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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Calf Raises: Knee Bent vs. Knee Straight

Updated: Jan 16

🐮Calf Raises: Knee Bent vs. Knee Straight 🏋️‍♀️

Ever wondered how your calf raise technique can impact different muscles in the calf group? Let's explore the science behind knee-bent vs. knee-straight calf raises! 🦵💡

🔍 Muscle Trio:

The calf muscle group comprises three main players – the medial gastrocnemius, the lateral gastrocnemius, & the soleus.

Bent knee calf raises

📉 Decreased electromyographic (EMG) activity in the gastrocnemius at greater knee flexion angles (more knee bend) (Arampatzis 2006)

🩹Standing with a bent knee increases strain on the Achilles tendon. Yeh (2021) notes that a bent knee allows for a greater ankle dorsiflexion range. Fonaro (2022) supports this, demonstrating higher strain in the soleus component of the Achilles tendon during bent knee calf raises.

Straight knee calf raises

🚀Reid's (2012) and Signorile's (2002) findings indicate significantly higher gastrocnemius activity in the extended knee condition, while soleus muscle activity remains constant across joint positions.

Contrary to the belief that a specific knee flexion position selectively targets a single muscle, Hébert-Losier (2011) argues that no knee flexion position is exclusively selective to the soleus (SOL), medial gastrocnemius (GM), or lateral gastrocnemius (GL) alone.


  • 🔑Soleus activity is unchanged by differing knee flexion angles

  • 🔑Gastrocs activity is decreased with more knee bend

Clinical implications

  • Why not both? We suggest utilizing both exercises to provide diverse stimuli to the calf & Achilles tendon

  • For early gastrocnemius strains, opt for seated or bent knee calf raises initially, gradually progressing to standing, straight leg variations.

  • To manage Achilles tendinopathy, consider progressing to bent knee variations (seated or standing) to intensify the strain on this structure.

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  • Arampatzis, A., et al. (2006). "Effect of different ankle- and knee-joint positions on gastrocnemius medialis fascicle length and EMG activity during isometric plantar flexion." J Biomech 39(10): 1891-1902.

  • Funaro, A., et al. (2022). "Subject-Specific 3D Models to Investigate the Influence of Rehabilitation Exercises and the Twisted Structure on Achilles Tendon Strains." Front Bioeng Biotechnol 10: 914137.

  • Hébert-Losier, K., et al. (2011). "Peak triceps surae muscle activity is not specific to knee flexion angles during MVIC." J Electromyogr Kinesiol 21(5): 819-826.

  • Reid, D., et al. (2012). "Electromyographic analysis of an eccentric calf muscle exercise in persons with and without Achilles tendinopathy." Phys Ther Sport 13(3): 150-155.

  • Signorile, J. F., et al. (2002). "Selective recruitment of the triceps surae muscles with changes in knee angle." J Strength Cond Res 16(3): 433-439.

  • 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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