No one at a movie theater ever comes up and says, “Hey, how much do you calf raise?” Even a discussion of great bodybuilders rarely takes a turn toward calf development.
Truth is, calves are often among the the forgotten body parts, especially among casual gym-goers. If you want to prance around in baggy holdover sweats from the 1990s, carry on, but if you ever plan to wear shorts or get on any bodybuilding stage, you’ll be a lot more successful with well-developed calves.
Assuming your training volume and intensity are sufficient and your nutrition is on point, it’s going to come down to exercise selection. Let’s take a look at six easy moves to help you bust out some bigger calves.
Seated Calf Raise
Seated calf raises effectively target your soleus because your legs are bent at 90 degrees. When your legs are straight they more effectively target the gastrocnemius. It’s essential to target all calf muscles for full calf development—this has been the go-to soleus developer for decades because it works
Leg Press Calf Raise
Because the weight is not supported on your back and balance is not required, this machine exercise allows you to go heavy and isolate the calves. Go heavy but do not sacrifice range of motion.
Banded Tibia Raise
These are basically a reverse calf raise with a band providing the resistance; I learned this calf-building technique from bodybuilder and colleague, John Meadows. Implement this movement and you’ll be ahead of the curve. How many folks do you know that are training their Tibialis Anterior?
Standing Machine Calf Raise
This is as basic as it gets, but remember basic means fundamental. This exercise has been fundamental in the development of many sets of great calves. Get a good stretch at the bottom and hold the peak contracted position for a second at the top.
Unilateral Calf Raise
Perform any of the mentioned calf raises one leg at a time. This eliminates the bilateral deficits, and allows for identification and elimination of muscular imbalances.
Oftentimes when I implement jumping rope in a client’s workout regimen, their calves magically grow. Try adding a few minutes of jumping rope as a warm-up or as a finisher and watch your calves explode.
BY JOSH BRYANT, CSCS, MFS, PES