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February 08, 2022 8 min read

Calf exercises are often overlooked by many weightlifters. Lots of people focus more on their upper body than on their lower body, so calf muscle exercises often get pushed to the side. However, training your calves can lead to plenty of unique benefits. Here are some that you might expect when you start doing calf exercises regularly.

Benefits of Calf Exercises

There are a number of calf exercises that will improve your general strength and muscle definition. These exercises include standing barbell calf raises, box jumps, seated calf raises, jump squats, single-leg calf raises, uphill sprints, and side lunges.

Doing standing barbell calf raises regularly can help relieve some of the mobility and stability issues that might arise in older people. Most of these issues include a rigid thoracic spine, or inflexible hips, knees, or ankles.

Muscles Worked in Standing Barbell Calf Raises

The standing barbell calf raise mainly targets your calves, but you’ll also feel some benefits in your quadriceps (quads), hamstrings, and gluteal muscles (glutes).

More specific emphasis can be given to any of these muscle groups especially by combining barbell calf raises with a variety of other exercises on leg day. Calf work is especially important when it comes to men’s health because men tend to use those muscles more on a daily basis.

In addition to your leg muscles, calf raises can also be good for your back. 

If you are someone who experiences lower back pain, you can treat barbell calf raises as a hyperextension exercise. Hyperextension exercises, sometimes just called back extension exercises, can help you strengthen your back as well as your entire posterior chain.

You can also consider doing some of the other alternative hyperextension exercises in your own home, for those times when you cannot get to the gym.

Using Free Weights for Calf Exercises

Although these free weights are not going to be used specifically on your calf muscles, you’ll see in some of the exercises below how they can be used to augment your training.

One of the most effective pieces of equipment to use during any type of workout is a kettlebell.

Kettlebells come in all kinds of sizes and styles, and different ones can easily be substituted as you grow in strength and stamina. We recommend buying a kettlebell package to begin with, so that you can always have the right weight for each individual exercise. 

Dumbbells are also versatile pieces of equipment that can be used in your calf exercises and your regular workouts.

If you want to buy your own dumbbells, we recommend considering an adjustable dumbbell set so you don’t have to buy new dumbbells each time you outgrow a weight class. You can simply add more weight when it is time to push your limits further.

To learn a little more, take a look at some of the differences between kettlebells and dumbbells.

To increase your calf size and strength, you will need to approach calf exercises as you would any workout routine.

That means that you’ll start with a specific number of reps and sets and gradually increase those parameters as you get stronger. It is important to stretch your calves on a regular basis, but you never want to overwork this muscle group. We suggest beginning with two or three calf workouts per week as you are getting started.

Best Calf Exercises and Workouts

There are lots of good reasons to train your calves on a regular basis. Try to start with light weights and then increase the number of repetitions and sets as you start to do calf raises and get more used to the movements. Try out these calf workouts and training exercises to really start building up your calves.

Best Calf Exercise: Standing Barbell Calf Raise

 

Here is how to do the Standing Barbell Calf Raise:  

  1. Stand tall and support a barbell on your upper back, with your toes facing forward.
  2. Raise both heels and contract the calves on each of your legs.
  3. Gradually return to the starting position and repeat.

Try to do up to 15 reps per set and do up to 5 sets and rest for up to 45 seconds between each of your sets.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #1: Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

 

Here is how to do the Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise:

  1. Select a weight plate and a dumbbell.
  2. Place the weight plate on the floor.
  3. Sit at the end of a bench and rest your toes on top of the weight plate.
  4. Put the dumbbell on your knee, holding the handle with your right hand while your left hand holds the top.
  5. Raise your toes as high as you can without lifting them off the plate.
  6. Hold for a moment, lower your toes, and repeat

Try to do up to 15 reps per set and do up to 5 sets and rest for up to 45 seconds between each of your sets.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #2: Seated Calf Press (Leg Press Machine)

 

Here is how to do the Seated Calf Press:

  1. Find a leg press machine.
  2. Sit at the leg press machine so that just the top part of each foot is touching the bottom of the platform in front of you.
  3. Push back as far as you can while keeping your toes connected to the platform.
  4. Return and repeat the exercise.

Try to do up to 15 reps per set and do up to 5 sets and rest for up to 45 seconds between each of your sets.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #3: Farmer’s Walk (on Tiptoes)

 

Here is how to do the Farmer's Walk (on Tiptoes): 

  1. Pick up a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and hold them at your sides.
  2. Stand on the tips of your toes and walk forward as fast as you can for as far as you can go, taking short steps.
  3. Use a lighter weight to sustain balance and add more weight as you progress.

Try to walk as far as you can go for up to 3 sets with a recovery period of up to 3 minutes between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #4: Box Jumps

 

Here is how to do Box Jumps:

  1. Find a strong and secure box and stand a short distance away from it, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Drop into a quarter squat and swing your arms as you powerfully jump onto the box.
  3. Land softly and step backward, maintaining a tight sense of form and control.

Do about 5 reps per set for a total of 3 sets with a recovery period of up to 60 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #5: Jumping Jacks

 

Here is how to do Jumping Jacks: 

  1. Stand upright with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
  2. Simultaneously jump and spread your legs while clapping your hands above your head.
  3. Jump again as you return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the movement.

Try to do about 25 reps per set for up to 5 sets with a recovery period of up to 60 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #6. Single-Leg Calf Raise

 

Here is how to do the Single-Leg Calf Raise: 

  1. Stand on top of an elevated surface like a block, rail, or step.
  2. Raise one leg and rest your weight on the ball of the other foot (which is still on the surface)
  3. Wrap your raised leg around the fixed leg and lower your body toward the floor, stretching your calf in the process.
  4. Hold for a moment before thrusting upward on the ball of your foot, raising your heel.
  5. Hold at the top before returning to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement.

Try to do about 20 reps per set for up to 5 sets with a recovery period of up to 45 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #7: Seal Jumps

 

Here is how to do Seal Jumps: 

  1. Start in jumping jack formation. When you jump, move each arm out to either side instead of moving them overhead.
  2. Jump again and clap your hands in front of you.
  3. Repeat the movement.

Try to do about 25 reps per set for up to 5 sets with a recovery period of up to 60 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #8: Lateral Lunge to Curtsy

 

Here is how to do the Lateral Lunge to Curtsy:

  1. Stand upright holding a weight plate, dumbbell or kettlebell.
  2. Move your right foot to the side while hinging your hips as you form a lateral lunge.
  3. Push off the right foot and rise upward to the standing position, simultaneously bringing your right leg into a curtsy lunge.
  4. Switch legs for a full rep.
  5. Repeat the movement.

Try to do about 12 reps per set for up to 3 sets with a recovery period of up to 45 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #9: Agility Ladder

Here is how to do the Agility Ladder:

  1. Place the agility ladder on the floor and stand at one end.
  2. Run or hop from one end of the agility ladder to the other.
  3. Walk back to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Try to do about 12 reps per set for up to 3 sets with a recovery period of up to 45 seconds between each set.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise Variation #10: Bosu Ball Squat

Here is how to do the Bosu Ball Squat: 

  1. Place a Bosu ball on the ground, dome-side down.
  2. Stand on the ball and keep your balance.
  3. Lower into a squat position without losing control.
  4. Stand and repeat the movement.

Try to do about 12 reps per set for up to 3 sets with a recovery period of up to 45 seconds between each set.

A Look at Muscle Hypertrophy

The concept of hypertrophy training for strength, power, and fitness athletes is extremely important. The additional benefits that unilateral training has, such as the ability to increase muscular activation during single leg movements, can lead to increased muscular hypertrophy and possibly even transferable strength and muscle tissue to other movements (such as deadlifts, front squats, back squats, etc).

Also, by increasing the amount of hypertrophy at a more muscle group specific level, coaches and athletes can increase their training volumes to their legs with unilateral movements like this one without necessarily working any of the other muscle groups too much and potentially negatively impacting the body’s overall performance. This is especially helpful when other muscle groups are still healing from injuries that occurred earlier.

Barbell calf raises can help you create high levels of hypertrophy throughout all of your muscle groups.

If you plan to do this workout correctly on a consistent basis, you will usually experience a very deep muscular burn. 

In conjunction with your cardio training, this means that many of your leg muscles should start becoming noticeably bigger.

Maximal Strength Capacities

The ability to train one leg at fairly moderate loads is something that can help to develop your “bilateral deficit”, which is a pretty simple principle when it comes to doing bodyweight work like single-leg exercises.

By addressing this principle with unilateral training exercises, coaches and athletes can develop stronger leg muscles and expect a large number of movement and strength transfers to main bilateral movements.

To truly reach your maximum strength potential, training each of your legs equally and fueling your intense training sessions is essential. Hyperade can help by increasing your performance and improving your endurance quickly because of its fast-digesting carbs.   

Start Doing the Barbell Calf Raises

Now it is time to start doing some barbell calf raises. Always start with basic positioning and practice the proper form. Barbell calf raises can be some of the best exercises for building stronger legs, but they can also cause debilitating injuries if you start too quickly and carelessly without fully understanding the fundamentals.

Doing barbell calf raises with the proper form can lead to some very impressive results, especially in terms of increased leg strength.

Combining all of your workouts in these exercises and all of your others with plenty of rest and adequate recovery periods can also be an important part of your overall bodybuilding regimen.