intensity as they would say chest or back.  I agree it’s definitely not the most fun of muscle groups to train, however, they are still vitally important to your overall physique.  Big quads and small calves is not a look you should be aiming for.  In fact, it’s a horrible look.

Calves are 100% the most stubborn muscle group, mainly caused by them being in use all day long.  So for this very reason, it’s vitally important you hit them with the same intensity you hit all your other muscles groups with.

The 3 Top Calf Exercises You Must Do

  1. Standing Calf Raises
  2. Seated Calf Raises
  3. Leg Press Calf Raises

Standing Calf Raises

I would say standing calf raises are probably the best exercise for overall calf development.  I would always include these in every calf day.

Primary muscles involved


Secondary muscles involved

Little help and involvement from any other muscles

Most efficient technique 

Most gyms will have a dedicated standing calf machine.  Some will be selectorised and some plate loaded.  Either way, you will achieve the same amount of overload from either variation.

Step up on the raised platform, placing your shoulders under the pads.  The balls of your feet should be making contact, but your heels should not be touching the platform.  Now stand up straight.

Its vitally important you keep your whole body straight throughout the movement.  Do not rock your hips back and forth and do not keep bending and straightening your knees to help.

Now extend your calves by going up onto your toes.  At the top of the movement really squeeze the muscle.  Once completed slowly lower your heels below the balls of your feet, fully stretching out the muscle.

For maximum growth its incredibly important you both fully contract and squeeze at the top of the movement, and fully stretch the muscle at the bottom.

Seated Calf Raises

A great variation to hit the calves with.  This is an exercise along with standing calf raises that will always be included in my training plans.

Primary muscles involved

Calves (soleus)

Secondary muscles involved

Little help and involvement from any other muscles

Most efficient technique 

The same principles apply as above.  Only this time you will be seated.

Take a seat and place the pads on top of your knees.  Now place the balls of your feet onto the platform with your heels hanging off.

Come up onto your toes raising the weight in a powerful movement.  Make sure you fully contract your calves at the top.

Now slowly lower the weight back down full stretching the calves at the bottom.  Repeat for the required number of repetitions.

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Leg Press Calf Raises

Another great way to put some real heavyweight through those calves in order to create the maximum overload.

Primary muscles involved


Secondary muscles involved

Little help and involvement from any other muscles

Most efficient technique 

I personally prefer to do this movement on a 45-degree leg press.  However, it can be performed on any leg press you have available in your gym.

Take a seat placing the balls of your feet on the bottom of the plate.  Again your heels should be hanging off and not touching the plate.

Simply extend your calves pressing the plate away.  Like all the other calf movements it’s vital your squeeze and fully contracts the muscles at the top of the movement.

Slowly lower the plate back down until you have full stretched out the calf muscles.

Best Calf Exercises – Final Words

There you have it.  The three best calf exercises for creating maximum overload.

I do understand that not every gym will have a standing calf machine.  There are ways to achieve this using a smith machine in which all gyms will have at least one of.  Simple make a platform out of blocks, steps or weight plates and perform the same movement as described above.

Here are a few take-home points for working the calves

  • Fully contract and squeeze the calves at the top of each movement
  • Fully stretch the calves at the bottom of each movement.

I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions, then please feel free to ask them below.

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