Why is that some of the smallest muscles can make the biggest difference in your strength and appearance? When having sturdy, attractive legs, your calf muscles standout among all the rest. You'll need the right calf exercises to maintain this stature.

Calf Muscles And Muscle Definition FAQ

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Photo by Gesina Kunkel on Unsplash

1. What Is The Basic Anatomy Of The Calf Muscle?

2. What Are The Best Calf Exercises?

3. What Do The Best Calf Exercises Do For You?

4. How Do The Best Calf Exercises Work?

How We Reviewed

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Considering the anatomical significance of the calf muscle, we’ve reviewed the most commonly used calf exercises that will make a noticeable difference in strength and sculpting. We’ve weighed the pros and cons with an overview of the techniques for an extensive look at what you need to know.

Calf Exercises We Reviewed

  • Jumping Rope
  • Hill Climb
  • Calf or Heel Raises
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Tip-Toe Walk
  • Side Lunge to Curtsy
  • Elevé to Relevé
  • Sled Push
  • Agility Ladder
  • Balance Trainer Ball Squats

​Jumping Rope


Instructions

Jumping rope works the muscles in your legs, predominantly your calves, along with your quadriceps and hamstrings. Clearly the longer you’re jumping rope, the more you’ll be taxing those muscles. You’ll also engage the muscles of your chest, core, back, and glutes. Jumping rope will improve your balance and agility.

Choose your jump rope based on your height by standing on the middle of the rope, the handles should extend to your armpits. Hold the rope with your hands at the height of your hip and, keeping your upper arms close to your sides with your elbows slightly bent. Keep your chest out, your shoulders back and down, and make small jumps while landing on the balls of your feet.

Pros

  • Engaging your calf muscles the whole time
  • Can burn around 12 calories per minute

Cons

  • May not have the right length jump rope
  • May not find a good rhythm
  • Can be difficult to do indoors with low ceilings

Hill Climb


Instructions

Find a steady incline, set a treadmill, or go somewhere outside with a steep hill. Bring your incline to 8.0 if on the treadmill and attempt around 4-5 miles per hour to do a hill climb power walk. Can increase pace to a faster for jog if you need to grow. Another way to make your hill climb more challenging is to add a 10-pound weighted vest on your back as you go.

You can also pick up a tip from mountain climbers' exercises. One at a time, you can drive your knees toward your chest while maintaining your upper body in position. You will feel an even bigger burn when you exaggerate those steps by lifting your knees high, working that core along the way

Pros

  • Can control the intensity by choosing the incline and pace
  • Can add a weighted vest for extra gains

Cons

  • May not like going on a treadmill
  • May not have proper gear for outdoor terrain

Calf or Heel Raises


Instructions

Sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, engage your posture muscles. Posture muscles include the muscles in your upper and lower back, your abdominal area, and the hips and pelvis. Tip yourself at your hips and rest your elbows on thighs without rounding your back. Push your upper body weight onto thighs and raise legs high on your tip-toes creating plantar flexion.

Variations

You can stand on the edge of a stair while bracing yourself if needed. Lift yourself as high as possible on toes with plantar flexion, then lower heels just below the stair to stretch your calf and Achilles tendon.

Pros

  • Various easy ways to tighten calves     
  • Great for plantar flexion

Cons

  • Won't hurt your back, feet, or Achilles tendon
  • May lose balance if standing

Jumping Jacks


Instructions

You begin by standing straight with your feet together and arms at your sides. Jump and spread your legs outside shoulder width as you clap your hands overhead. Once you’ve clapped, return your hands and feet at the same time to the starting position. Get the full range of motion by clapping hands.

Pros

  • You can do this movement wherever you want    
  • Do as many reps as needed to fatigue your calves

Cons

  • May get bored with this movement 
  • May get winded before you reach fatigue for calves

Tip-Toe Walk


Instructions

Standing on your tip-toes, you walk a set distance and back as one rep. You don’t want your heels to touch the floor at any time during your rep. For even greater muscle activation, you can try doing your tip-toe walk barefoot.

Pros

  • Simple movement for you to do  
  • Holds tension for the calves to remain tightened

Cons

  • Not good if you have any toe injuries
  • May not feel dynamic enough as an exercise​​​​​

Side Lunge To Curtsy


Instructions

Standing upright, with or without holding a weight, you step your right foot out to the side while keeping your left leg straight. As you hinge your hips back, you come into a lateral lunge as you bend your right knee, keeping your knee aligned with your ankle. Then push off your right foot and press through your left leg, so you can rise back toward standing position.

Rather than placing your right foot down to stand, you immediately bring your right leg behind you into a curtsy lunge. You tap your right toe as far past your left standing foot as you can go while drawing it behind your lunge. Then you bring your right foot back to a standing position and repeat the movement with your left leg.

Pros

  • A complex movement that works your calves
  • Lunges work the whole leg and glutes

Cons

  • Can be difficult to keep proper form
  • May fall off-balance or suffer a foot injury

Elevé to Relevé


Instructions

This movement, derived from barre training, seeks to tone the whole calf area. When you "elevé," you lift high on your tip-toes with your knees straight, while dropping your tailbone down toward the ground maintaining a neutral spine. As you keep your heels lifted, you bend your knees. Your newly formed posture is known as "relevé." You bring yourself back to elevé by straightening your knees again, then you finish with feet flat on the floor.

Pros

  • Will feel a strong contraction in your calves 
  • Excellent if you like barre instruction or dancing

Cons

  • May be difficult if you have a toe injury
  • May find ballet movements challenging

Sled Push


Instructions

Using a step or placing the top of a bench upside down on the floor, you grip onto each side of the sled or bench. With your eyes looking between your hands, maintaining a neutral spine with hips in the air, you push by getting traction with feet. You jog pushing the sled or bench to the other side of the room, then quickly move to other side and come back.

Try to avoid looking up as you push as this will tax your neck. If you find this movement is too easy, you can place some weighted plates inside the bench or on the sled.

Pros

  • Good for including heavier weights
  • Creates high tension as you get traction with your feet

Cons

  • Not recommended if you have high blood pressure
  • May not have access to a sled or bench to push

Agility Ladder


Instructions

Lay an agility ladder flat on the floor and stand at one end. You will run or hop between the rungs of the agility ladder from one end to the other. You can do a wide variety of agility ladder drills. Some of these drills include Single Leg Hops, Single Leg Lateral Hops, Lateral In/Out, Feet Jacks, Double Back and Forth, and Double In/In-Out/Out.

There are even more creative options so you never get bored with the agility ladder. If you don’t have access to an agility ladder, you can make lines with chalk or tape on the ground as an alternative.

Pros

  • Gives a great workout with basic movement      
  • Many variations to build the exercise

Cons

  • Can put a lot of stress on the toes
  • May not have access to agility ladder

Balance Trainer Ball Squats


Instructions

Placing a Bosu ball with the dome-side down, you stand on the flat side with a shoulder-width stance as you stabilize your balance. Maintain a good spinal position as you look forward with your chest up while flexing your knees and hips to lower your body slowly. Using control, keep your knees aligned with your feet and hips while squatting as deep as your flexibility allows. Keep your thoracic spine from flexing and your knees from caving.

Pros

  • Calf muscles are a secondary muscle group for this exercise     
  • Works on stability and agility 

Cons

  • May want an exercise that focuses more on calf muscles May not have access to a balance trainer ball

The Verdict

A person wearing a running shoes is climbing the stair which is a best calf exercises

Which of these focused movements do you want to do to strengthen your calves? You will see incremental gains if you start with Calf Raises or add Jumping Rope as a part of your routine. When you’re ready to amp up the intensity, go for the Sled Push and feel the burn. The best calf exercises will be quick to navigate, and you will feel the difference.

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