Calf Raises: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

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Calf raises are one of the best exercises for bringing up those lagging calves, and once you know the ins and outs of this exercise, you will be well on your way to developing monstrous lower legs. 

However, there are also some vital mistakes that most people make when performing calf raises, reducing the effectiveness of this exercise and increasing the chances of injury. That’s why knowing how to perform them correctly is so important.  

Let’s dive right into it and take a look at how to perform calf raises, the benefits that come from performing calf raises, and some expert tips to help you master this exercise.  

Why Should I Train Calves? 

Calves, although often overlooked, play an essential role in lower body strength, balance, and aesthetics. Training your calves can provide several benefits, including: 

  1. Enhanced Lower Body Strength: Strong calf muscles contribute to improved lower body strength, allowing you to perform better in various activities such as running, jumping, and squatting. 
  1. Improved Balance and Stability: Well-developed calves provide better balance and stability, reducing the risk of ankle sprains and enhancing overall movement control. 
  1. Athletic Performance: Strong calves are crucial for athletes participating in sports that involve explosive movements, such as basketball, soccer, or sprinting. 
  1. Aesthetics: Developed calf muscles can enhance the overall appearance of your lower legs, contributing to a well-proportioned physique. 

How to Do a Standing Calf Raise 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart near a wall or a sturdy object for balance. 
  1. Position the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or platform, allowing your heels to hang off. 
  1. Rise up onto the balls of your feet by pushing through your toes, lifting your heels as high as possible. 
  1. Pause at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your heels back down until you feel a stretch in your calves. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Benefits of Standing Calf Raises 

Calf Muscle Development: Standing calf raises primarily target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, helping to develop and strengthen these muscles for better performance and aesthetics. 

Ankle Stability: By working the calf muscles, standing calf raises improve ankle stability and reduce the risk of ankle injuries. 

Functional Movement: Strong calf muscles are essential for everyday activities such as walking, running, and climbing stairs, allowing you to move more efficiently. 

Other Variations of the Standing Calf Raise 

Seated Calf Raise 

This exercise is performed using a seated calf raise machine or a bench with a weight plate on your thighs. 

How To Do A Seated Calf Raise   

  1. Sit on a calf raise machine or a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. 
  1. Place a dumbbell or any weighted object on your thighs to add resistance. 
  1. Position the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or a raised platform. 
  1. Slowly raise your heels off the ground as high as possible. 
  1. Hold the contracted position for a brief moment, then lower your heels back down in a controlled manner. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Assisted Standing Calf Raise 

If you’re just starting or need assistance, you can hold onto a stable object for support while performing standing calf raises. 

Changing Foot Position 

Altering the positioning of your feet, such as turning your toes inward or outward, can shift the emphasis on different parts of the calf muscles. 

Standing Calf Raise on a Step 

Performing standing calf raises on a step allows for an increased range of motion, providing a deeper stretch and contraction of the calf muscles. 

Dumbbell Standing Calf Raise 

Holding dumbbells in your hands while performing standing calf raises adds extra resistance, intensifying the exercise. 

Single leg calf Raise  

This variation involves performing calf raises on a single leg, challenging your balance and providing a more focused workout for each calf. 

How To Do A Single Leg Calf Raise    

  1. Stand near a wall or a sturdy object for support. 
  1. Shift your weight onto one leg and lift the other leg slightly off the ground. 
  1. Position the ball of your active foot on the edge of a step or a block. 
  1. Rise up onto the ball of your foot, lifting your heel as high as possible. 
  1. Pause briefly at the top and then slowly lower your heel back down. 
  1. Complete the set on one leg before switching to the other leg. 

Leg Press Calf Raise  

Using a leg press machine, you can perform calf raises by positioning your feet at the bottom of the footplate and pushing through your toes. 

How To Do A Leg Press Calf Raise    

  1. Sit on the leg press machine with your back against the backrest and your feet shoulder-width apart on the footplate. 
  1. Adjust the seat so that your knees are slightly bent at the starting position. 
  1. Push the footplate away by extending your ankles and raising your heels. 
  1. Hold the fully extended position for a moment to maximize the contraction. 
  1. Slowly lower your heels back down without letting the weight stack touch down. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Donkey Calf Raise 

In this exercise, you’ll need a partner or a donkey calf raise machine to provide resistance as you perform calf raises. 

How To Do A Donkey Calf Raise   

  1. Stand facing a calf raise machine or a sturdy waist-high platform with your toes on the edge and your heels hanging off. 
  1. Bend at your waist while keeping your back straight, creating a 90-degree angle with your legs. 
  1. Have a partner place a weighted barbell or a suitable weight on your upper back, or use the machine’s designated weight. 
  1. Lift your heels off the ground as high as possible, then lower them back down in a controlled manner. 
  1. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Common Mistakes 

To get the most out of your calf raises and avoid potential pitfalls, be mindful of the following common mistakes: 

Not Stretching Beforehand 

Failing to properly warm up and stretch your calf muscles before performing calf raises can increase the risk of injury. Take a few minutes to stretch your calves by performing calf stretches or using a foam roller to loosen up the muscles. 

Going Too Fast 

Avoid rushing through the calf raises. Focus on controlled movements, both during the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phases of the exercise. This ensures proper muscle engagement and maximizes the benefits. 

Folding Forward 

Maintain proper posture throughout the exercise. Avoid leaning forward or hunching your shoulders, as this can shift the focus away from the calves and place unnecessary strain on other muscle groups. 

Too Few Reps 

Calf muscles can handle higher repetitions due to their endurance capacity. Aim for higher rep ranges (12-20 repetitions) to effectively target and challenge the calf muscles. 

Safety and Precautions 

When performing calf raises, it’s important to keep safety in mind: 

  1. Start with a manageable weight or resistance and gradually increase it as your calf muscles become stronger and more conditioned. 
  1. If you have any existing injuries or conditions that affect your calf muscles or ankles, consult with a healthcare professional before adding calf raises to your routine. 
  1. Listen to your body. If you experience pain or discomfort during calf raises, modify the exercise or seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional. 

Calf Raise Tips 

  1. Focus on the full range of motion, ensuring your heels drop below the level of the step or platform during the eccentric phase for a deep stretch. 
  1. Squeeze your calf muscles at the top of the movement to enhance the contraction. 
  1. Control the movement throughout to maximize muscle engagement and minimize momentum. 
  1. Incorporate calf raises into your routine 2-3 times per week, allowing for proper rest and recovery between sessions. 

Make Calf Raises Part Of Your Workout 

Calf raises can be incorporated into your lower body or full-body workout routine. 

Consider performing them after compound exercises like squats or deadlifts to target the calves when your muscles are already warmed up. 

Try It Out 

Now that you have a solid understanding of calf raises, it’s time to put your knowledge into action. Incorporate standing calf raises, along with variations that suit your goals and fitness level, into your workout routine. Remember to maintain proper form, gradually increase the intensity, and stay consistent to see improvements in your calf strength, stability, and overall lower body development. 

Calf Raises – FAQs 


What Are Calf Raises Good For? 

Calf raises are good for developing lower leg muscle and strength.  

How Long Should You Do Calf Raises For? 

Most people should generally do calf raises for around 10 minutes. However, this is not the question you should be asking. 

The better question is “how many calf raises should I do”. 

As a general rule of thumb, most people will want to do 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps, having a short break in between sets.  

Should I Do Calf Raises Slow or Fast? 

You should do calf raises slow on the decline and fast on the incline. 

This leads to maximum muscle growth and explosiveness.  

How Do You Do Calf Raises Correctly? 

To do calf raises correctly, you should stand on the balls of your feet on a raised platform, slowly lower down until your heels are as low as possible, and then explode up, trying to feel your calves at the top of the movements.  

These same steps also apply when it comes to how to do calf raises at home. 

We hope this article will be of use to you.  

Standing calf raises are one of the best exercises you can do to bring up your calves, and if you follow all of the advice we have given you today, you will be on your way to getting huge legs in no time.  

For more fitness advice, head over to MovingForwards

Good luck.