In this article we will discuss the key benefits of the standing calf raise for most strength, power, and fitness athletes. In this previous standing calf raise guide, we offered coaches and athletes calf training perspectives and how they can affect performance in strength, power, and fitness sports.
Note, that this article does not suggest you replace main lifts for calf specific exercises of your training is time sensitive (seeing that many athletes can get many of the benefits below via training squats, pulls, plyometrics, and jumping), however does suggest some athletes who may have a specific ankle weakness or instability may benefit from integrating standing calf raises within their programs.
Standing Calf Raise Demo
In the video below the standing calf raise is demonstrated, especially with the barbell. Note, that coaches and athletes have a variety of standing calf raise options to choose from; barbell, dumbbell, Smith machine, bodyweight, etc.
Note, that the standing calf raise targets primarily the gastrocnemius, one of the two primarily calf muscles. When a calf raise is done seated, with the knees bent, you are primarily working the soleus (both of which are vital to overall calf development).
5 Benefits of Standing Calf Raises
Below are five (5) benefits coaches and athletes can expect when including standing calf raises within a training program.
Ankle Strength and Stability
Ankle stability can be affected by numerous factors. One of those is that strength of the calf muscles, which are responsible for plantar-flexion of the ankle joint. Increasing the ability to perform (high strength as well as faster muscle contractions/power) ankle plantar-flexion can have a help to stabilize the ankle under loads, running, and other expose movement.
Lower Body Performance
Strong calves and ankles can have a significant impact on our ability to squat heavier, pull more weight, and even create more force output and power in movements that require triple extension (cleans, snatches, jerks, push presses, etc). When we have weak calves (or simply calves that do a poor job at plantar-flexion, we lose some ankle stability and decrease our ability to forcefully extend the knees and hips (since they are supported by our footing and grip on the floor. While strong calves can also be developed through performing the squats, pulls, and plyometrics, some athletes may want to devote a few moments in a training session to isolate calf training if this is something they had issues with.
Weak ankles and calves can create gait issues and stability deficiencies during running, standing, jumping, and even squatting/pulling. By addressing ankle instability and strengthening the calves (such as with standing calf raises), you can provide athletes with the ability to stabilize themselves in athletic, explosive, strength-based movements.
Sprinting and Running Performance
While both of these movements are highly dependent on the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes), the calves also add some muscular output and explosiveness (in more short duration sprinting). When running, the muscles in our calves can eccentrically load to absorb some of the impact forces and also help to create ground reaction force via forceful plantar-flexion.
Team No Calves is a real thing. Standing calf raises, as aesthetic as this may be, can increase the size of your calves (muscle hypertrophy). While some strength, power, and fitness athletes/coaches will say they don’t care about these sorts of things, there are just as many who wouldn’t mind having bigger calves. Simply put, a steady diet of standing calf raises and seated (bent knee) raises can develop the calves into some serious slabs of meat.
Build Better Legs
Take a look at these leg training exercise guides to maximize leg hypertrophy and strength!
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