What Exercises Develop the Calf Muscles?

The calf muscles give the lower back part of your legs definition. The main function of this muscle group is to elevate the heels in a motion known in anatomical terminology as plantar flexion. Exercises that develop the calf muscles involve this motion, and you can perform them with various pieces of fitness equipment. Aim for 15 to 20 reps per set and three to four sets with your calf exercises, and work your calves two to three times a week.

Smith Machine Calf Raises

A Smith machine is an apparatus that has a barbell fixed inside two steel uprights. The barbell slides up and down and has safety hooks attached to the bar in case you are unable to lift the weight to a desired height. Adjust the height of the bar to your upper-chest level, and place a calf block on the floor directly beneath the barbell. Place your shoulders under the bar, and grab it with your hands in a wide grip. Place the balls of your feet on the calf block, shoulder-width apart. Apply upward pressure on the bar by raising your body onto your toes. Spin the bar backward to clear the safety hooks, and lower your heels toward the floor. Hold for a full second, then push up onto your tiptoes. Squeeze forcefully for a second, then lower yourself back down. Repeat for your desired set of reps. A calf block is a fitness tool that elevates your heels off the floor to do calf exercises.

Leg Presses

A leg-press machine customarily is used to work the butt muscles and the major muscles of the thighs. You also can use it to work your calf muscles. Sit on the seat, and place the balls of your feet shoulder-width apart at the bottom of the sled, with your heels hanging off the edge. Push the sled up, and flip the safety latches to the sides. Lower your toes toward your upper body, and hold for a second. Push the sled back up with your toes, and squeeze forcefully for a second. Repeat for your desired set of reps.

Single-Leg Calf Raises

Single-leg calf raises can be done on an aerobic step, a calf block or a stairway step. Place the balls of your right foot on the step, and lift your left leg behind your body slightly by bending your knee. Grab a wall or stationary object for balance, and lift up on your tiptoes. Hold for a second, and lower yourself back down until your foot is lower than parallel to the floor. Hold again for a second, and repeat. Do a set, then switch sides. You can increase the resistance by holding a dumbbell in one hand.

Farmer’s Walks

Farmer’s walks are done with dumbbells. Grab the heaviest dumbbells you can control, and stand on your tiptoes. Walk forward for 15 to 20 steps. Turn around, then walk back. Take a short rest, then repeat.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.