Muscle for life

The Ultimate Calves Workouts for Quickly Adding Size and Strength

The Ultimate Calves Workouts for Quickly Adding Size and Strength

Even if nothing seems to work for building your calves, these workouts will get them growing–guaranteed.


An awesome set of thick, diamond-shaped calves is one of those “little” things that really sets a great physique apart from a mediocre one.

Small, under-developed calves, on the other hand, become a glaring weak point as your upper body develops and also give the rest of your legs a bad name. You could be squatting 400 pounds but if your calves aren’t up to snuff, it’ll look like you’ve got chicken legs. (And trust me, I know–I neglected my calves for far too long and am playing catch up now!)

Muscular, strong calves aren’t just for looks either–they help support and stabilize your body during lifts like the Deadlift and Squat, and also during just about every sport you can name. In fact, strong, developed quads and hamstrings can be counterproductive in many sports unless you’ve got calves strong enough to control the force the upper leg can generate as it gets transferred into the ground and redirected.

Weak calves mean shorter jumps, slower running speeds, less stable squats and deadlifts, and a higher risk of knee injury in various sports.

Now, chances are I’m preaching to the choir–if you’re reading this article, you don’t need to be sold on building your calves. You just want to know how to do it, and you’re probably wondering why great calves are so rare. Why do they elude so many weightlifters?

In many cases simple neglect is the problem (like abs, many people forget to train calves or think it’s unnecessary), but as you’ll soon see, there are genetic barriers to work through as well.

So, in this article, we’ll look at the barriers to building big calves as well as a calf routine that will quickly add size and strength to your calves. Let’s first take a quick look at the anatomy of the calf muscles.

The Anatomy of the Calves

The calves are made up of two powerful muscles: the gastrocnemius, which is the most externally visible muscle, and the soleus, which is a deep muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius.


These two muscles work together to manipulate the foot and ankle joint, as well as flex the leg at the knee joint.

When it comes to just looks, we’re most concerned with the gastrocnemius, but a properly developed soleus almost “props up” the gastrocnemius, making it look more impressive.

Are Calves Workouts Really Necessary?

Some people say that calf training is like ab training–you don’t need to bother with it if you’re doing a lot of Squats and Deadlifts. Well, I disagree.

Unless you’re blessed with great calf genetics, you’re going to have to work your calves quite a bit to maintain proportions with your thighs and arms. And if you’re like me and genetically have zero calves (really…before I started training my calves regularly and correctly, I had nothing no matter how much I squatted and deadlifted), you’re going to have to work them even more.

And while we’re talking genetics, you might be wondering why some people tend to have small calves that basically refuse to grow no matter what they do whereas other people develop bulging calves without hardly trying.

The answer to this “mystery” lies in the composition of the calf muscle fibers themselves.

You see, there are two primary groups of muscle types: Type 1, also known as “slow twitch” fibers, and Type 2, also known as “fast twitch” fibers.

Research has shown that the muscle fibers of the gastrocnemius–the calf muscle we see and are primarily concerned with developing for aesthetic purposes–can vary in composition from person to person.

One person’s  gastrocnemius might be comprised of as much as 60% Type 2 fibers whereas another’s as little as 15%. And thus, the former will find it very easy to add mass to his calves but the latter will find it a slow, frustrating grind (me).

Furthermore, research has also shown that the ratio of Type 1 to Type 2 fibers in various muscles is determined by how we primarily use the muscles. As the calf is mainly used in low-intensity, endurance activities like walking, jogging, biking, and so forth, there’s a greater need for Type 1 than Type 2 fibers.

All that said, it doesn’t mean our genetics ultimately decide whether we are stuck with baby calves or not. With proper training, anyone can build big, muscular calves, but you should just know that it may or may not come quickly depending on the current composition of your calf muscles.

So, let’s get to how to do that by taking a look at the calves workouts that have served me best.

The Ultimate Calves Workouts for the Ultimate Calves

I’ve tried a lot of calf routines and I’ve learned a couple things:

1. Like the abs, the calves seem to recover from workouts quicker than other muscle groups and thus can be trained more intensively.

I’ve yet to find concrete scientific evidence of this, but the anecdotal evidence goes back decades. Arnold even noticed that his calves recovered faster than other muscle groups.

2. The calves seem to respond particularly well to periodized training that includes high-rep work.

Periodized training has you work a muscle group with various rep ranges, and while you can make fantastic gains in your larger muscle groups just working with about 80 to 85% of your 1RM, the calves seem to particularly benefit from the inclusion of higher rep ranges.

















There are various theories as to why this is but no definitive answers that I know of. Nevertheless, success leaves clues and this is one you’ll often come across in talking with guys that have built impressive calves and had to actually work for it.

Based on these two points, the calf routine I’m going to recommend works as follows:

  • 3 calf workouts per week with at least one day in between each
  • 6 sets per workout
  • Use a 2-1-2 rep tempo: 2 seconds to full contraction, a slight pause while contracted, 2 seconds to release
  • Once you hit the top of your rep range with a given weight, add 10 pounds

Here are the workouts:

Calf Workout A

Rest 2 to 3 minutes in between these sets

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Calf Workout B

Rest 1 to 2 minutes in between these sets

Leg Press Calf Raise

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

Donkey Calf Raise (or Leg Press)

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

If your gym doesn’t have a Donkey Raise machine, you can do Leg Press Calf Raises instead

Calf Workout C

Rest 1 minute in between these sets

Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Seated Calf Raise

3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

Simple enough. Personally I do A on Monday, B on Wednesday, and C on Friday.

As with all exercises, form is extremely important in calf training. If you shortchange yourself by reducing the range of motion, you’ll find the workouts far less effective.

The proper form with these calf exercises is simple: At the bottom of a rep, your heels are as low as they’ll go and you feel a deep stretch in your calves; and at the top of a rep, you’re up on your tippy-toes like a ballerina.

Many people simply use too much weight and can’t make it anywhere near as high as they should at the top of their reps and then wonder why their calves never get bigger or stronger. Don’t make the same mistake.

Give this calf routine a go and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly your calves grow, even if they’ve been extremely stubborn like mine!

What About Supplements?

strong woman is drinking sports nutrition

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your calves (and other) workouts.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)


WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own, and I called it PULSE.


What makes PULSE special, you ask?

  • Clinically effective dosages of 5 natural, performance-enhancing ingredients backed by peer-reviewed, well-designed, and well-executed research: caffeine, theanine, citrulline malate, beta-alanine, betaine, and ornithine.
  • No proprietary blends.
  • No other stimulants than caffeine.
  • No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

While everyone claims to have the best pre-workout supplement on the market, I can actually back up such claim with real science, and real numbers.

Want More Workouts?

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Arms Workout


The Ultimate Back Workout


The Ultimate Shoulder Workout


The Ultimate Abs Workout


The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Butt Workout


The Ultimate Forearm Workout


The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.


What do you think of these calves workouts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Parikshit Jaiswal

    MIke can u write an article on warmup before exercises and static strectching

  • David Ngeow

    so i replace my calf training from BLS to this?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup after a lot of trial and error I’ve found this to be more effective. I’ll be adding this to the second edition of BLS.

    • Vase

      I think Mike intended this for people who are not seeing results with their Calves (read the beginning of the article regarding types of muscle fibers). If bls call workout is working for you, I say stick with that. If you haven’t seen results or have neglected your Calves then use this to “catch up” with your other muscles.

      • Michael Matthews

        Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂

        • Jamal

          If you’re calves aren’t lagging, should you still periodize? I’m currently doing 2 exercises for 3 sets once a week (BLS). 8-10 reps. Should I split up rep ranges? Also, what about incorporating the toes in an out?

          • Michael Matthews

            You can yes. Just to see how your body responds really.

        • David Ngeow

          My gym doesnt have seated calf machine and leg press calf raise i use the leg press machine. So instead of seated calf raise i just stick to standing calf raise. Its ok with that right?

          I stik to bls for longer and observe how my calf grow.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah that’s fine. Let me know how it goes.

  • Donald

    I was thinking about sending an email regarding this subject because they just won’t grow. Until they do I plan on following this:


    • Michael Matthews

      Hahaha so good

  • Nathan

    Can you do this workout on a cut?

    • Michael Matthews

      Sure. You can hope for some newbie gains if they’re behind. 🙂

  • Jayson1206

    Mike good articles as always. Do you have anything on good lateral exercises?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Lateral? Lats?

      • Jayson1206

        You’ve got to love auto correct… Yup lats.

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha. Wide-grip pullups all the way. Add weight if you can do more than 10.

  • Renier

    This is me when I see a new workout article form you Mike.

    • Michael Matthews


  • Voluntas

    Hey Mike

    I have recently started (2 months ago) a new type of workout for calves. Basically I punish them 4-5 times per week, because as you mentioned the regeneration span is noticeably shorter than bigger muscle parts, thus allows me to treat them as harshly as I prefer (very harshly).

    The actual workout comprises of 60 reps in one go. It sounds terrifying ( I was gasping for air and relief from the pain for the first time), and it really is. The burn that you get is monstrous, but it is worth it. I have gained about 3cm in circumference in just 2 months, which I consider as satggering achievement (hardgainer!).

    The trick for me is in performing valuable exercises and having a good form. One particular thing I am missing in your article is how you bend your knees during the exercises. The knees in my experience need to be slightly bent throughout the entire movement, this allows me to go even further with my heels. No matter what exercise.

    Positioning of feet changes every 20 reps just as you outlined.

    For the exercises, I prefer to do Donkey raises on a platform on a smith-machine. I stand up on the platform with only tips of my fingers balancing on it, lift the bar with my arse (yey) and roll it down into the comfortable walley of my lower back ( if you have, use cusion/rolled towel, because it can be harrowing exerience without anything in between your skin and the steel bar)
    The trick seems to be in getting the bar gently slide into your lower back arch, which will keep it there secured, whilst you will cry for help, hah.

    So 3 sets of 60 reps ( 20 pointed inward/ 20 pointed outward/ 20 normal forward) If you are willing to try, enjoy!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I’ve seen routines like that. I do think you’d benefit from some heavy work as well…

  • Cesar

    Hey Mike, do you have pictures of your progress for calves?

    • Michael Matthews

      Maybe I’ll have to see if I have some oldies…

  • Sam

    Hi Mike any advice how I can do a BLS calf workout at home? I have a home gym but don’t have enough weight to Max out at 6 reps. . I can’t afford more at the moment (I have more than enough weight to DL squat bench etc) . short of asking my wife to climb on me what can I safely do? More reps? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmmm lol honestly I would have the wife hop on the back for Donkey Raises!

      • Sam

        Well my wife is German so she’ll probably be up for that 😉 Thanks. Seriously though I’ve got more weight in discs than her bodyweight… I thought calves can be trained more than other muscles, bit like abs, or is that all bro science? Thx

        • Michael Matthews

          Hahah. Pile everything up there then. 😛 Yes it seems like they can be.

    • Tony

      I do standing calf raises with the barbell using a 2×4 or 4×4 block to stand on. Using the block allows me to stretch at the bottom. I put weight on the block also to keep it in place.

  • Temirlan Nugmanov

    Hey Mike!

    Thanks for the some good calf routines – these can be real valuable for me as a soccer/tennis player! One question though – how do you recommend integrating these routines with a 3 day split? I find myself working out for 1:10 on back/bi + abs or chest/tri +abs days where I do abs immediately after my sets of the last exercise for the larger muscle and immediately after 6 sets ( one by one) of the smaller muscle. If I recall correct you suggested that ab integration in BLS to make sure the workouts are not too long. Not even sure how to cram calf exercises into there…

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. I would probably just add 3 sets to the end of each workout, so 9 sets total for the week without adding a ton of time.

  • Dale Eastham

    Hi Mike, I’ve rarely got my calves past 15″ and considering my arms are 16″ they look lame. I have tried all these methods in your workout, rep ranges, angles, different machines, giant sets, supersets and everything else I could think of and nothing has pushed them past 15″. Working The soleus on seated grew them from 13.5″ to 15″ when I was a newbie but all the standing raises just defined my gastroc. Static peak contractions seated and donkeys for 45 seconds Max are the only thing that will break my plateau. I expect my calves are 95% type1 fibres as they will not respond to reps and some cases shrink and this is especially noticeable from too much running or cycling

    • Michael Matthews

      Great, thanks for sharing!

  • James Pond

    Mike, any suggestions for a calf routine for those of us that workout in a home gym setting? I have a squat rack, plenty of weight, but don’t have calf machines or leg presses? Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Donkey raises with a friend on your back haha.

  • RevNagi

    I, like you, have had a tough go when it comes to calf development. I am looking forward to trying out this routine. Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      It works!

  • José Perez

    Do not forget to warm up your calves. I did broke mine because I did not wamp up 🙁

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes warming up is important.

  • José Perez

    Out of training and waiting for the doctor to come back!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hope you get better soon!

  • rose

    i am giving a testimony of how i become rich and famous today… i was deeply strangled up by poverty and i had no body to help me, and also i search for help from different corners but to no avail… i see people around me getting rich but to me i was so ashamed of my self so i met a man on my way he was very rich and he was a doctor so he told me something and i think over it though out the day so the next day i looked up and i keep repeating what he said to me.

    ” if you want to get rich quick and be famous”
    you need to cross your heart and do what
    is in your mind

    so i tried all i could in other for me to do as he said so later on i told my fellow friend about this same thing then my friend was interested in my suggestions so i decided to look in the internet and i found an email address of this great fraternity( [email protected]) so we decided to contact them and unfortunately we did as they instruct us to do and later they told us to get some requirements and all the rest… so this initiation took us just a week and later on the great fraternity gave us $70,000,000.00 to start up our lives…. and now am testifying that if in any case you want to join any great fraternity all you need to do is for you to contact them because they are legitimate and they do as what they instructed them to do okay so email them now at ([email protected] ) or call me on this +2349035304819

  • Dean

    On thing i found that really helped me was jump roping 3 sets for 2 to 3 minutes each. Gave me the little extra mmmpph i needed. As always great article

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! 🙂

  • Chris Stamp

    I can attest to the genetic component of calves. My brother is 10 years older, doesn’t workout AT ALL, and has massive calves compared to my wimpy ones. He has those “Popeye” calves without doing much of anything. I’ll be hitting the calves for 10 years before I can even HOPE to approach my brother’s calves. That being said, adding the kind of calf work Mike suggests, I’m only an inch off from the Greek ideal after about a year. I think the main takeaway from any kind of workout is that you need to tailor it by hammering the weak spots and scale back on the easy gainers to stay in proportion.

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha bastard!! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Jason

    Hey Mike!

    At my gym I don’t have a standing calves machine, neither a donkey. What are my options here? Should I use the leg press for all three workouts? Thx in advance!


    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm yeah leg press is fine. Is there a seated calf raise machine?

      • Jason

        Yes, it’s only thing for calves.

        • Jason

          *the only thing…

        • Michael Matthews

          Great so you can alternate between those two.

    • phoenix

      You can make a small little wooden pedestal type thing out of blocks of wood that works fine for doing standing calf raises. That is actually what we use for them besides the leg press machine since you can also do standing exercises on ours.

      • Michael Matthews

        Good idea.

  • Gilberto Gil

    Love it. Love calf workouts. Gotta find a better way to keep to date with MFL. Love this place.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! 🙂

  • Jim Anderson

    Won’t this cause problems with the Achilles’ tendon,I have bursitis in my. Achilles ,and this typ of exercise inflames it.?

    • Michael Matthews

      Possibly. You’ll have to try it and see…

  • George

    Great information!
    My calves eventually started to grow!
    Thank you Mike for help!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great!! 🙂

  • phoenix

    So would you combine these with your other workouts like chest + calf then so on for the next two days while doing abs after your workouts on the other days?
    So basically every is either main muscle group + ab or calves.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah exactly. 🙂

      • phoenix


  • Jeremy Witkowski

    How much should people focus on hitting the gastrocnemius compared to the soleus (plantar flexion with knee extension vs. plantar flexion with knee flexion for active insufficiency to reduce the gastroc’s role)? Does it matter as long as workouts include both or should one be emphasized (maybe the larger soleus for calf size or the external gastroc for definition)?

    • Michael Matthews

      I think this will vary from person to person but most people do well just blasting the gastroc. To build the foundation of size at least.

      • Jeremy Witkowski

        Got it thanks!

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide on How to Build a Workout Routine | Muscle For Life()

  • Mike F

    So on workout B we do leg presses twice? Or did you mean calf raises?


  • Sergio

    Hey Mike,
    Instead of doing 3 sets of standing calf raises and 3 sets of seated calf raises can I just do 6 sets of standing calf raises? I feel like the barbell on the seated calf raises puts too much strain on my quads to the point where it is uncomfortable. Thanks!!!

  • Bree

    My calves are pretty big, just like I would have been a football player (but I sure never was). Of course they’re rather fat, than muscular but still big. Shall I still train them the way you suggests?

    • No you don’t have to train them if you don’t want them bigger.

    • Bree

      Okay, then I train them at least once a week. There won’t be more damage done, as it uses to be now 😉

  • Marcus Young

    Hi Mike, I am 4 weeks in on the BLS routine but I had a question on the Standing Calf Raises and the Seated Calf Raises. I am finding it hard to figure out my proper weight for these exercises to max out at 4-6reps. I am currently doing 175lbs but I have to do 10-12 reps before I feel the burn in my calves and stop. I weigh 200-204lbs and my height is 6ft 11.5in and the strain I get on my shoulders during the standing calf raises seems almost unbearable when I exceed 175lbs (it feels like my spine is being crushed). When I do the seated calf raises I have noticed that my right leg is not exactly straight and needs to be angled in order to perform this exercise… I think that is just my biological makeup… slightly bowlegged or something… Am I doing something wrong? Should I go up in weight on either of these? Any help you can provide will be great.

    • Great!

      Ah yeah that can be rough. Switch to the calf raises on leg press and you should be fine. No back stress.

      • Marcus Young

        Sorry I just realized my height was off by a foot 5ft 11.5in is what I meant. Also just so I am understanding you recommend doing more leg press days instead of the calf raises?

        • Haha no worries.

          No what I’m saying is for you to do your calf workout on the leg press. You place your toes and pad of your feet on the bottom edge of the leg press with your heals off the edge and you do your calf raises like that.

          With that, you can go heavy without putting stress on your back . LMK how it goes!

  • LifeForMuscle


    serious note : it actually grew but at an extremely slow pace. but hey i aint complaining.

    • Lol. Calves are a bitch…

      Glad you’ve gotten some results though. Keep it up!

  • Ana

    Hello,my name is Ana and I have a huge problem with my calves. They look like Olive Oil’s calves. I heve never in my life worn shorts or skirts, dresses nor bathing suits. I have a problem with doing the calves routines because I don’t go to the gym and don’t have any machines at home. What do you suggest I do?

    • Hey!

      Doing HIIT style sprints may help.

    • rosebaby2009

      i am a amputee of both of my legs, my amputation has left me with only half of my calves, and i get get compliments from my docs,nurses and my bf,(only pep who see me without my pros.on) on my solid muscle on both calves!! you know what i do? wearing my legs, ii rock on my feet, heel to the tippy toes several times a day! works like a charm!!

  • James

    Hi Mike, there are no calf machines at my gym. There is a leg press and a smith machine. Currently I’m doing:
    Calf Workout A: Smith Machine
    Calf Workout B: Standing Barbell
    Calf Workout C: Standing Dumbbell
    With my options, would you recommend something different? Thnks!

  • radiotrib

    Initially I don’t have access to a gym. Would standing and seated calf raises 3 x 8 to 10 with 2 min rests work for Workout B ? …

    I’m a computer programmer so boredom isn’t an issue 🙂

  • মানস মহন্ত

    Thank you. I learnt so many things here. Thank you very much.

  • alex chia

    HI Mike,
    My calves are naturally big and I am interested in making them more defined rather making them bigger. Will the 4-6 rep range you suggest still work or should I focus on higher rep ranges like 15+ reps?

    • Bastard. 😉

      A combination of reps seems to do best with calves. A few sets in 4 to 6, few in 8 to 10, few in 15 to 20+

      • alex chia

        Thanks a lot Mike 🙂
        Appreciate the advice.

  • Lloyd Costigan

    Hi Mike
    58 years old, really out of shape, bought your book on Kindle and Audible.
    Just starting out routines at home.
    I have a bench press, squat rack, chair and assorted dumbells and barbells and Concept rower (had all of these for years)
    All going fine except I don’t know what calf exercises I can do without access to calf raise or leg press/curls machines.
    Alternative at-home suggestions would really be appreciated.
    I’m a Pharmacist, and a long time gym user (mostly unsuccessful) and when i bought your book I said to myself I would continue with it until I heard some of those “fad” bullshit ideas that come and go.
    I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised that it was all common sense stuff (and mostly stuff I’ve known all along and recommend to my customers)
    Anyway – thanks for the inspiration – and a couple of calfies will help immensely

    • Thanks Lloyd!

      Great on what you have at home.

      It’s tough actually. You can do standing raises with the barbell on your back and that’s about it.

      Check this out too:


      I think you’ll lik eit.

      And thanks so much for the kind words and support. You rock. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Robin

    Hi Mike!

    My gym doesn’t have standing calf raise, do you have any alternatives?

    • You can do them on the leg press or you can just do an extra three sets of seated calf raises.

  • Paul B

    Hey Mike,

    Should legs be totally straight during the leg press calf raise, or is a little knee bend OK? My knees feel kind of awkward during this movement, but with a little bend I can put up more weight (and feel it in my calves).


  • James Winne

    Hey mike, I watched a video where you were discussing ideal proportions for body parts and you stated your ideal calves measurement and mine would be about the same at 6’2 with similar wrists. If i am only 1 inch away from reaching their ideal size, and I exclusively have been training them in the 4-6 range once a week but don’t want to do 3 days of periodizing them, which rep range would you reccomend? the reason i dont want to do 3 days of calves is that i am periodizing abs w the rep ranges you listed for calves and I only want 2 days for calves. 8-10 reps or 12-15 in order to stiumulate type 1 hypertrophy the most? thanks 🙂

    • I’d probably switch week to week–week 1, 4 to 6, week 2, 10 to 12, etc.

  • Natasha Wiggetts

    I have been using a back pack with weights in it, to do a similar routine at home, Will this be effective, when would you start seeing results?

  • David

    Hello Mike!
    I work out my calves twice a week. And every workout I do for calves is built around sets of both low, medium and high reps. Almost like workout A,B and C but in ONE workout. I always do this when it’s “calf-day” :). Is it better to go with doing workout A,B and C on separate days, like doing heavy days and then lighter days?

    Either way, do you know why the other is better?

    • That’s totally fine. I wouldn’t ‘say either way is better. Just preference.

  • Lance Gringo

    Hi Mike, I know this is an old thread so hopefully you’ll still see this. Just wondering if you could recommend alternative calf exercises, as my gym doesn’t have ANY calf raise machines at all! Is there any exercises other than these that will really hit the calves hard, as mine need quite a lot of work!! Thanks for your help!

    • Dang! You can do standing raises on the Smith Machine, maybe?

      • Lance Gringo

        Ah yes, good thinking! Even my gym has a Smith Machine! Thanks for the reply, all the best for 2016! Looking forward to seeing the Legion Supps in the UK in 2016 too!

        • Cool! Welcome!

          Thanks. Happy New Years to you as well!

          I’m looking forward to setting up distribution in the UK too. 🙂 Stay tuned!

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,
    I don’t have a machine to do the Seated Calf Raise and I do it on a bench with a Barbell. However, the weight is getting too heavy to rest on my thighs and I think It’s gonna be a problem. What will happen if I replace the 3 Seated Calf sets for 3 more sets on my Standing Calf Raise but do them only in 1 stance – with the feet pointing forward as I’ve read that that hits the Soleus as well.

    PP: I’m really excited about the new things that you’ll be working on this year! Wish you all the luck with all of your endeavors!

    • That would be fine. Calf raises in the leg press works really well too.

      Thanks man! Me too! 🙂

  • Max Green

    Hey mike, when performing proper form do you want your knees locked out for standing calf raise machine?
    Thank you, max

  • Aikas

    Hey Mike,
    You’ve never mentioned if you put two plates under your feet and raise yourself on them when doing Standing Calf Raises in order to increase the range of motion?

  • Standing barbell calf raises—Smith machine or no?

    Also, do you have any preference for standing barbell calf raises versus standing dumbbell calf raises?

    • Sure, that’s fine.

      I prefer the machine actually.

      • I do too, but my gym doesn’t have one, unfortunately. (But it still makes room for a hip abductor, smh)

  • Arafat Sultan

    Great article Mike. Awesome work as always :). Is it ok to do dumbbell standing calf raise with alternate hand like doing 4-6 reps of standing calf raise with dumbbell in one hand and then doing the same with other hand next?


  • Miz Eloise

    is it 6 reps 3 sets or 6 reps 6 sets. in your summary yoi said 6 sets but in the box summary in gray you said 3 sets

    • Hey Eloise, Calf Workouts A, B, and C each are 6 total sets (3 sets of 2 exercises)

  • Dan

    Thanks for this article! calves are FINALLY growing.
    However!….was doing leg press calf raises and seated calf raises – hitting both muscles – but the gym just got rid of the seated calf raise machine, and there isn’t another type of machine. Would one-legged dumbbell calf raises be a good replacement or. since its basically the same movement, just double up on the leg press calf raises?
    Cheers Mike.

  • Glenn Deol

    Does the position of the toes being in vs out really make a difference? I read on Brad’s site that it’s not as important and can even lead to injury. I’m kind of confused and was hoping to get your thoughts.


    • Funny you bring this up as I’ve read Brad’s take on it since and agree. I thought I updated this. Updating now.

      • Glenn Deol

        Cool I think it made a lot of sense when I read it and thought I’d bring it up. I know that I read the same thing in BLS too so that may need to be updated too if it hasn’t been already.

        Also. I’m not sure if you had a chance too, but Doug Brignole has a lot of really useful ideas that I think you might find interesting. His ideas on bio-mechanics are really eye opening. I know that his manuscript is available now “The Physics of Fitness” and thought you’d like to know 🙂

        • Glenn Deol

          Here’s a little video where he talks about it and gives some information about how to get a hold of it. It’s brought up around 12:15 in case you’d like to just skip ahead.


        • Yessir, already made a note to update in next round of BLS/TLS fixes. It’s a minor point, honestly (you’re not going to get hurt unless you try to do 1RMs every day or something, lol), but worth noting.

          Awesome, I haven’t heard of this. Thanks. Gonna check out.

      • Glenn Deol

        Hey Mike, I don’t mean to check up on you or anything, but I wanted to just ask you if you had a chance to check out the book by Doug yet. If so what did you think? I watch all your videos so hearing your thoughts on the topic would be really appreciated. Personally I thought it was game-changing and because of that I wanted to share it with others who I think are well-intentioned “Truth Seekers” like yourself. If you haven’t read the book I Strongly suggest you do so ASAP (no seriously, like now) because you may never look at exercises the same way ever again…
        Thanks again and loved the latest video with Bret btw

        • It doesn’t seem to be out yet (coming soon on his website)…

          • Glenn Deol

            I would recommend getting the manuscript for $50USD. Doug’s email is [email protected] and its the same for his paypal so you can buy it that way. You’ll be asked to put in you email and that’s it basically. You have his email so just ask him any questions if need be, but I can help if it’s required too 🙂

          • Thanks for the tip!

          • Glenn Deol

            Hey there Mike, I wanted to just apologize for coming on too strong with all my talk about the manuscript and such. I was also a bit too pointed in how I gave my critique for the calves exercises as well and I wish I acted with more tact there. I should’ve been more respectful overall in our conversations, but was on a bit of an ego trip at the time. Hopefully you can forgive me though and thanks for all the great work as always 🙂

          • No worries at all! Thank you for the support 🙂

  • Greg Groves

    Question: at my gym, I’m very limited at what I can do with calves, so what I do right now is:
    Day 1) 3 sets of leg press calves, and 3 sets of standing calves (on the hack squat) 10 – 12 reps
    Day 2) 6 sets of leg press calves, first 3 sets at 4 – 6 reps, second 3 at 8 – 10 reps
    Day 3) 6 sets of standing calves, first 3 at 4 – 6 reps, second 3 at 8 – 10 reps.

    My question is: would you recommend I keep this as is, or change the rep ranges or work outs?

    Thanks Mike!!

  • Elijah Laughinghaus

    Do you think it’s possible to build bigger calves without gym equipment, at home? I am considering getting the basic equipment I need to do my chest, and arms at home, leaving only back and legs for the gym. But I’m concerned about being able to hit the calves hard enough.

    • I mean, you don’t need machines, if that’s what you’re asking. You’ll still need weights though, which a barbell and/or dumbbells will cover.

  • Matthew Martin

    I already have large calves, but could probably just work on shape of the shape… What should I focus in this case?

  • Great article!
    Thank you for sharing such awesome and detailed article about calf workouts. Its hard to find such a detailed article about calf workout. Will be back to your blog for more awesome stuff.
    Keep posting.

  • Stephen Anderson

    Are these workouts intended to be standalone or should they be tacked on to other workouts, like your ab eorkout

    • You’d add these to the end of your normal workouts.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account