The calves can easily be forgotten in a well built strength program, but they really shouldn’t. After all, the calves are the major muscles responsible for dorsiflexion and plantarflexion of the foot, or the foot’s ability to move upwards and downwards.
The major calf muscles worth noting are the gastrocnemius, or the bigger, more ball shaped superficial calf muscle, and the soleus, the deeper sitting muscle that extends from mid-way down on the back of the shin to the Achilles area. Both of these muscles play a big part in success under the bar, on the field, and in day-to-day life.
The calves may not be the prime movers in compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and snatch, but without them we would have no extension of the ankle or lower body stability under weight, so yeah, they’re pretty important.
Hopefully by now you’re a believer that having strong calves will you win under the bar, on the platform, and in day-to-day life (Hello, shorts weather!). Below we’ve included our four favorite calves exercises that can benefit powerlifters, bodybuilders, weightlifters, and so many more.
1. Standing Calf Raises
The standing calf raise is often the calf training go-to for beginner, intermediate, and experienced athletes. This calf training exercise often has a seperate machine in most gyms, but can also be performed with a free barbell or in a Smith Machine. To increase this movement’s intensity and stretch to the calf, which can lead to more muscle hypertrophy, an athlete can add a box or implement to stand on.
Need a tune up on the standing calf raise? Check out our standing calf raise guide!
2. Seated Calf Raises
Consider the seated calf raise the standing calf raises younger brother. This movement, like the standing calf raise, is also great for directly targeting the calves to promote strength and hypertrophy. The one, and probably obvious difference, is that with this movement you’ll be performing it seated, as opposed to standing.
For this reason, we love the seated calf raise when trying to burn out the calves at the end of a workout, or when an athlete is trying to avoid any extra spinal loading. Also, this exercise can be useful when working with lighter weight and playing with tempos.
Check out all of the known, and not-so-known benefits that come with the calf raise.
3. Dumbbell Jump Squat
The dumbbell jump squat is an awesome movement for building calf muscle endurance, strength, power, and size. This movement requires a lifter to hold a dumbbell similar to a goblet squat, or two dumbbells to their side, then proceed to jump with the weight before cushioning and absorbing their landing.
Jumping can promote calf muscle growth, but weighted jumps require more stabilization of these muscles, as they have your bodyweight and the external stimuli weight to absorb. In Layman’s terms, this exercise requires a fast contraction of the calves, and then a large focus on the eccentric absorption of weight and force, thus highly stimulating the calves.
Form NEEDS to be perfect for this exercise, check out dumbbell jump squat guide!
4. Farmer’s Walks
The final movement that makes our calf training list is Farmer’s Walks. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, aren’t farmer’s walks a movement for grip?” Yes, they are, and that’s exactly why we’re putting a spin on them when trying to train the calves. To target the calves, forearms, and full body with farmer’s walks, drop the weight used slightly and perform shorter walks on your tiptoes. This will require the calves to work incredibly hard to stabilize and maintain their position under the weight being used.
Learn how to properly perform this exercise with our farmer’s walk guide!