Are you embarrassed to show your calves in the weight room? Do your tiny twig legs urge you to wear tall socks, or even sweat pants to avoid a “skipping leg day” joke?
Well you’re not alone. Most serious gym rats stare at their calves day after day and wonder why they just aren’t getting bigger.
Unfortunately, your calf size is mostly determined by genetics. Some people just can’t build up any serious size.
But chances are, you’re actually not training them right.
If your go-to calf exercises is standing raises and it’s just not getting the job done, you need to reevaluate.
So we’ve put together a list of the top calf exercises. There’s still a place for standing raises, but mix it up a little.
5. Seated Calf Raises
There are a few reasons why seated calf raises are a great place to start. First of all, you’ll get a better range of motion. Since you’re not having to balance the rest of your body, you can really get to the top of your raise. Second, it’s an opportunity to really load them up with weight. It’s safe, and it’s easy to put a few plates on and go to town. Unless your gym has a standing calf raise machine, you’re not going to get that burn.
4. Jumping Rope
Yes, jumping rope is an aerobic exercise. It is going to give you more of a calf definition than size, but it’s foolish to ignore. If you want a truly functional way to hit your calves, this is where you should start. You’d be hard pressed to find a time in your day where you’re actually lifting a weight with your calves, but unless you drag your heels, you’re bouncing on your calves all day long. Use different techniques, like single leg jumps and high knees, to really hit your calf muscles.
3. Leg Press Calf Press
This is another opportunity to load up your calves, and the pressing motion hits them a little bit differently than a raise. Just get on any leg press machine, adjust the seat so that your legs are just short of locking, and press out, moving nothing but your ankles. Make sure you don’t let it come back to far. Over extending your calf muscles can put you out of commission for a while.
2. Hill Sprints
Hill sprints are the ultimate HIIT workout if you’re looking for strong, toned legs. Running uphill is easy on your knees, and it’ll give you one hell of a burn. You’ll feel this all over your legs, but you will especially notice it in your calves, compared to normal running. If you’re not working HIIT training into your routine already (and why aren’t you?), I suggest starting here. Your calves will thank me.
1. Donkey Raises
This is a weird exercise, and chances are your gym doesn’t have a machine for it. So grab a chair or a bench, and lean over it so your body is at a 90-degree angle, hinged at the hip. From there, just raise up like any standard calf raise, keeping your upper body bent over. If you have a machine, there will be a pad that rests on your lower back for you to push against. If you don’t, find a workout body (or a stranger) to put a plate on your back. This is one of the most under utilized calf moves out there, but boy does it work.
Maybe you’re gifted with amazing calves. If you are, we all hate you. For the rest of us, start working these exercises into your routine. Combine them with an overall well-planned lower body routine, and you’ll start to see results.