Calf Muscle Exercises for Women



The calf muscle exercises on this page use the following:

  • free weights (dumbbells and barbells),
  • a weight bench, and
  • a block.

They can be done at home or at the gym.

You can also do variations of some of these exercises without weights, a bench, or a block.

For exercises focusing on other parts of the leg, including hamstrings, quadriceps, and thighs, see our Leg Exercises for Women page.

Standing Barbell Calf Raises

Equipment needed: Barbell

Targeted muscle: Triceps surae, especially the gastrocnemius

Step-by-Step

  1. In a standing position, rest the barbell horizontally across your shoulders.
  2. Grab the bar bell with a firm grip; your palms should face outward.

  3. Raise your heels off the floor as high as you can and still maintain your balance.

  4. Repeat the movement by moving your heels up and down.

Calf Muscle Exercises Tips

  • Exercises for our calves need a lot of repetitions or a lot of weight to make a difference. We work our these muscles anytime we walk, so they are already fairly strong.

  • You can also do these raises without any equipment at all. You will just have to do more repetitions to feel a burn. These can be done on a flat floor or off the edge of a step.
  • If you do the Raises at the gym, it will be possible to use heavier weights (either a heavier barbell or by adding weights to the barbell). At the gym, you may find specific workout equipment that will allow you to get under a bar bell on a safety rack when you're starting a set. This allows you to add greater weight. Also, you can stand on a calf block which will allow you to lower your heels below your toes thereby getting a greater workout for your calves.

Seated Barbell Calf Raise

Equipment needed: Barbell, bench, block

Targeted muscle: Soleus

Step-by-Step

  1. Sit at the end of a bench with your toes and balls of your feet on a block or wedge.

  2. The barbell should rest across your lower thighs.

  3. Raise your heels by extending your ankles as high as you can.

  4. Repeat the movement by moving your heels up and down.

Calf Muscle Exercises Tip

  • For more comfort on your thighs, use a rubber pad or wrapped up towel around the barbell where it rests on your thighs.

  • Gyms have specific equipment for Seated Barbell Calf Raises. Ask one of the trainers to instruct you in the proper use of the equipment to prevent injury.

  • As opposed to the Standing Barbell Calf raise which targets the Gastrocnemius, this calf muscle exercise targets the Soleus. What that means basically is that you'll need light weight for this seated exercise than the standing version.

  • You can also do this exercise while sitting in a chair without any weight equipment at all. You'll just need to do a lot of raises in order to feel a burn.

One-Leg Toe Raises

Equipment needed: Dumbell, block or step

Targeted muscle: Triceps surae (made up of the soleus and the medial and lateral heads of the gastrocnemius)

Step-by-Step

  1. With a dumbbell in your right hand, stand on your right leg with toes and ball of your right foot on a block or step. (It's OK to start with your left leg instead).
  2. Grip a support with your opposite hand (e.g., hand on wall) for better balance.

  3. Raise your right heel as high as you can.

  4. Return to the original position.

  5. Repeat the movement by moving your heel up and down until you feel a burn.

Calf Muscle Exercises Tips

  • Be sure to flex the foot completely with each repetition for greater effectiveness.

  • It may take a while for you to feel the burn doing One-Leg Toe Raises. You may have to experiment with the number of repetitions it takes for you to feel a burn.

  • When you're starting out, you can also do this exercise without a dumbbell.

Using Weight Training Machines

If you have access to a gym, you can find many different types of equipment to do calf muscle exercises.

Here's a few other exercises that can be done with special weight training equipment in the gym:

  • Donkey Calf Raises

  • Seated Calf Raises

  • Standing Calf Raises

However, if done properly, these workouts can be done just as effectively with free weights in your home.

Working All Parts of Your Legs

Killer Quads website

Working our calves is a great way to strengthen our legs, but we need strength in all parts of our legs for balance and great looking legs.

Karen Sessions, a 20-year bodybuilding veteran, has written a great e-book called Killer Quads. The name is a little misleading as this workout program has exercises for all muscles of your legs. Visit Karen's website by clicking the link to your right and see if her outstanding workout program is right for you.


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