The Best Calf Muscle Exercises

Well-defined calf muscles can make you an attraction at social events or the beach. The best exercises to work this back area of your lower legs are done with free weights and weight machines. Use the heaviest weight you can handle with each exercise, do 15 to 20 repetitions, and work your muscles from multiple angles.

Smith Machine Calf Raises

A Smith machine is a piece of exercise equipment with an adjustable barbell that slides up and down between two upright supports. The bar can move freely, and may be latched at any height if you are unable to lift it during an exercise. To do calf raises with the Smith machine, you will need an accessory called a calf block. This is made of steel, and you place your toes on it to elevate your heels and increase the range of motion with your calf exercises.

Adjust the bar in the rack to chest height, and place the calf block on the floor directly below it. After placing your shoulders against the bar and hands in a wide grip on the bar, hoist it up and rotate it backward to release the safety latches. Place your toes shoulder-width apart on the block, and alternate rising up onto your tip-toes and lowering your heels toward the floor. When raising and lowering, hold each position for a full second to get a good contraction and stretch in the calf muscles.

Leg Press Raises

The leg press machine, often used to work the thighs and buttocks, can also build calf muscles. Sit on the seat, with your back against the backrest, toes shoulder-width apart on the bottom of the steel plate, and heels hanging off the edge. Carefully press into the plate with your toes and flip the safety handles to the sides. Slowly lower the plate toward you by bending your ankles, push back up by contracting your calves, and repeat. As with standing calf raises, hold each position for a full second. When lowering the plate, bend your knees slightly.

Toes Out and In

To focus on the inner and outer calf muscles, perform calf raises with your toes turned in and out. This requires two 25-pound weight plates. Place the inner part of your upper feet on both sides of one weight plate, lift up as high as possible, and hold for a second. Slowly lower, and let your feet roll down toward the floor to get a full range of motion. Hold this position for a second, and repeat.

To work your outer calf muscles, place two plates approximately six to eight inches apart on the floor, and position the upper outsides of your feet on them. Execute this calf raise the same way as with inner calf raises, except when you come down, roll your ankles inward to get a full range of motion. Increase resistance with both exercises by holding dumbbells in your hands.

Calf Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is a done in a repetitive motion for an extended period of time. This type of exercise burns calories and reduces fat. To help define your calf muscles, perform 30 minutes of cardio that causes you to constantly lift your heels. You do not need to do this at high intensity. The goal is to progressively contract your calf muscles and promote definition. Stair-climbing, biking, hill-running, and jumping rope are all examples.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor\’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.