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The Calf Workout You've Gotta Try

News flash: lower legs need love too! Work your calves to see progress in your leg muscles!

You’ve been training legs for a while and are ready for your calves to be cows; but after plenty of raises you’re just about ready to throw them back out to pasture and scratch the whole idea. News flash: lower legs need love too! If you’re not seeing progress, could it be that you only spend one lazy set with them per week? Just like any muscle group you want to see grow, you’ve got to hit them while they are fresh, from all angles, and until they reach full muscle fatigue. Calves are a smaller muscle group that can be difficult to build on, but with the proper plan of attack, almost anything is possible.

Those babies are so much more than an aesthetically pleasing addition to shapely legs. The calves are responsible for lifting the heel to make movements like running, walking, and jumping possible. There are two muscles that make up the calf, and it is important to train them both for maximum growth and strength.

Machine exercises are great for the calves as it allows us to isolate the muscle group. However, many compound exercises and movements that we do regularly can also help to build the entire lower leg, take for example jumping rope.

Gastrocnemius is the larger of the two muscles that forms the visible “bulge” people know as the calf. It is comprised of two parts which come together to create a diamond shape.

Soleus is the smaller of the two and is a flat muscle that lies beneath the larger gastrocnemius muscle.

Warm Up:

Jump Rope for 5–7 minutes and feel the heart rate raise, the body warm and the calves fire up!

Standing - Singles

On the standing calf machine, set the weight to a moderate amount and step up under the shoulder pads. place one foot on the shelf and tuck the other foot behind the working calf. Complete 20 raises and then switch to the other leg.


Set your weight and sit on the seated calf raise machine. Lower the lap pad so it is comfortable on your thighs and place the balls of your feet on the shelf. Lower the heels towards the floor for a comfortable stretch then lift up onto your toes squeezing the calves at the top. Slowly work through 20–25 repetitions.

Leg Press - Inner/Outer

In the seated leg press, place the balls of your feet at the bottom of the plate. Be sure to keep the safety rails in place and a soft bend in your knee. Try to avoid “bouncing” through these reps.

Inner: Bring your heels together and turn your toes out to a 45 degree angle so your feet make a ‘V’ shape. Press the sled upward and resist the weight as you release the calves. Repeat, squeezing the innermost part of your calves for 20 reps.

Outer: Now bring your toes together and turn the heels out as if standing in a pigeon-toed stance. Press the sled upward and resist the weight as you release the exercises focusing this time on the outermost part of the calf. Complete 20 reps.

Reactive Training/Conditioning

When you’ve completed three sets of your calf training exercises, get ready to burn baby burn with this reactive training/conditioning finisher:

Jump Rope - 30 seconds on/30 seconds off for a total of 5 sets

Tuck Jumps - 20 seconds on/20 seconds off for a total of 5 sets

Sled Sprints - Push a weighted sled or place for 30 yards at a sprint pace without stopping (turning as needed) for a total of 2 minutes.

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