Building your calves is a notoriously difficult task. It’s easier when you have the right tools.
The calves are built for serious high-volume movement since they control the ankle and the foot, where the body meets the floor. It’s designed to be tough to grow or damage.
Imagine how much easier it would be, then, to get your calf training done every day at home. This is the simple, effective reality of your own calf machine for training the calf muscle at home.
We’re going to take you through some of the best options on the market and provide an overview of what you want to look for, our review of some examples on the market, and key information for better calf home workouts!
- Seated Calf Raise Machine Reviews
- Standing Calf Raise Machine Reviews
- Seated Vs Standing Calf Raises: Which Is Best?
- What to Look For?
Seated Calf Raise Machine Reviews
1. Xmark Fitness Adjustable Seated Calf Raise Machine
When it comes to a seated calf raise machine for home, this design is spot on. The actual Xmark product is a great example of the Olympic weight plate design and it provides a simple and versatile way of training calves with equipment you may already have.
Using the Olympic peg system, you can load any existing standard-Olympic sized plates onto the calf machine. This means no cost for new weight stacks or adapter sleeves.
It’s also a relatively small and easy design that can be moved around and stored without taking up huge amounts of space. When it comes to a home gym, this is a fantastic benefit since machines tend to be space-expensive!
Customer satisfaction is great from this product, too, with consistently great feedback and a real sense that this product out-works expectations. The only real concerns are for the fastenings of the pads to the metal frame, but these problems are very rare and don’t seem to be a massive problem for using the machine itself.
2. BodySolid Seated Calf Raise Machine
This is another take on the simple lever-loaded seated calf machine. It provides a simple way of loading up the calves, though we do prefer the previous machine for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the actual angle of the BodySolid foot supports is annoying. They meet the floor, meaning that your actual foot position is dictated to you, while the smaller foot supports of the previous product allowed users to adjust to their own body shape more easily.
The failure to include Olympic plate sleeves is a real concern. The actual design does not provide support for the 2” diameter plates that every useful barbell is designed to hold.
This is a significant problem since the price now includes the addition of extra adapter sleeves which are difficult/annoying to use and are not required with other products!
The customer support has also been rated poorly, which suggests to us that you’re in for a necessary and annoying interaction with the BodySolid team. The product itself is okay, but this is a needless product oversight and is going to take up more time and money when other products like the Xmark machine are ready to go.
3. Deltech Fitness Calf Raise Machine
The Deltech machine finds itself somewhere between the Xmark and BodySolid in terms of design. It has a heavy duty look that is very nostalgic for gym outfitting from the 1990-2000s, and a no-nonsense build that minimizes wear and tear.
This product includes an adapter to turn it into an Olympic-weighted design, though this is a bit ridiculous since almost nobody has large quantities of standard plates. This makes it more annoying to use than the Xmark, but more user-friendly than the BodySolid calf raise machine by far.
Common concerns here do rotate around quality, where the positioning of the individual parts can make for an uncomfortable workout. Occasional build problems make for difficult use, while the positioning of the foot supports is actually too close to the seat for many users.
This is a concern since an excessively close foot position puts more strain on the knees and can make for a very uncomfortable, even injurious workout. This puts the Deltech product somewhere in the middle of our two previous products and a resoundingly “okay” product – though perhaps that’s inevitable with the low price.
4. Valor fitness Calf Raise Machine
We really like the design approach taken with the valor seated calf raise. It’s reminiscent of the Xmark machine but with a really heavy duty build and a good foot-plate design.
The problems for this product don’t come from the design – which is very good – but from quality assurance.
Even customers who loved the product spoke of a lack of care for the shipping and packaging quality being compromised. This ranged from beat-up boxes and parts to missing parts to a lack of concern with parts being packed.
This is sad because the product itself seems to be a good option for a home gym. While not as smooth or consistent as a commercial calf raise machine, it does provide a good alternative but is outclassed by Xmark, despite being similarly priced.
5. Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine
This is a 1” loaded calf raise machine. This seems like a bad start since standard plates are never really provided in huge quantities and they’re pretty universally obsolete since the Olympic barbell has been the clear choice for a good home gym for decades.
The choice to use a round foot support is also a strange one. This is counter-intuitive and can make for a far less comfortable workout than alternatives with an ergonomic foot support. This is a silly oversight and makes it an annoying experience – especially since the foot support is too low and reduces the range of motion significantly.
The welding and build quality also struggle, with consistent customer reports of breaks during simple, as-advertised use. This is an example of why durability matters in home gym equipment. The loading for a calf raise is relatively high but this product wobbles, shakes, and the padding is low-quality, as well as these structural breaks with light weight.
Overall, this product comes at the bottom of our rankings for a variety of reasons.
Standing Calf Raise Machine Reviews
6. Body Solid Standing Calf Raise Machine
Standing calf raise machines have a much greater capacity for loading on average, and this is a good example. Despite the name, however, this product does not provide an effective method for training the squat since the bottom position is far too high and the foot-plate certainly will not provide the stability you need.
The foot bar is round, which continues to make no sense. This is an uncomfortable position for the feet and does not provide the stability you’d need for heavy calf raises. Performing this on the foot plate also doesn’t make sense because the foot support gets in the way. This makes using this product slightly precarious.
Adding to this, the product isn’t particularly stable against the floor and can quite easily run into “wobbling” issues. This is met with additional issues in the padding, which is low-density and can easily result in discomfort when loaded up.
The instructions are also difficult to use and the product itself is expensive, probably because of the design that is supposed to allow for squatting (which is a failed design).
Overall, this product feels like it’s attempting to do too much and leads to being half-useful for both. This is definitely not the best example of a good standing calf raise machine for your home gym!
7. Powertec Fitness Standing Calf Raise Machine
This is another product that attempts to do everything, but the foot positioning is far better. With a flat foot-support, it offers stability and comfort far beyond the previous product, making it the winner already.
However, it also gets a number of other functions right. Firstly, it’s less wobble-prone and doesn’t produce the same concerns for padding, as the design includes well-fitted shoulder pads. These transfer load evenly and reduce the risk of shoulder pain or discomfort.
The main concern for this product does revolve around the metal finish of the foot support, however. This is a slick finish and does not provide the grip necessary for the best results on a calf raise machine – this is easily solved with aftermarket grip, but it would be nice if the manufacturer would provide a rubber finish instead!
This is clearly the superior standing calf raise machine, but we’d love to see more examples of calf raise machines that focus on their one role – as the squat function really doesn’t work well with these products.
Seated Vs Standing Calf Raises: Which Is Best?
The big question with calf machines is whether you should be standing or seated. These machines come with significant differences and they provide different workouts based on your needs.
They also come at different costs to both space and cash. The seated calf machines tend to be smaller, costing less, while lever-loaded standing calf raise machines can get pretty expensive.
However, it’s also about the workout they provide. There are notable differences here and you can’t just look at how well they fit into your space/budget: the best product is the one that provides the best results when it comes to home calf workouts.
Standing Calf Raise Machines
These products tend to be larger and more expensive than their seated counterparts, though there are cheap and expensive examples of each.
From a training perspective, it’s probably better to use a standing calf machine if you’re more experienced. These provide a huge amount of axial loading (the kind that can compress the spine), and it may be safer and smarter to avoid it.
However, this kind of calf machine also tends to provide the opportunity for longer ranges of motion by not sticking you to the floor through the seating position. This allows for better training (since long, stretch-mediated movements produce better strength/muscle growth), and may improve tendon strength more than seated.
This is a relatively niche trade-off, however. Maximizing your results through longer ranges of motion is great, but the cost of increased risk of spinal compression/loading and the literal cost may be a serious cause for concern.
If you’re a beginner or you’re looking to make good (but not perfect) gains with a cheaper, smaller product, then you may be looking for a seated calf raise machine.
However, if you have plenty of experience, core strength, and a willingness to trade off cash and space for the best, you may look to the standing calf raise machine as the best choice.
Seated Calf Raise Machines
The seated calf raise is probably the right way to go for the beginner or journeyman in calf training.
It’s a standard, easy to use, safe machine that takes up less cost and space than the standing type. It’s important to get good results, but the seated calf raise machine provides a great home workout with less of the risks and costs we see with the standing version.
It’s not likely to be as effective when compared 1-1, but the price and serious logistics can be a worthwhile trade.
The seated position reduces the amount of control you have over the range of motion, but in doing so it reduces strain on the core and back. There’s very little you could possibly do wrong with a seated calf raise, so it’s a great place to start if you just need to add some direct training in your home gym.
For the average Joe that just wants to get better looking, fitter, and stronger, we think the seated calf raise is probably the right choice. This set of products has clear winners and losers (as we saw in the review section), but overall it provides a better “entry level” for calf training machines in a home gym.
What to Look For?
The best calf raise machine is a hard title to win, since it’s pretty hard to define.
You might already have some idea about what is important based on the reviews above, but we’re going to outline our criteria. We think this is key to understanding how to review calf raise machines for yourself and providing a good system for buying the best possible product.
There are a few key areas that are specific to the calf raise machine, and a few that are good sense when buying any piece of home workout equipment. We’ll speak in depth about the specific needs, but other considerations include cost, brand reputation, and customer service.
✓ Range of motion
A good range of motion is key to a good workout. Longer ranges that involve stretching and recruiting the tendons are key for maximizing strength and muscle growth.
The positioning of the foot supports, height from the floor, and the overall length of the lever-movement on the calf raise machine affects the “ROM”. This is key, since anything that inhibits a decent range of motion will reduce your results.
More ROM is always better for calf raise machines – you can always reduce the range, but you can’t add ROM if the design doesn’t allow it. This is also important for keeping ankles and knees healthy, so it’s important to consider!
✓ Comfort of use (esp. knees)
The comfort of the machine is key – problems like excessive stress through the knees or poor padding can make calf raises unbearable.
This is a problem we saw with products in the review section. Poor foot positioning in the design of a seated calf raise machine can easily lead to jamming the knees, excessive knee bend during the movement, or simply impacting the joints too much.
On the other hand, poor pad design is a problem in both seating and standing calf raise machines. This can lead to weighty metal supports resting on sensitive areas like the shoulders or top of knees.
Comfort is important since the calf raise only works with decent weights, so you’re going to want to invest in a product that shields you from the worst effects of these weights.
✓ Weight allowance/loading style
The amount of weight needed for a good calf raise is probably more than you can squat. This means that the weight allowance for a good calf raise machine needs to be well into the hundreds of pounds.
The lever length and reliability are key here, but manufacturers will let you know what their products are rated to safely hold. 500lbs and up is a rough guide for getting a good calf raise machine – depending on your own size and strength.
You don’t know how strong you’re going to get on this exercise, so be sure to give yourself room to grow. A better weight allowance usually speaks to a better build quality and is always a bonus no matter whether you’ll ever hit the limit.
Overall, we think that the best place to start is the end. Figure out what you want from a calf raise machine at home and work backwards.
There are great examples in these reviews, and we’ve pointed the way for finding the kind of calf raise machine that will suit you. For beginners, seated calf raise machines offer a great reliable experience, while top-quality standing calf raise machines are likely higher-performance, but also higher in risk and cost.
Our favorite overall product for performance is the Xmark Fitness seated calf raise machine, despite the fact that standing calf raise machines are generally more effective when used properly. We found this product to be a great example of what a seated calf raise machine should be! Simple, effective, and well-designed.
If you’re determined to get a standing calf raise machine (for some reason), we recommend looking towards the Powertec standing calf raise machine but being prepared to modify it. The grip for the feet is an important consideration so you want to anticipate improving that with your own aftermarket grip.
Calf machines are a great investment if you’re looking to build a well-rounded physique. We’ve covered a few examples today and we think we’ve highlighted some of the best models on the market.
Take a look through and let us know what you think, as well as any calf raise machines you’ve tried that stand out to you!