The Best Calf Exercises For Mass

Training the calves can become a borderline obsession for some experienced trainers, and they can be an extremely frustrating area to try to add muscle to. Various factors contribute to the calves being a difficult area to add mass to – genetics will play a large part in how much they’ll grow, they’re not the easiest body part to train and, to be perfectly honest, most people don’t spend enough time working on them.

How many of you joined the gym with the intention of building bigger calf muscles? Few, if any, I’d guess! People generally start lifting weights with the intention of building a bigger chest, back, biceps, shoulders, triceps, quads and glutes… but the calf muscles are rarely a priority.

It’s time to change that. Rather than tacking on 2 sets of calf raises at the end of leg day, spend some time actually working the calves properly and you’ll see substantial improvements. They can be the most stubborn of areas to improve, and you’ll need to be a bit of a mad scientist when it comes to determining how much it will take to generate the growth you’re looking for.

To get a sense of how tricky it can be to add mass to your calf muscles, we need look no further than the man widely accepted as the most influential bodybuilder of all time – Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he began competing, his calves were pretty much non-existent. Having lost a big competition, he began to focus on turning his biggest weakness into one of the finest sets of calves of his generation.

He did this by hitting them with heavy calf raises and donkey raises 6 days a week, and started to see remarkable improvements. While you may not be quite as focused and dedicated to calf growth as this, it goes to show that where there’s a will there’s a way when it comes to making improvements to a stubborn muscle group!

So for those looking for a little inspiration for their training we’ve compiled a list of the best calf training exercises for mass to help you add some variety to your workout.

Start by selecting a few movements to try and aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps initially. If you’re not seeing much improvement after a while, consider adding more volume and training them a little more regularly.

Make sure you’re eating enough calories and protein, and get plenty of sleep or you won’t see much progress anywhere. Just try to be patient and remain focused – the results will come with time.

Standing Barbell Calf Raise

  1. Set up a block on the floor at the rack
  2. Place the barbell across your shoulders and upper back
  3. Step up and place the balls of your feet on the block
  4. Lift your heels off the floor in a controlled manner using the balls of the feet
  5. Push up as high as you can, pause briefly then slowly lower yourself to the starting position

 

Donkey Calf Raises

  1. Set up by bending at the waist and leaning your arms against a wait high surface like a rack or bench
  2. Have your training partner sit on your lower back
  3. Push yourself up on your toes, leaning forward slightly
  4. Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowering yourself in a controlled manner

 

Seated One Leg Calf Raise with Dumbbell

  1. Start by placing a block on the floor roughly a foot in front of a bench
  2. Take a seat on the bench and rest a dumbbell on your upper thigh
  3. Sit the ball of one foot on the block
  4. Raise and lower your toes and high as possible, keeping your foot on the block at all times
  5. Complete for the target reps then switch to the other foot

 

Rocking Standing Calf Raise with Barbell

  1. Set up by placing the barbell across your shoulder and upper back
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor and push your heels up as you would with a calf raise
  3. Careful rock back onto your ankles, flexing the toes and lifting them off the floor
  4. Return to the starting position with the feet flat

 

Seated Calf Raise using Machine

  1. Set up the calf raise machine for your height and target weight
  2. Place the balls of your feet on the footpad
  3. Your thighs should sit under the leg pad
  4. Unlock the weight and raise your toes up as far as possible
  5. Pause briefly at the top of the movement before returning to the starting position

 

Smith Machine Reverse Calf Raises

  1. Set up with a block under the bar of the Smith machine
  2. Stand on the edges of the box, with your toes hanging over the side
  3. Take the bar across your shoulders and lean forward, lifting the ankles off the box
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps

 

Standing Calf Raises Using Machine

  1. Set up the machine by adjusting the upper pads to your height and sitting your toes on the footpad
  2. Push up onto the balls of your feet, lifting the heels from the pad
  3. Pause briefly at the top of the movement before returning to the starting position

 

Seated Calf Raise with Barbell

  1. Set up with a bench and place a block around a foot in front of it
  2. Sit down on the bench and place a barbell across your upper thighs
  3. Rest the balls of your feet on the block
  4. Raise and lower your toes in a controlled manner, keeping the balls of your feet on the block
  5. Repeat for the target reps

 

Calf Press on Leg Machine

  1. Set up on a leg press machine and push the weight up as you would with a conventional leg press
  2. Lower your feet until the balls of your feet are pressing against the rack and your heels are hanging free
  3. Push upwards and flex your toes, then bring the toes back towards the body in a controlled manner
  4. To get the most from this movement, perform it slowly

 

Calf Raises with Band

  1. Set up by placing an exercise band under your toes and raise the handles to your shoulders
  2. Push up onto your toes, keeping the handles at shoulder height
  3. Pause briefly at the top of the movement before returning to the starting position

 


  • Updated May 25, 2020
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