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February 15, 2022 9 min read

The calves are the one of the most challenging and often neglected muscles on the human body. This is probably due to the unfair popular opinion that the calf muscles are not as important as other muscle groups.

But they are undoubtedly important to your fitness performance.

And the seated calf raise is one of the few exercises that target and build the calves.

Bodybuilder Doing seated calf raise Exercise in a gym

What Is The Seated Calf Raise? 

It's an isolation exercise that is specifically designed to target the calf muscles. 

You see, the calf muscles are notoriously difficult to grow, and exercises like the seated calf raise are designed to remedy this. The seated calf raise is a beginner-friendly exercise that intermediate athletes and gym-goers can also perform.

The seated calf raise is a heel-raising exercise done while sitting comfortably in a chair. It is of a lesser intensity than its standing variation and requires less balance, stability, and inclusion of the upper body muscles.

Unlike many other exercises that require a certain level of strength and stamina, the seated calf raise can be done by anyone who is looking to grow their calf muscles for better power output and a better physique.

It is easy to learn and even easier to perfect, given that you follow the rules strictly. The seated calf raise is an especially fantastic option for people who suffer from injuries to the legs, hips, or upper body.  

Calf raises are encouraged as rehabilitation exercises, so it is not surprising that many use the seated calf raise to facilitate their recovery and integration for more challenging exercises.

Muscles Worked During The Seated Calf Raise

Calf muscles are no doubt one of the most challenging muscles to build.What makes the calves notoriously difficult to grow is that they are already quite developed given that we spend a large part of our lives on our feet. In fact, the average adult takes between 4000-7000 steps a day. 

But that's not all, because we jog, run, and jump too, all of which are actions driven by the calf muscles.

The calves of an adult are already about 80% fully developed, so it is no wonder that no amount of running or leg exercises yield huge results in little time. The amount of time spent on your feet has caused your calves to grow without specifically training them.

So to grow your calves to their maximum potential, you'll need to train them consistently and provide a muscle pump for maximum fullness. How does the seated calf raise help you achieve this?

Contrary to what many gym-goers think, the calf is not one solid bulk of muscle.

It is actually two muscles, namely the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles. These muscles are located on the back of the leg, connecting to the heel via the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles might function as one major muscle, but each of these muscles is unique and perform different functions.

Gastrocnemius

The gastrocnemius muscle, also known as the leg triceps, is the larger of the calf muscles.

It originates on the back of the thigh and knee, runs down the posterior part of the leg, where it joins the smaller soleus muscle before it attaches to the Achilles tendon at the heel. The gastrocnemius muscle provides the bulk size of the calf. If you are trying to grow your calf muscles, the muscle that should receive bulk stimulation is the gastrocnemius.

The gastrocnemius muscle is also an essential part of the leg movement and propelling force.

It is no wonder that it is called the ‘runner’s muscle.’ When you walk, run, or even flex your foot, you activate and utilize the gastrocnemius. This muscle plays a huge role in your ability to pull your heel up and extend your foot downward. Due to this, the gastrocnemius muscle is more activated during the standing calf raise exercise.

However, the seated calf raise engages the soleus muscle more than the gastrocnemius.

Soleus

The soleus muscle is harder to see superficially than the more evident gastrocnemius muscle. It is a flat, broad muscle that lies just underneath the gastrocnemius. The soleus muscle originates from the bones of the lower legs, joins the gastrocnemius, and attaches to the heel via the Achilles tendon. 

It contributes to your ability to perform simple activities like walking, running, dancing, and skipping.

The soleus muscle also ensures your stability, preventing falling while erect. Essentially, the soleus might be smaller, but it is an equally important muscle.

How To Do The Seated Calf Raise 


The seated calf raise can be performed with dumbbells or a machine.

Either way, as long as you make use of the proper technique, your calves will be burning at the end of your routine. The seated calf raise is a scalable exercise, and it is best if you start with your body weight. This would not only get you used to the proper form but make it easier to perform more challenging modifications of the seated calf raise.

The common seated calf raise is done using resistance such as weight plates or dumbbells.

This seated calf raise variation is just as effective as the machine variation. The dumbbell acts as resistance on your muscles, forcing them to attain and stretch to accommodate your leg movements. It is a great exercise for toning and strengthening your calves.

To perform the seated calf raise:

  • Grab two equally weighted dumbbells.
  • Place a step or block in front of your chair or bench. 
  • Sit on the edge of the bench.
  • Keep your back erect and your chest proud.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Rest the ends of each dumbbell on your thighs, close to your feet. Don't go too far up as you want to feel the dumbbells as you raise your heels.
  • Place the balls of your feet on the step. 
  • Lower the back of your feet, letting your heels drop as far as they can go without touching the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Cause your heels as high as you can without moving the balls of your feet.
  • Squeeze your calves at the peak of the movement.
  • Pause for a second.
  • Slowly lower your heels to the starting position.
  • This is one repetition. Complete as many reps as possible.

The calf raise can be performed at home if you have dumbbells, however the calf raise machines found in most gyms provide a greater opportunity to overload your calves and stimulate growth. While the standing calf raise machine is commonly used, the the seated variation can make it easier to isolate the calf muscles.

To do the machine seated calf raise:

  • Sit at the machine.
  • Keep your back straight, and your chest slightly pushed forward.
  • Place the balls of your feet on the platform.
  • Keep your toes forward.
  • Place your thighs under the knee pad so that the pad is between your thigh and knees.
  • Rest your hands on the pad.
  • Release the safety bar on the machine.
  • Inhale and distend your heels, lowering them as far as they will go. You should feel the stretch in your ankles.
  • Raise your heels and extend them fully.
  • Exhale as you contract the calves.
  • This is one rep. Complete as many repetitions as you can fit in a set.

The seated calf raise looks deceptively easy, but to see evident changes in your calves, you need all the help you can get. For the best results, pair your training with the MASS STACK  for lean muscle gain and muscle fullness.

Benefits Of Seated Calf Raises

  1. Stronger calves: A study shows that  calf muscle injuries are growing increasingly common among athletes. This might be because the calves remain neglected in favor of more evident mirror muscles. The seated calf raise might be a lower intensity exercise compared to the standing variation, but it is equally good at activating, engaging, and strengthening the calf muscles, and thus reducing the risk of injuries during functional and sport activities.
  2. Explosive power: As an athlete, explosive power is a necessary feature. The seated calf raise is a splendid way to target your calf muscles that play a major role in high power outputs and acceleration. If you want to run faster and jump higher, the seated calf raise belongs in your workout routine.
  3. Balance: Strong calves are important for supporting your foot and ankle joints. The calves play a huge role in stabilizing your ankles and balancing your upper body in powerful movements like walking, running, and plyometric exercises.
  4. Reduced joint injuries: Training your calves also directly influences other connecting muscles. Your soleus is connected to your ankle. Since the soleus muscle receives the bulk of the contractions during the calf raise, it makes sense that these contractions also affect the tendons that connect the soleus to your ankles. This helps strengthen your ankle and reduce the risks of injuries to the ankles and shins. The soleus is also connected to the knees and helps to keep the knee joint safe during physical activities.
  5. Muscle imbalance: Leg muscles often become tight from overuse. This is often worse when it’s on one leg. This type of muscle imbalance often leads to weakness and problems with mobility, ut doing unilateral seated calf raises can help to fix leg muscle imbalances and thus correct mobility problems.

Tips To Help You Perfect The Seated Calf Raise

The seated calf raise might look harmless, but without the proper technique, you might be setting yourself up for a calf strain. Perfecting the seated calf raise requires attention to your form and the proper lifting technique. It also requires that you keep some important cues in mind as they would help you keep your technique in form.

Some of the tips to help you perfect the calf raise includes:

  • Use light weights: Starting with heavy weights will do you more harm than good. They place pressure on your muscles that your calves may not be used to. This could lead to excessive soreness or in more extreme cases, muscle strains. To avoid it, start the seated raise with lighter dumbbells. This will make it easier to perform the raise properly and reduce the risk of calf muscle injuries. Don't know what dumbbell weight you should use?  Check this out.
  • Don't let your heel touch the floor: Your heels should remain airborne throughout the exercise, as touching your heel to the floor takes the tension out of your calf. Keep the ball of your feet in contact with the step and your heel slightly off the floor. This places constant tension on your calves throughout your set.
  • Don't slouch: This would place pressure on your lower back. To avoid this problem, sit at the edge of your chair and keep your back erect and your shoulder blades pinched together throughout the length of your exercise. To make it easier, rest your back on the chair’s back support. Keep your mid-back in touch with support at all times.
  • Squeeze the calves: Squeeze your calves for one to two seconds at the peak of the movement to ensure maximum contraction. This will add intensity and increase muscle response. This muscle response is what you need to strengthen, build, and tone your calves.
  • Use a full range of motion: Performing with a full range of motion ensures that you get the best results of your calf raise. This means that you have to drop your heels and raise them as far as they will go.
  • Listen to your body: While it is advisable to perform the full range of motion during the calf raise, if you start to feel a pinch in your calf or the bottom of your foot, you might want to take it slower and feel your way through the movement to reduce the risk of straining your calf muscle. 
  • Don't use your toes: This is a common mistake among newbies. Rather than pushing through the base of your toes, focus on lifting with the ball or mid-part of your feet. This serves the purpose of the seated calf raise better.
  • Keep your movements slow: Keep your repetitions slow and controlled. Don't rush the exercise. Using momentum reduces the intensity and contractions in your calves. Take it slow and squeeze your calves at the top of your movement.

Making The Seated Calf Raise Easier

Depending on your fitness level and strength, the seated calf raise might be a challenging exercise for you. To make it a bit easier to perform, get rid of any resistance involved in the original variation.

Taking resistance out of the equation leaves only one piece of equipment: A chair or bench. The seated calf raise can be performed as a bodyweight exercise.

To do this:

  • Sit erect on a chair with your back against the back support.
  • Clasp your hands on your thighs.
  • Keep your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor.
  • Slowly lift your heel by pushing through the bulk of your feet.
  • Squeeze your calf at the peak of the movement. 
  • Hold this position for two seconds.
  • Slowly lower your heel.
  • Complete as many reps as you can fit in a set.

When you get comfortable with this modification of the seated calf raise, it will be easier to move on to more challenging modifications. Start with the bodyweight modification and work your way up by adding a step, dumbbells without the step, and then dumbbell with the step.

The Seated Calf Raise Is Worth The Hype

The seated calf raise is a splendid addition to your leg day workout routine. It completes your toned physique and is a great way to increase your performance in and outside the gym.

The seated calf raise can also be combined with other  calf exercises for strong and chiseled legs.