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10 Effective Calf Exercises At Home

Most people know that you can build muscle at the gym. Luckily there are also exercises you can use to build bigger calves at home.

For most of these calf exercises, you would benefit from having fitness equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. However, you can also do most of them with objects you can find in most households or even without any equipment.

Even if you don’t have typical fitness “weights” objects like a backpack with heavy things in it and a grocery bag can work great to make a calf raise weighted at home. This can in turn lead to more and faster calf muscle gain compared to just using your body weight.

How heavy the weight you use should be, varies from exercise to exercise and individual to individual. If you are not sure which weight would be right for you, you can start with light weights and build up from there.

Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, your injury risk is generally also higher when you do exercises with more weight/resistance. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

1. Standing calf raises

To do a standing calf raise take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet pointing forward and at about shoulder width apart. If you want, you can hold any weights in your hands.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground with the help of your calf muscles as far as you safely can.
  3. Lower your body again in a controlled motion.

You can also do calf raises with the front of your feet on an edge or block. This allows you to go through a bigger range of motion. If you implement this variation take a break at the bottom of the movement so that you use your calf muscles and not your tendons to move upward.

If you do not have a lot of extra weights available but you do want to make standing calf raises more challenging, you can consider doing single-leg calf raises. For this variation, you do likely want something to hold for balance.

2. Seated calf raises

For this next calf exercise at home you want something at about knee height to sit on. A regular chair works fine. Once you have that, to do a seated calf raise take the following steps:

  1. Sit on the object with your upper legs and feet pointing forward. If you want to use any extra weights place them on your upper legs as close to your knees as possible without hurting yourself.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground with the help of your calf muscles as far as you safely can.
  3. Lower your heels again in a controlled motion.

There are different muscles in your calves. Doing standing calf raises mainly engages your gastrocnemius (the upper calves). Doing sitting calf raises mainly engages your soleus (lower and deeper calves).

Similar to standing calf raises you can put a stable object under the front of your feet so you can go through a bigger range of motion. If you do this take a very short break at the bottom of the movement to make sure your calf muscles are doing the movement.

3. Inward calf raises

To do an inward calf raise take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width apart and pointing at about 45-angle degrees inward. If you want, you can hold any weights in your hands.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground with the help of your calf muscles as far as you safely can.
  3. Lower your body again in a controlled motion.

The upper calve muscle, the gastrocnemius, has an inner and outer part. By pointing your feet inward, the calf raises focus more on the outer muscle head (outer part) of the calf muscle (1).

4. Outward calf raises

To do an outward calf raise take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width apart and pointing at about 45-angle degrees outward. If you want, you can hold any weights in your hands.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground with the help of your calf muscles as far as you safely can.
  3. Lower your body again in a controlled motion.

Similar to inward calf raises, the difference in foot position makes it so the calf exercise has a slightly different focus. Putting your feet in an outward position during calf raises makes it so you engage the inner part of your upper calf muscle more.

5. Seated band pushes

For seated band pushes you preferably want a resistance band. In theory you could also use a regular rope but this will be much more of a challenge to do right. Once you have one of these to do a seated band push take the following steps:

  1. Sit straight up on a flat surface, the ground works fine, with your legs stretched forward and against each other. Attach a resistance band to your upper feet in a safe way so that it doesn’t come loose during the rest of the exercise. Hold the other end of the resistance band with your hands at the desired tension.
  2. Push the front of your feet away from you as far as you safely can.
  3. Pull the front of your feet toward you as far as you safely can.

The main benefit of seated band pushes is that you do not need any type of platform to go through the full range of motion of a calf raise. Resistance bands may also be easier to reach your desired levels of resistance.

A potential downside is that you do have to make a small investment into a resistance band. If you plan to work out a lot at home resistance bands may be more than worth it. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used for a wide variety of exercises.

6. Box jumps

For this next exercise, you need an elevated platform that is strong and stable enough to jump on. An example of a suited object is a good plyo box. Make sure you pay attention to using the right technique to avoid any injuries.

For box jumps it is also smart to start with a low height and build up from there. Being too optimistic about your capabilities can be especially punishing when doing box jumps. To do a box jump take the following steps:

  1. Stand upright in front of the box with your feet at shoulder-width.
  2. Bend into about a quarter squat while you swing your arms back.
  3. Swing your arms to the front again and at the same time jump forward on top of the box. When landing you want to have your knees more or less at the quarter squat again. If you are squatted lower, this may be a sign the box is too high for your current jump level.

One of the movements your calf muscles play an important role in is jumping. By doing an exercise like box jumps you can train the explosiveness of your calf muscles.

If you don’t have a box or other surface you can also do a regular squat jump where you jump up in a similar way and land on the ground. This variation will be slightly harder on your knees and ankles.

7. Tiptoe walks

As you can expect from the name this next exercise is simply walking on the front of your feet with your heels in the air. Similar to standing calf raises you can hold weights in your hands or wear something like a weighted vest to make the exercise harder.

You can also describe the version of the tiptoe walk where you hold weights as a farmer’s walk on your toes.

8. Specific cardio workouts

If you are serious about building the most amount of calf muscle in the shortest amount of time spent exercising you likely want to stick to the resistance training exercises on this list.

There are however also cardio workouts that put your calves under a good amount of pressure. For resistance training beginners that alone may be enough to notice some calf muscle gains.

Some examples of these specific cardio workouts include jumping rope, jumping jacks, running with front foot landing (can be rough on your ankles), butt kicks, high knees, agility ladder drills, and stair climbing (especially if you only put your front feet on the steps).

If your ankles and other body parts are strong enough for it, you can consider doing something like jumping rope with weights to make the exercise more challenging for your calves.

9. Calf squats

Squats are a very popular leg exercise but this version is slightly different. To do a calf squat take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width. Raise your heels off the ground as far as you safely can.
  2. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  3. Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.

Squats are mostly done for strengthening your leg muscles. Even so, by changing the stance of your feet, you can make squats more of a calf exercise at home.

10. Calf holds

To do a standing calf raise take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet pointing forward and at about shoulder width apart. If you want, you can hold any weights in your hands.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground with the help of your calf muscles as far as you safely can.
  3. Hold this position for an extended period of time.

Calf holds are a type of isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot. On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that the other isotonic exercises on this list are likely better exercises for building bigger calf muscles at home.