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.
Strengthening the calves is just as 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.
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.
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.
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.
Calf exercises are often prescribed after a knee injury to rebuild strength and stability in the lower body. Rest is extremely important, especially in the early stages of an injury. Once you are ready to resume exercise, begin with one of our Leg/Knee Injury Workouts or Seated Workouts.
The seated calf raise machine, donkey calf raise machine, standing calf raise machine, and leg press machine all offer different ways to train calves with gym equipment. You can also build the calf muscles using just your bodyweight or a set of dumbbells at home.
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).
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.
Follow along with the guided Calf Workout video on YouTube, led by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren.
Your Workout Looks Like This:
Purpose: Strengthens the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and achilles tendon, improves ankle mobility, and increases balance and stability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Modification: if you don’t have a jump rope, you can mimic this movement with just your body weight.
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