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Best Calf Workouts at Home, on Machines & Preventing Soreness
We pay a lot of attention to working out and getting fit, toning different areas of our body. But somehow the calves are the most overlooked muscle group. Calf muscles are an important and integral muscle group for helping to support your legs as they in turn support the core muscles of your body. The muscles in your lower calves provide stability as the weight of your body is centered on the legs. Whether you’re walking, standing, or working out, your calf muscles help your body bear the weight and assist with mobility.1
Not only do fit and toned calf muscles look good, their supporting function helps when you work out the rest of your body. Without strong calf muscles you’ll have less strength and stability in the rest of your workouts and fitness activities. As well, weak calf muscles mean a higher risk of injury to your knees whether you’re running, biking, or working out in the gym.
There are two muscle groups that make up the calf muscle, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the biggest muscle that gives the calf its shape and definition. The soleus is located beneath the gastrocnemius near the bottom area of the back of the leg so it’s not as visible. Both muscles, however, need to work together to move the ankle and foot joints as well as to help the knee to flex. 2,3
Toning and strengthening your calf muscles isn’t difficult, it just requires focused exercises so that you’re getting the right type of workout for these muscles. When doing calf workouts, both the gastrocnemius and the soleus need to be worked out in equal measure as they each play an important role in how the calf functions as a whole.
Let’s take a look at some of the best calf workouts that you can do with or without a machine. We’ll also learn about the importance of stretching before and after you work out your calves and what you can do to avoid getting sore muscles. It’s also important to note that nutrition and hydration are very important parts of any workout routine. Supplements like pre workouts, vitamins, and testosterone support such as HexoFire Labs Delta Prime may also be useful in reaching your fitness goals.
How To Do Calf Workouts At Home
Here are some calf workouts that you can do at home. When you’re working out your calves, both standing and seating exercises are important, some using equipment including weights and a bench or a chair. Add these exercises to your other fitness workouts a few times each week so that you’re targeting both the gastrocnemius and the soleus.
Seated Calf Raise
The seated calf raise is both simple and effective. It focuses on the lower soleus muscles of the calf. Sit on a chair or bench with both your feet flat on the ground. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, place the dumbbells on top of your knees. Begin with 5 to 10-lb weights, working up to higher weights for more intensity. Lift both your heels off the floor as high as you can while still keeping your core engaged. Slowly lower your feet back to the floor. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Dumbbell Jump Squat
This calf exercise strengthens the muscles as you push upwards and again as your body stabilizes as you land. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower down your hips to a squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. In one quick movement straighten your legs and push up out of the squat and jumping off the floor. Land softly, making sure your knees are slightly bent, and lower back into a squat. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Using a jump rope is a good endurance exercise for your calf muscles. Holding onto the handles of the jump rope, jump with both feet keeping your knees slightly bent. Focus on keeping your core tight and engaged.
Elevated Double Calf Raise
Standing calf raises help to strengthen and tone your calf muscles. Using a rolled up yoga mat or 2-inch high block, stand with your feet hip-width apart with the front part of your feet on the mat so they’re higher than the hells. Keep your hips, knees, and ankles in vertical alignment to keep the joints protected. Holding dumbbells in each hand, slowly raise your heels up off the floor and then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 to 20 times or until tired.
Using A Calf Workout Machine
If you have access to fitness equipment, using a machine is another effective way to work out your calves. The following exercises will give your calves a good workout.
Leg Press Calf Raise on Machine
Use a leg press machine for this calf exercise, being sure to position yourself correctly. Sit on the machine with your body at a 90-degree angle with your legs on the machine directly in front of you. Your legs should be in a shoulder-width position without locking your knees. Place the balls of your feet on the lower section of the platform with the heels extending off the side. Turn your toes inward as this will work the outer muscles of the calf. To work the inner muscles, turn your toes outward. Extend your ankles, raise your heels, and flex your calves. Slowly lower back down and repeat 10 to 20 times.4
Seated Calf Raise on Machine
Using a seated calf raise machine, sit with your toes on the lower section of the platform, making sure that your heels are extending off. Position your feet inwards or outwards depending on if you’re working the inner or outer muscles of the calf. Place your thighs so they’re underneath the padded lever. You may need to adjust according to the height of your thighs. Push your heels up by extending the ankles as high as you can, flexing your calf muscles. Hold the flex for a second or two before lowering your heels back down. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Standing Calf Raise on Machine
Stand directly beneath the shoulder pads of a standing calf raise machine. Place the balls of your feet at the edge of the machine. Keep your legs straight but not locked, so there’s a slight bend. Press your heels down to the floor to get a stretch in your calves. Raise your heels by flexing the calf muscles and lifting as high as you can on the balls of your feet. Hold the position for a few seconds while keeping a flex in your calves. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat 10 to 20 times.
Stretching After A Calf Muscle Workout
After doing calf workouts, stretching will help build up extensibility and loosen the calf muscles. This will help to improve your range of motion and decrease the risk of tearing your calf muscles. The following are good stretching exercises to keep your calves loose:
Straight leg stretch – Doing a straight leg calf stretch is a good way to stretch out the gastrocnemius muscle as well as improve flexibility in your ankles. Stand a couple of feet from the wall with one foot stretched out behind and the other stretched in front of you with a slight bend at the knee. Leaning forward, place your hands against the wall. Push the back heel down to the floor to get a deep stretch in the calf. Hold for a minute or two. Switch legs.
Standing wall calf stretch – This is another good stretch for the gastrocnemius muscle. Stand in front of the wall, placing one foot forward so that your heel is on the floor and the ball of your foot is up against the wall. Place your hands against the wall and slowly straighten the front leg, leaning forward so you feel a good stretch in the calf muscles.
Downward dog – Downward dog is a good yoga move that stretches the calves. Be careful not to lock your knees. Keep your core engaged as you hold the pose for a few minutes, feeling the deep stretch in your calves.
Calf Workouts and Soreness
Some soreness after a workout is normal as your muscles rebuild and repair. But if your soreness doesn’t go away after a day or two there are some things you can do. The first and most important is to stretch before your workout. Take the time to do a 5 to 10 minute stretch so your muscles have time to warm up before you start working out your calves. Be sure to including dynamic stretching to get your entire lower body ready to work out, such as half squats, leg swings, and lunges.5
Other things you can do reduce soreness include shortening your calf workout, reducing the number of reps, making sure to stretch out after the workout, and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after to stay hydrated.
To help alleviate sore calf muscles, here are a few tips:
• Ice your sore calf muscles for 20 minutes every four hours to ease the pain and to help reduce inflammation.
• Massage calf muscles lightly with your fingertips to loosen them up.
• Apply a heating pad to loosen up tight muscles.
• Wrap calves in a support bandage to ease discomfort and pain.
• Elevate your legs to reduce soreness and swelling.
- 1Ema, R. & Ohki, S. (2017). Effect of calf-raise training on rapid force production and balance ability in elderly men. Applied Physiology. Volume 123, Issue 2: pp 424-433. Retrieved on February 17, 2019 https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00539.2016
- 2Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). Gastrocnemius muscle. Retrieved on February 17, 2019 from https://www.britannica.com/science/gastrocnemius-muscle
- 3Encyclopedia Britannica. (2018). Soleus muscles. Retrieved on February 17, 2019 from https://www.britannica.com/science/soleus-muscle
- 4Cibulka, M. & Wenthe, A. (2017). VARIATION IN MEDIAL AND LATERAL GASTROCNEMIUS MUSCLE ACTIVITY WITH FOOT POSITION. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 12(2): 233-241. Retrieved on February 17, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5380866/
- 5Reinking, MF. (2007). Exercise Related Leg Pain (ERLP). N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2(3): 170-180. Retrieved on February 17, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953294/