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5 Best Calf Exercises At Home

Five of the best calf exercises to increase strength, improve stability, and build definition. Strong calf muscles are essential for activities that require explosive power, like running or jumping. Whether you’re recovering from a knee injury, looking to improve athletic performance, or want to reduce future risk of injury, these calf strengthening exercises are an excellent addition to your workout routine.

Build strength and increase explosive power with these five calf exercises at home.

Calf muscles, or the muscles along the back of the lower leg, are commonly under trained compared to the rest of the muscles in the lower body. When performing a leg workout, most people tend to focus on the larger lower body muscles, such as the glutes or hamstrings.

I started focusing on calf exercises following surgery to repair my torn meniscus. I found that strengthening the calves is really important when it comes to lower body stability, injury prevention, and athletic performance.

Strong calves not only provide stability and support for your ankles and knees, but are also required for any explosive movement, like jumping or running.

Whether you’re recovering from an injury, are a runner who suffers from knee pain, or just want to proactively protect your knees, these five exercises are beneficial to add to your fitness routine.

Woman performing a single leg calf raise as example of best calf exercises

5 Best Calf Exercises

Standing Calf Raise

Purpose: Strengthens the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and achilles tendon, improves ankle mobility, and increases balance and stability.

woman performing standing calf raises to strengthen calf muscles

How To Do Standing Calf Raises

  1. Start standing on a flat surface, feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and core engaged to stand tall.
  2. Slowly and with control, lift yourself up onto the balls of your feet, heels rising above the ground.
  3. Lift your heels until you feel a stretch along the back of your legs, balancing on your toes.
  4. Then, slowly lower your heels back to the ground, returning to starting position.

Single Leg Calf Raise

Purpose: Single leg calf raises increase the difficulty compared to standard calf raises. Focusing on one leg at a time also increases core engagement and can help to improve balance.

Woman performing single leg calf raises as part of calf workout at home

How To Do Single Leg Calf Raises

  1. Start standing on a flat surface, feet shoulder-width apart. Option to place hands on a chair or countertop for balance support.
  2. Transfer your weight onto your left leg, then float your right leg off the ground, balancing on your left foot. Option to keep the lifted foot hovered off the ground or place it behind the ankle of the standing leg.
  3. Slowly raise yourself up onto the ball of your foot, lifting your left heel until you feel a stretch along your calf muscle.
  4. Hold for a second, then slowly lower your heel back to the ground.

Knees Over Toes Calf Raises

Purpose: This variation of a standard calf raise both strengthens the calf muscles (muscles along the back of your lower legs) and improves ankle mobility. Increasing the ankle dorsiflexion (pushing knees over toes) is a functional training movement. This exercise supports your knees, ankles and achilles through acceleration/deceleration movements and shock absorption from impact.

Woman performing knees over toes calf raises as example of best calf exercises

How To Do Knees Over Toes Calf Raises

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointing forward. Option to place hands on a chair or countertop for additional balance support.
  2. Shift your weight forward so that your knees move over your toes. Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  3. Slowly raise your heels, balancing on your toes (maintaining a slight bend in your knees).
  4. With control, slowly lower your heels back down to the ground, returning to starting position.

Step Up and Calf Raise

Purpose: This powerful step up variation mimics the beginning phase of a sprint – which is one of the best exercises for training the calves. This controlled version adds explosive power without adding impact, strengthening the calf muscles and improving flexion in the ankle joint.

woman performing a single leg step up with a calf raise at the top as example of best calf exercises

How To Do Step Ups and Calf Raises

  1. Start standing in front of a step or raised platform, feet hip-width and core engaged.
  2. Step up onto the platform with your right foot, knee stacked over ankle and pressing out towards your outer three toes.
  3. Press through your right heel to drive your left knee up towards your chest.
  4. As you step up, rise onto the ball of your right foot, lifting your right heel to perform a calf raise.
  5. With control, lower your right heel as you return your left foot to the ground, returning to starting position.

Jump Rope

Purpose: Jumping rope is a way to add both high impact and a high number of reps to a calf workout. Jumping rope, or skipping, activates the fast-twitch (type II) muscle fibers, which are built for quick, powerful bursts of energy (like jumping or running). These muscle fibers both power and absorb the force of each jump.

woman jumping rope as example of best calf exercises

How To Jump Rope

  1. Start standing, feet under hips, core engaged, and a slight bend in both knees.
  2. Hold the handles of a jump rope in each hand, elbows at your sides.
  3. Swing the rope over your head. As it approaches your feet, perform a small jump, allowing the rope to pass underneath. Land softly, with bent knees.
  4. Continue this pattern, finding a rhythm and speed you can maintain for the entire work interval.

Modification: if you don’t have a jump rope, you can mimic this movement with just your body weight.

The five best exercises to build strong calves at home – no calf raise machine necessary. These exercises combine bodyweight calf exercises with functional power movements to build strength and resilience in the calf muscles (the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle).

Add mobility workouts like this one to your home training program 2-3 times a week to improve athletic performance, reduce pain and prevent knee injuries.

Workout Equipment:

No Equipment Needed (Bodyweight Only). Option to add a small step (or sub bottom stair of a staircase) and a jump rope if you have one available.

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Calf Workout video on YouTube, led by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 5 Calf Exercises At Home
  • Timed Intervals (perform each move for 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds rest)
  • No Repeats (perform each calf exercise x1 set)
Woman performing single leg calf raise to strengthen calf muscles along back of leg

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Calf Workout

Workout Outline

  1. Standing Calf Raise
  2. Single Leg Calf Raise
  3. Knees Over Toes Calf Raise
  4. Step Up and Calf Raise
  5. Jump Rope

Calf Exercises FAQs

What Is The Best Exercise For Your Calves?

There are several exercises that effectively target the calf muscles at home. Some of the most popular include calf raises (standing calf raises, single leg calf raises, and seated calf raises), and jumping rope. Hiking, stair climbing, and sprinting are also examples of exercises that engage the calves.

How Do You Build Your Calves?

Increasing calf size requires a combination of strength training exercises, proper nutrition, and consistency in your workout routine. Start with bodyweight variations of each calf exercise, then progressively overload the muscle by adding dumbbells or ankle weights as you build strength.

What Are The Benefits of Training Calves?

Training calves is beneficial for strength, endurance and explosiveness. Additionally, building calf strength can help reduce knee and ankle pain and prevent future injuries. Calf workouts are especially great workouts for runners, who rely on calf stability and strength to propel their stride during runs. Pair calf exercises with knee strengthening exercises to build strength and resilience in the lower body joints and muscles.

Pin this: Calf Exercises At Home (5-Minute Calf Training Workout)

Pin for pinterest - woman posing with flexed calf muscle with text overlay describing the best calf exercises for runners

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