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February 15, 2022 6 min read

Seated calf raises are one of the best exercises to work your calves and require very little experience or training to master. Calf raises are great to finish with after a brutal leg workout, or can be done in cohesion with any other workout.

The benefits of seated calf raises are abundant with minimal chance of injury, making it a perfect exercise for beginners and advanced lifters alike. We will be going over why you shouldn’t skip calf raises and the many benefits of adding them to your workout routine. Read this guide to learn about what a seated calf raise is, how to do one, the muscles it works, and the many benefits it will provide you.

young man doing exercise using gym equipment - seated calf machine raises

What is a Seated Calf Raise?

A seated calf raise is one of the two most common ways that you will see gym goers training their calves in the gym. This movement can be done on a pulley machine, plate-loaded, or even just  bodyweight while sitting down for beginners. The usual gym machines will look like this in your commercial gym.

How to Do a Seated Calf Raise Properly

 

Follow these steps to perform a seated calf raise:

First, I will explain how to perform a plate-loaded seated calf raise. (This can be done with no weight for it to be a bodyweight exercise, or you can just sit in a chair with something under your feet to get the same effect if you do not have access to a gym.

  1. First you will need to sit down. 
  2. After sitting down, you will want to raise the bar to a height where your legs just manage to squeeze underneath the bar. 
  3. Third, now that you have the machine set up the way you want it, you can add weights to the sides in order to make it heavier. The load doesn’t have to be completely balanced but we like to keep it balanced just in case. 
  4. Sit back down underneath the bar and you are ready to complete your first set of seated calf raises.

On a pulley machine, the setup will be very similar to the seated plate-loaded one, other than you will have to use a pin to adjust the weight. The seats for most of these machines can also be adjusted to ensure you are using your calves and not cheating the exercise by allowing the quads to get involved in it.

To perform a calf raise you will just want to push off the toe/heel of your foot until the calf is fully flexed and holding the weight. The main idea though is to control the weight of the machine and not bounce up and down. The more control you are in a calf raise, the more benefits you will receive.

What Muscles Do Seated Calf Raises Work?

The seated calf raise obviously works the calf muscles. Here is a list of what the calve muscles are made up of and how these and others are utilized in seated calf raises.

1. Gastrocnemius

    The gastrocnemius is the ball muscle in the calf that gives it the full look, and this is the one that everyone thinks about when referring to the calf. Seated calf raises will work to strengthen this muscle to make it appear larger and stronger. Calves get a bad rap on how they are really hard to grow. For some people genetically, this is true. We believe here that 100% of people are capable of growing their gastrocnemius, it just often gets neglected in training. This is especially true with new gym-goers who tend to focus more on the beach body muscles and less on legs. But most of you experienced lifters know that a balanced physique is much more pleasing to the eye than someone who is top-heavy.

    2. Soleus

      The soleus is the muscle that runs along the outside of your calf that is commonly used in jumping. This muscle is mistaken as a tendon often, but it is a muscle that shouldn’t be neglected. While it isn’t really essential for the look of your calf, the benefits of strengthening it translate very well to athletics and other compound lifts. While finishing a heavy set of squats, the little extra spring in your soleus could help you finish off that last tough rep.

      3. Achilles Tendon

        Yes, I know I know… it’s not a muscle. The Achilles tendon is an essential tendon needed to walk, squat, jump, run, etc. in daily life. In the gym, this is no different. Having a strong Achilles tendon will prevent injuries in athletics and the gym by keeping your leg strong and in place.

        4. Tibialis Posterior

        Many of you may be asking, what the heck is this? The tibialis posterior is on the outside of your leg and assists in flexing the leg during a calf raise. While this is more of just a fun fact, it really shows how doing calf raises works a whole lot more than just the “calf”.

        5. Foot

        Yes, you read that correctly. Anyone who has done calf raises correctly with extending through your heel to your toe understands this. You get a nice little cramp in your foot if done correctly. Now, does this play a part in your aesthetic look as a bodybuilder or athlete? No of course not. But the strengthening of the muscles in your feet can help with balance and stability while performing other lifts. If you don’t believe us, try a set of 30 calf raises and let us know how your feet are feeling.

        Common Mistakes and Errors

        Now that you have a good understanding of the seated calf raise and why it should be added to your workouts. Let us go over some of the common mistakes and errors that occur when performing seated calf raises. The most common error with this exercise like many others is choosing too high of a weight and not controlling the weight.

        With calves especially, if you bounce the weight through the movement, you will miss out on the main benefits and just work your tendons. The other common issue that you will see in the seated calf raise and many other lifts is using too much weight. We will go over the rep ranges and sets that should be used based on your specific goals, and how often to perform them.

        Rep Schemes and Benefits

        We are going to show you what sets and reps you should be doing for seated calf raises each workout to achieve your specific goal. First, we will discuss what a  bodybuilder should be doing with sets and reps. We would recommend as a bodybuilder hitting calves at least 2 times a week. Feel free to add more if you can recover fast enough. You can always add a day or 2, or just add a couple of sets if you begin to stall progress. Always use progression in weight or reps each workout, if possible, to try to get stronger.

        On the first day of the week, you would want to do 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps to work the fast-twitch muscles more and focus more on strength. With calf raises, anything lower than 6 reps is going to be too heavy of a weight for this exercise. 

        Then on the 2nd calf day of the week, you will want to do 3-4 sets again, but 15-25 reps. This will work the slow-twitch muscles and be more of an endurance/mass builder for the calves. Athletes will benefit more from having more of the 6-12 rep days while sprinkling in a 15-25 rep day. Bodybuilders or those just looking for better-looking calves should primarily focus on the 15-25 rep days.

        You now understand the number of sets and reps you should do based on your goals, let us talk about the rep tempo that should be used. So, the eccentric part of the lift is when the calves are dropping down from the flexed position. (Insert link to site about eccentric vs concentric) The concentric part of the lift is when the calves are flexing to push the weight up. 

        We recommend that the eccentric part of the lift be 3 seconds and the concentric part of the lift be as fast as possible while maintaining control of the weight. This will help the mind-muscle connection and muscle building with controlling the weight on the way down, and the concentric part will build the fast-twitch fibers needed for athletes.

        Now you have a good understanding of what a seated calf raise is, how to perform them, what muscles they work, and why you should add them to your workout. Seated calf raises should be added to everyone’s workout routine regardless of your goal.

        Final Verdict

        Now that you know how to use the seated calf raise machine like a pro, it’s time to hit the gym and get those calf muscles pumping. Before your workout, load up on some  AMPED-AF  to help you get the show on the road.