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Calf-Strengthening Exercises

Want great-looking calves? Try these simple, effective exercises for strengthening your calf muscles.

You'll target the two muscles that make up the calf:

  • The gastrocnemius muscle, which gives the calf its rounded shape.
  • The soleus, which is the flatter, longer muscle running underneath the gastrocnemius and lower down your leg.

The Best Calf-Strengthening Exercises

Here are the four best exercises for strengthening your calves.

1. Double-Leg Calf Raise. Calf raises are the classic calf-strengthening exercise. They use your body weight to strengthen and tone the gastrocnemius and soleus.

Starting position: Stand near a wall for balance. Place your feet hip-width apart, and make sure your ankles, knees, and hips are in vertical alignment to protect your joints.

Action: Press down into the balls of both feet to raise your body upward. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so that you move straight upward, rather than shifting your body forward or backward.

Variations:

  • Start standing on a stair, phone book, or solid wood block so you have to press up higher than when starting on flat feet. Keeping the balls of your feet on the stair, lower your heels as far as you can toward the floor. Then press your heels up as high as you can.
  • Add weight to add intensity. Repeat the exercise holding a dumbbell or other weight in one hand. Keep your hand on a wall for balance.

2. Single-Leg Calf Raise. You can increase the intensity of the calf raise by doing it on one leg. That way you can strengthen your calf muscle even more.

Starting position: Stand on one leg near a wall for balance with the other leg bent behind you. Be sure the ankle, knee, and hip of the leg you're working are in vertical alignment to protect the joints.

Action: Press down into the ball of your foot to raise your body upward. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so you avoid shifting forward or backward.

Variations:

  • Start standing on a stair or solid wood block. Keeping the ball of your foot on the stair, let your heel drop down below the step. Then press up as high as you can.
  • Add weight to add intensity. Hold a dumbbell or other weight in one hand. Place the other hand on the wall for balance.

3. Seated Calf Raise. You can do this exercise at home or at the gym on a calf exercise machine. The exercise works both the gastrocnemius and soleus.

At home.

Starting position: Sit on a firm, sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your knees aligned directly over your feet. Don't let your knees turn in or out. Sit tall on the chair so your spine is upright.

Place a weight on your thighs. You can use a disc weight from the gym, a few heavy books, or some other flat weight that won't roll off.

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