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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Calf raises for every occasion

There are so many alternatives & modifications for this simple exercise, so here are some of our favourites & when we would use them.


🎯Single leg calf raises

Why? bread & butter here, but this simple exercise can take you far!


🎯Seated calf raise:

Why? In this position, it reduces the contribution of the gastrocs, so can be useful to isolate the soleus (lower calf).


🎯Standing calf raise with bent knee:

Why? Like the seated variation above, the standing version may also reduce the contribution of the gastrocs, but also research has shown it increases compressive loading on the tendon, so can be a good option in later-stage Achilles tendinopathy rehab. (Yeh 2021)


🎯Calf raises with Toes turned inwards:

Why? Targets the lateral (outer) calf muscles. (Nunes 2020)


🎯Calf raises with lateral foot unsupported:

Why? Again targets the outer calf, a good progression from the exercise above.


🎯Calf raises with Toes outwards:

Why? Targets the medial (inner) calf muscles. (Nunes 2020)


🎯Calf raises with medial foot unsupported:

Why? Again a progression on the above exercise targets the inner calf, but can also be good for those with a lack of big-toe mobility.


🎯Calf raises leaning into a wall:

Why? To help prepare the calves for change of direction. When on the leg nearest the wall it can accentuate the medial calf, & standing on the leg furthest from the wall can accentuate the lateral calf.


🎯Calf raises with all toes off a step:

Why? Reduces the involvement of the long flexors of the leg (flexor hallucis & flexor digitorum longus) & also useful for those with painful or stiff toes.


🎯Calf raises with toe extension:

Why? Increases the strain on the plantar fascia & toes, which can be useful for plantar heel pain or improving toe extension mobility.


🎯Calf raises into a wall:

Why? Can accentuate the horizontal forces required from the calves when running.


🎯Step up calf raises⁣:

Why? Again, accentuates the horizontal forces required from the calves when running.


🎯Donkey kick calf raises:

Why? Adds posterior chain tension for those with poor posterior chain flexibility or a feeling of generalized sensation of tightness in the calf. Also useful to prepare the runner for the demands placed on the calf & Achilles during uphill running.⁣

All of the above can be performed at different volumes, with added weight, or variations in speed ⁣to target desired strength qualities.


⁣👇Let us know which one is your favourite below!


👋Save this post for later & share the many ways we can work our calves!

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📚Reference⁣

  • Nunes JP, Costa BDV, Kassiano W, Kunevaliki G, Castro-E-Souza P, Rodacki ALF, Fortes LS, Cyrino ES. Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 Aug;34(8):2347-2351.

  • Yeh, C. H., et al. (2021). "Maximum dorsiflexion increases Achilles tendon force during exercise for midportion Achilles tendinopathy." Scand J Med Sci Sports 31(8): 1674-1682.

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