Don’t have access to a seated calf raise machine? Bored of doing seated calf raises? Need to spice up your leg day? Then this article is for you! In this article I will be going over the top alternative exercises to seated calf raises, and how to do them.
As the name suggests, seated calf raises target your calf muscles.
The calf muscle is made up of two components – the soleus and the gastrocnemius, which taper and come together at the bottom of the calf. Seated calf raises target both parts of your calf muscle, with slightly more focus on soleus due to having bent knees throughout the exercise.
If growing your calves is the aim of your game, you should be training both parts of your calf muscle through a range of calf exercises. Below you will find a list of some of the best exercises for your calves that you can do in place of, or as well as, seated calf raises.
1. Single Leg Standing Calf Raises
Single leg calf raises are great for building equal strength, flexibility, and size through your left and right calves. This exercise can, for the most part, be done using just your body weight.
- Stand on the edge of a step on one leg.
- Hold onto something to stabilize yourself.
- Lower the heel of your working leg towards the ground, then push up onto your tip toes.
- Hold for a second in the top position, where the calf muscle is fully contracted.
- Do all repetitions on one leg before changing sides.
Suggested reps: 12 to 15
2. Tip Toe Farmers Walk
This exercise is like the traditional farmers carry with the only difference being that you are walking on your tip toes instead of on your full foot.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand on extended arms by your sides.
- Push up onto your tip toes and take moderate, controlled steps forward for the desired amount of time/distance.
- Keep a soft bend in the knees throughout this exercise and don’t put your heels on the ground at any stage. This will encourage your soleus to work.
Suggested time or distance: 40 meters or 30 seconds
3. Squat Hold Calf Raises
This makes for a perfect alternative to the seated calf raise because of the position of your knees. Plus, it will work your butt too – what’s not to like?
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and arms out in front of you or on your hips.
- Go down into a squat and hold at the bottom of the position.
- Whilst in the squat position, push up onto your tip toes and then back down to the ground.
- Repeat all repetitions (without coming out of the squat).
Suggested reps: 15 to 20
Pro Tip: Place a weight plate under your toes to create a greater range. For this version, you may need to hold onto something to stabilize yourself.
4. Agility Ladder – Side Straddle Hop
One of the most overlooked training tools for one’s calves is the agility ladder. And the best part about agility ladders is you don’t even need one – you can just imagine one! The side straddle hop is a simple agility drill that hits your calves hard. But there are many versions, so get experimental with your agility ladder… or an imaginary one.
- Stand at the end of the agility ladder with your feet together.
- Hop your legs to the outside of the first box of the ladder, then hop your feet together into that box.
- Hop to the outside of the next box, and then hop your feet together – and so on and so forth!
Suggested reps: 2 x full lengths of the agility ladder/30 in and out steps
Pro tip: work on getting these done as quickly as you can!
5. Smith Rack Calf Raises
The smith rack provides stability, which means doing your calf raises in the smith rack allows you to load the exercise up, more than you would if you were using free weight. This makes it a very popular option for training calves.
- Set the bar at shoulder height.
- Stand with the front half of your feet on a step inside the smith rack machine.
- Load the bar onto your upper back/traps and unclip it from the rack.
- Lower your heels down towards the floor then push up onto your toes – holding for a second at the top.
- Don’t lock out your knees at any stage of the exercise.
Suggested reps: 8 to 12
6. Jump Rope
The jump rope is a perfect exercise for creating those shredded, heart-shaped calf muscles we all yearn for! What’s more – the jump rope provides endless variations to keep you challenged. Plus, it gives you a cardio workout at the same time! Winning! For the purpose of this article, I’m focussing on the basic jump rope style.
- Make sure the rope is the appropriate length for you. (Find the best jump ropes here)
- Stand with your feet and knees together.
- Flick the rope over your head and pass it under your feet by pushing off your toes into a gentle, but quick hop.
- Keep your feet and legs together as you jump.
- Land with soft knees – don’t lock out.
Suggested time: 30 seconds at a time until you are well conditioned for using the jump rope.
As you can see, there are plenty of exercises that you can do as well as, or in place of, seated calf raises. All the above-mentioned exercises are bound to get your calves firing and, combined with good nutrition, will see you making some calf size and strength gains!
Remember when training any muscle group effectively, it is important to hit the muscles from a variety of angles and intensities. So, be sure to test out as many of these as you can, and play around with weight, tempo and reps.
Did I miss anything? Let me know of your favorite seated calf raise alternative in the comments section below!