9 Best Exercises To Get Bigger Calf Muscles

Calves are well known for their stubbornness to grow. Apart from those blessed with genetics, getting bigger calves muscles can become a hell of blood, sweat, and tears for many of us.

But not always genetically gifted ones win the game. Sometimes, the hardest and smartest workers actually come out ahead of the genetically gifted. And bear in mind that it’s not always our genes when it comes to various imperfections and flaws in us.

There is still enough room for you to build formidable muscles in your lower legs even if you don’t have a Huge-calf-muscle gene.

9 Best Exercises To Get Bigger Calf Muscles
Image: freepik 

The general rule of thumb to getting bigger calves is training your calves with some more respect. You can’t torture the so-called stubborn calf muscles with that same old habit of throwing a couple of lazy sets at the end of your workouts. Start thinking calves as the biceps of your leg and hit the muscle extremely hard to activate them enough to see an increase in size.

Easiest for you would be to implant the “Mike Matarazzo calf gene” in your body but as I am not a biology expert, I am quite unsure if it’s even possible.

Rather I have some tips broken down for you to get bigger calves which will surely help you to get ahead of that “skipped-leg-day” looks. Before going into the tips, you should understand.

The Anatomy of Calves

The visible muscle is actually a pair of muscles which is known as Triceps Surae, which is made up of two muscles: the soleus and the gastrocnemius. The soleus lies below the gastroc (short for gastrocnemius) and is actually a larger muscle in terms of volume. The gastroc, meanwhile, attaches above the knee.

Both muscles require different approaches to train. For example, performing standing movements or the bent-leg movements for the calves (eg. seated calf raise) will prioritize the soleus while training the gastroc has a different approach.

The thing is, if you want massive and properly shaped calves, you need to prioritize the training for the gastroc. Despite the soleus being larger muscle than the gastroc, the later one must be focused and hit hard to have that awesome-looking jacked calves.

Thus, contrary to some naysayers, your calves have significant growth ability to grow as big as your arms or your neck if you focus on training them in line with their functional anatomy.

Tip #1: Put “Calves Day” In Your Workout Routine

No matter what muscle you train, it is all about priority. Lots of lifters have arm days, shoulder days, and chest days. But where in the world and how many people dedicate a day to calves?

Add at least 2 calf workouts per week to your workout routine to boost your results. Focus on the number of repetitions and the volume of the workout you perform.

Do one workout with heavy weights for 3-4 sets of 4-6 repetitions and another workout with much lighter weights for sets of 25-50 repetitions.

In my opinion, this is the best possible way to attack the muscle fibers that you have not probably hit before. Therefore, it will surely force your calves to grow.

Tip #2: Re-order your workout session

How many people start a workout session with Calves training? The number is countable in fingers or in the worst-case scenario, it may be zero.

It’s very important to train your targeted muscle at first for optimal results.

The order of workout has a great role to produce immediate or long term effects in the body.

In comparison between two upper body workouts differed only in the order, made by a group of Brazilian researchers, they found out that the exercise you perform first is the exercise that progresses most and determines where you gain the most muscle.

So, if your calf is on your 1st priority then start your workout session with calves exercises.

If you want to know the science behind this, continue reading, otherwise, skip to the next tip.

“Just after your warm-up sessions, your nervous system is still fresh and metabolic wastage has yet to accumulate in your blood. At this time your body is in a perfect state to adapt anything you throw it to. As rigorous training commences, lactic acid production causes acidosis in your blood as a byproduct of not having enough oxygen to fuel energy demands.

The breakdown of muscle protein floods in your blood with ammonia to levels actually exceeding those of liver disease patients, causing some degree of brain toxicity and various neurological disturbances. Muscle fibers and their connective tissue tear and become inflamed from the tension of contracting against maximal resistance.

That’s the condition your body is in when most people decide to train cars as an afterthought after a heavy leg day. So if you want your calves to grow start by giving them the attention you give your mirror muscles.”

Tip #3: Perform “Barefoot” Training 

Some years back, I stumbled upon “kicking off the shoes” idea in one of the interview videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger and also noticed it in his workout footage. Then I realized why our basketball coach (I also play basketball, but I ain’t going to be Phil heath), too, insisted on doing barefoot calf raises during our exercise session 
Your shoes are designed to support you to flex your feet and ankles, but you want your calves to do all the work without any help from springs and extra cushioning. 

Do what Arnold and many others did, but wear fresh socks just to make sure you don’t pong out the gym. Train calves in bare feet which will provide that extra range of motion for any sort of calf movement, and will force a very intense contraction. 

Tip #4: Perform “Full Range of Motion”

The range of motion – Why it’s important? 

In any workout, increasing your range of motion will stimulate your muscle fibers effectively, leading to better results. it’s a small change that might make use to difference. 
In every calf workout session, work through the full range of motion from as low as you can go to as high as you can. You should address the proper position for your hip, knees, and feet for achieving that full range the motion. 

Tip #5: Exercise Selection

Train calves with more volume, slower reps, and long duration.

Is there something for calves like there is bench press for pecs or squats for the quads?

I consulted with several bodybuilders and trainers to find the best exercises to hit the calves. Keeping in mind the standard principles of exercise selection which are a compound movement, long range of motion, the directness of stress, micro loadability, etc. , standing calf raises was so far the best one among all of the exercises.
However, I have shortlisted several other movements that will allow your calves to grow to its maximum potential. You don’t have to perform all of them. Just incorporate any 3-4 of them in your workout routine.

9 Best Exercises To Get Bigger Calf Muscles 

◙ Standing calf raise

The standing calf raise targets the calf muscle, specifically the gastrocnemius. Movements that are done with a bent knee (flexion) target the soleus.

“This is a great exercise to stretch and strengthen the calves (primarily the gastroc) through a full range of motion,” William Kelley says.


Stand up straight, then push through the balls of your feet and raise your heel until you are standing on your toes. Then lower slowly back to the start.

◙ Seated calf raise

The most basic movement for the soleus is the seated calf raise. “This exercise is great for soleus isolation,” says William Kelly.


Use a seated calf raise machine or sit on a bench and rest the balls of your feet on a block or step (and hold dumbbells on your thighs for resistance). Your knees should be bent 90 degrees and your toes turned inward 15 degrees. Allow your heels to drift toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves. Elevating the balls of your feet with a block to increase your range of motion and work your muscles even more.

Box Jump

Box Jump is a plyometric move that you make you faster, more powerful, and springier than ever.”To build explosive power use a higher box and focus on quality reps over quantity. Do up to five sets of five reps – resting for three to five minutes between them – but stop as soon as your form fails,” says Personal Trainer Joe Spraggan.


Set yourself a comfortable distance from the box with feet shoulder-width apart. Drop quickly into a quarter squat, swing your arms and explode upwards to jump onto the box. Land as softly as possible. Now step backward off the box under control.

◙ Farmer’s Walk (On Tiptoes)

You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, regular barbells, a trap deadlift bar, or specific farmer’s walk handles. Here’s how to do it.


Grab a pair of dumbbells (or kettlebells) and hold them by your sides. Walk forward – on your tiptoes – taking short, quick steps. At first, go for a lighter weight to maintain balance. Go for the given distance, as fast as possible.

◙ Dumbbell Seated Calf Raise

It is a beginner level dumbbell workout for strengthening the calves.


Put a weight plate on the floor and rest your toes on it whilst sitting on a bench. Place a dumbbell on your knee, your right hand holding the handle whilst your left-hand holds the top. Lift up your toes as high as possible. Pause, then lower it back onto the weight and repeat.

◙ Jump Rope

Jump Rope is a high-intensity aerobic exercise, so jump rope is the best way to tone the calves, core, shoulders, and upper back. People looking to improve sports performance or fitness levels often learn how to Jump Rope.


You’re moving quickly on your toes and jumping, practical use of your calves. Aim to jump rope for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, for at least five minutes. Bonus: You’ll elevate your heart rate, too.

◙ Hill Runs

Hill runs won’t just smoke your calves; they’ll crush your hamstrings, glutes, and quads, too. Think of doing 20-second dashes up the hill, then walking or jogging back down; repeat this 5 or 6 times.


Jog for 10 minutes to warm up, then walk for two minutes. From the bottom of a gentle incline, run up for five seconds, then walk back to the starting point. Run up again for seven seconds, then walk down.

◙ Calf Pushes

Most blokes only train the backs of their calves by lifting their heels up and down. Calf Pushes are the best possible way to train your shins and add mass to your lower legs.


Lie back on a bench with your lower legs hanging diagonally off the edge. Hold a dumbbell between your feet. Lower and raise the weight to target your shins. Alternatively, do calf pushes on the leg press machine. All of these workouts need to be done slowly and deliberately, with pauses at the stretch and contracted positions. Simply going through the motions will not be much effective. Anyways, be aware of these common mistakes that can possibly happen from you too.


1. Don’t move too fast

Don’t perform the workout in a hurry. Incorrect forms can lead to injuries. So, take your time as you do the movement to ensure your calves are getting maximum tension throughout the entire range of motion. This exercise is all about tension, not how many reps you can do or how much weight you can use.

2. Don’t release the tension

This can happen when you are straightening up after finishing the bent-over phase. Be sure to keep the tension on the calf muscle as you straighten up. What makes the exercise so effective is that you are taking the muscle through its entire anatomical range of motion under tension the whole way.

3. Emphasize on the stretch and contraction

Make a concentrated effort to get the maximum stretch at the bottom and the maximum contraction at the top.

Tip #6: Train Calves “off” the Gym

“Every night before you go to bed, perform a set of 100 slow, hard squeezing a set of standing calf raises with just your own bodyweight. Go for the maximum burn.”, says Eric Broser from muscle and fitness.

You can even perform calf raises on the staircase. Do a calf raise up on each step. On the way down, step onto the ball of your foot which will act like a plyometric movement for your calves.

In this way, you can train calves off the gym. Give it a try.

Tip #7: Don’t forget Plyos

Calf training is not all about calf raises.

To set yourself apart in the competition, incorporate plyometric movements for your calf.

To increase the power, strength, and overall athletic ability of your muscles, perform the plyometric movements rather than mere muscle-building moves.

To be honest, the credit for this tip goes to David Otey, fitness writer and NYC-based strength coach I learned this from one of his articles.

Tip #8: Follow the Popular “Tiptoe” Formula

Ever wondered why ballet dancers have such admirable calves? It’s because they are always on their tiptoes. I am not telling you to sign up and be a ballerina but whenever it is possible, walk around on your tiptoes rather than your flat feet. It will surely help you to get that awesome powerful calves.

Tip #9: “Overtrain” your Calves. Train them as often as you want.

Calves are the extremely difficult muscles to over train. I have not heard too many experts talking about doing too many sets for calves or training them too often. So, do as many sets as you feel you need and train calves as often as you want to.

William P.Kelley C.S.C.S., when questioned “How often should you exercise your calves?” suggested to Incorporate calf exercises into your workouts a couple times a week. “But that is a General recommendation, depending on the routine activities you enjoy.”

“Give your calves the shock they won’t forget.”

Troy Zuccolotto, the pro bodybuilder, explains that because of his calves being relatively responsive to training, doing 5 sets of standing calf raises and five sets of the seated calf raise two to three times a week is enough to do the job for him. He says “when I do calf training, I train hard. I don’t just go through the motions.”

Troy also believes that it’s a mistake to train calves on leg day. “ If you train calves before your quads and hamstrings, your legs are too weak to train with maximum intensity. If you wait until afterward your calves are too tired to work to the max. so you are better off leaving calves for another workout.”, Troy tells.

The Takeaway

You’re now furnished with one less reason for tiny calves, nine more tips for creating colossal calves, and all the logical information you have to upgrade your calf building program.

Go make some gains…..

Thanks a lot for visiting our website.

Aaron Reiner

Aaron is a fitness blogger, founder & editor of Prosfitness. He has been lifting weights & writing about fitness for over 3 years. He has been a contributor for several health and fitness publications.

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