Growth-Stimulating Exercises for Your Calves

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Choueiri, Richard. "Growth-Stimulating Exercises for Your Calves." ThoughtCo, Mar. 6, 2016, thoughtco.com/growth-stimulating-exercises-for-calves-3955819. Choueiri, Richard. (2016, March 6). Growth-Stimulating Exercises for Your Calves. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/growth-stimulating-exercises-for-calves-3955819 Choueiri, Richard. "Growth-Stimulating Exercises for Your Calves." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/growth-stimulating-exercises-for-calves-3955819 (accessed September 19, 2017).
The soleus muscle. Photo courtesy: Gray's Anatomy (public domain)

The gastrocnemius, more commonly referred to as the calves, is the two-headed muscle located at the back of the lower leg. This muscle group constitutes an inner and an outer head that collectively function to extend the ankles, a movement known as plantarflexion. Therefore, the gastrocnemius can be strengthened and developed by performing calf raising movements.

Another muscle that anatomically contributes to the calf complex is the soleus.

This muscle is located beneath to the gastrocnemius and functions similarily in plantarflexion. This muscle, however, is used to plantarflex whether or not your knees are extended or bent. The gastrocnemius, because it crosses the knee joint, is mainly involved in plantarflexion when your knees are extended. The more you bend your knees, the less the muscle is able to plantarflex, due to a biomechanical principle known as active insufficiency.

Therefore, if you want to mainly target the gastrocnemius, which is the most powerful calf muscle, then it is best to perform calf raise exercises with your knees near full extension, such as during standing calf raises. In contrast, if you want to focus on the soleus muscle, then perform calf raise exercises with your knees bent, preferentially at a 90-degree angle, such as during seated calf raises.

Regardless of which calf exercise you are performing, aim for 10 to 12 repetitions per set.

You should perform two calf exercises per workout, one in the standing position and one in the seated position. For each exercise, do four sets with a two minute rest period in between each set.

Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

To execute this movement, begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip.

Place your toes on the platform and keep your heels off the platform. Position the dumbbells by your sides with your arms straight. Keep your body upright throughout the movement. Extend your ankles and rise up on your toes, contracting your calves at the top of the movement. Bend your ankles and lower your heels.

Standing Machine Calf Raise

To perform this exercise, first place your toes on the foot platform, keeping your heels off the platform. Position your shoulders under the shoulder pads and grasp the machine handles with hands for support. Keep your legs almost fully straight during the exercise. Rise up on your toes by extending your ankles, making sure to contract your calves at the top of the motion. Lower your heels by bending your ankles.

Seated Barbell Calf Raise

To execute this movement, begin by holding the barbell in an overhand grip wider than shoulder-width apart. Sit on the weight bench and put your toes on the platform, keeping your heels off the platform. Position the barbell on top of your lower thighs and keep your hands on it. Extend your ankles and rise up on your toes, making sure to contract your calves at the top of the movement. Bend your ankles to lower your heels.

Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

To perform this exercise, first grasp a dumbbell in your hands using an overhand grip and sit on the weight bench. Place your toes on the foot platform and keep your heels off the platform. Position the dumbbells on top of your lower thighs and keep your hands on each dumbbell. Rise up on your toes by extending your ankles. Contract your calves and then lower your heels by bending your ankles.