Common lower body exercises don’t usually include calf raises. Exercises for larger muscle groups like the hamstrings and glutes usually get more love…
But your calves need attention too! Calves are an important connection between your upper leg muscles and the proper function of your feet and ankles.
Strengthening your calves helps with mobility, common injury prevention, speed, and endurance. Which is where calf raises come in…
In this simple exercise guide you’ll learn what calf raises are, how to do them properly, and why they’re an effective movement break you can easily do during your day.
Let’s get started!
What are calf raises?
Calf raises are a lower body exercise that target and strengthen important muscles in the calves and ankles. Calf raises engage the foot, ankle and calf, and are typically done in a standing position. Basic calf raises do not require specialized equipment and can be done anywhere.
How to do calf raises in 5 steps
Now it’s time to learn how to do basic calf raises. Calf raises target areas that can be sensitive to new movement, so stretching is key.
Remember: If have lower body pain or recent injuries, be sure to consult your doctor before getting started.
Before you begin, warm up your calves and ankles with some light stretching, especially if you’ve been sitting all day. All set? Let’s go...
How to do calf raises in 5 steps:
- Start with your feet pointing forwards, flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart
- Keep a micro bend in your knees and raise your heels off the floor
- Pause for a moment while you’re on your toes
- Slowly lower your heels back to the starting position
How many calf raises should I do?
The amount of calf raises you do should vary based on your level of fitness. Always start small and work your way up, especially if a certain movement break is new to you.
Try starting with 3 sets of 10 calf raises. Assess how you’re feeling after the first and second set and decide if you need more or less reps to get the most from your exercise.
Always listen to your body and decide how many reps is best. As you continue your movement break streak, you can always add more reps as you get stronger.
What muscles do calf raises target?
Your calves are composed of 2 main muscles that run down the back of your leg—the soleus and the gastrocnemius.
These muscles are important connectors between motion in the foot, knee, ankle and upper leg.
Strengthening and engaging these muscles improves stability, explosiveness, and stamina for movements like running or walking. You’ll learn more about the benefits of calf raises in a minute, but first...
Calf raise variations
These calf raise variations will help you align your calf raises with your fitness level. The most common calf raise variations are:
Seated calf raises
Seated calf raises utilize the same lower leg and ankle movement outlined above, except from a seated position.
Find a comfortable and stable place to sit and perform the same movement for an easier calf raise variation.
Seated calf raises do not engage all of the muscles normal calf raises do, but are great if you’re needing a lower impact version of the classic calf raise exercise.
Weighted calf raises
Weighted calf raises take the classic calf raise technique and simply add weight.
To perform a weighted calf raise, hold a kettlebell or dumbbell near the center of your chest and complete the basic calf raise movement outlined above.
This calf raise variation will be more difficult than a non-weighted calf raise, so make sure you ease into weighted calf raises before pushing your reps.
Single leg calf raises
Single leg calf raises are the same movement as basic calf raises but with just one leg.
To perform a single leg calf raise, tuck one foot behind the opposite calf and follow the basic calf raises steps outlined above.
Single leg calf raises are more difficult than classic calf raises, but are great for improving balance and stability. If you do move into single leg calf raises, make sure you keep your reps even on both sides.
Calf Raise benefits
There’s tons of calf raise benefits, but some of the most obvious benefits of calf raises are:
Your calves are important links between your feet and upper body. Calf strength will help you improve balance and stability in your lower body by keeping the connection strong and engaged.
Stamina and endurance are two important aspects of any exercise practice. The stronger we are, the longer we can stay active. And the longer we can stay active means less down time and more activity.
Calf strength is especially effective for stamina on movements like walking or light jogging—two incredibly beneficial and common movements that fit almost any daily exercise routine.
Your calves provide strength and stability to both your knees and your ankles. Calf strength helps to strengthen important muscle groups that help you avoid common ankle and knee injuries.
Strong calves give your entire lower body apparatus extra stability to avoid injuries, and improve flexibility and range of motion.
The glass is calf full
Calves are often overlooked. But with consistent engagement and strengthening, your calves can become your secret to lower body comfort and strength.
Calf raises are a simple and effective movement break you can do any time, anywhere, to get all the benefits of better calf strength.
Add them to your movement break repertoire today!