4 Best Calf Exercises For Bigger Stronger Calves

Your calves are one of the smallest yet toughest muscle groups to build. If you truly want to grow your calves, it’s going to take time, consistency, and effort. Traditional compound movements, such as lunges, squats, and deadlifts will all stimulate your calves, however isolated movements will be key to grow bigger, stronger calf muscles. We’re going to talk about the best calf exercises, to help you grow fuller, stronger calf muscles.

Calf Muscle Anatomy 

Before we get into the best calf exercises, it’s important to understand the anatomy of your calves to accurately target and focus on the right muscle groups.

Your calves are comprised of two main muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Your gastrocnemius makes up the bulk muscle of your calves, while the soleus a wide flat muscle connects below your knee all the way to the Achilles tendon above the heel. Both muscles assist in knee flexion and extension, which is paramount in everyday movements, such as walking, running, sprinting, and jumping.

Best Calf Exercises

Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf raise, is one of the most effective and best calf exercises, to help you build rounded, fuller calves. Studies show that the standing calf raise, will help develop stronger calves, which translate to better sprint performance and overall power [R].

  • Unrack a loaded barbell as if you were getting ready to squat, with the weight across your back.
  • With both toes pointed forward, lift your heel off the floor, pushing the weight into your toes and flexing your calves.
  • Hold at the top of the flexion for 2-3 seconds, then return to starting position
  • Repeat this movement for 12-15 reps and 4-5 sets.

Seated Calf Raise

The seated calf raise is another great isolated calf exercise, that focuses only on your calf muscles. The seated calf raise is usually performed in a seated plate loaded calf raise machine. If your gym doesn’t have a seated calf raise, you can also perform the movement by sitting on a box or bench and putting a plate/dumbbells on your lap and raising.

  • Sit on a seated calf raise machine or box and select the desired weight or grab a plate.
  • Lift your heels off the ground, pressing your toes and the balls of your feet firmly into the ground and activating your calf muscles.
  • Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top, then release and bring your heels back to the floor
  • Repeat this movement for 12-15 reps and 4-5 sets.

Farmers Carry

The farmer’s carry is a relatively simple straight forward, yet underrated strength training and conditioning movement. The exercise itself is performed by picking up two weights, either of equal weight or contralateral distributions, and walking in a controlled manner for a designated distance. In addition to your calves, the farmers carry will help you improve your grip strength, core stability, and overall functional body strength.

  • Start in the standing position with your weights to the side of your body. Shoulders should be over the feet.
  • Squat down like you’re going to deadlift, with your hands to the side, chest up, shoulders back.
  • Grab your weights firmly, (dumbbells or kettlebells), stand straight up, and while maintaining tight core and active shoulders, set your eyes forward and begin to take small, controlled steps, trying not to use the side-to-side bobbing motion to create momentum to move forward.
  • Perform the walk for 20’ - 50’, set your equipment down, take a quick break, then repeat.

 RELATED ARTICLE Benefits Of Farmers Carry

Jump Squats

Jump squats are a great plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercises such as box jumps, burpees, and pop squats, help develop more power, speed, and explosive strength. The jump squat is one of the best calf exercises, to help build bigger, stronger calves, improving overall power and speed.

  • Start in seated squat position.
  • With all of your power and force, jump as high as you can swinging your arms behind you
  • Load all the weight evenly in your heels and roll the weight into your toes, before thrusting yourself upwards towards the ceiling.
  • Land back on your toes and roll back into your heels to starting position.

Best Calf Exercises: Takeaway

If you want to build bigger, stronger, full calves, then incorporate these four movements into your leg day training split, or on your active recovery day. By adding some isolated movements that target your calves, you'll improve athletic performance and support more complex compound movements, improving speed and power. 

 


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