Discover different ways to do weighted calf raises and common questions around them to get bigger calves faster.
Some of the more popular and effective ways of doing standing weighted calf raises at the gym are with a calf raise machine, leg press, and smith machine.
At home, resistance bands are a good option for doing standing calf raises since you can loop them around your upper back and use your arms for balance.
To do seated calf raises with weights, a calf raise machine, smith machine, dumbbells, and potentially a barbell can help increase your gains.
With all these variations, you want to keep the general principles about how many calf raises you should do in mind.
That means you want to use resistance where you can barely complete 6 to 25 calf raises for 3 to 6 sets if muscle growth is your goal.
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1. Calf Raise Machine
Weighted calf raises are relatively hard compared to adding resistance to other exercises due to the balance involved.
That being said, if you want bigger calves, you will have to make things work anyway.
For example, by using a calf raise machine.
Calf raise machines basically come in two types: seated and standing.
In seated calf raise machines you have two soft pads connected to extra weights on top of your upper legs.
Standing calf raise machines implement something similar but with the soft pads resting on your shoulders.
Both types of calf raise machines typically have a built-in calf raise platform to increase the range of motion for the muscles.
These specific machines are typically the preferred ways of doing calf raises since they don’t require too much balance.
On the other hand, these machines are not always available and not that at-home friendly.
2. Leg Press Calf Raises
Leg presses are known as a compound leg gym machine exercise that does not involve too much balance or technique.
This concept comes in handy when doing calf raises with weights too.
Some leg press machines even have a separate edge for doing weighted calf raises.
On other models, you can potentially consider putting your feet at the edge for a bigger range of motion if the texture of the foot plate is not too slippery.
If the leg press machine you have available has one of these options for a bigger range of motion, leg press calf raises tend to be very effective.
This leg gym machine is relatively common and a bit more at-home-friendly too.
At the same time, most people will still need a gym subscription to be able to do this type of weighted calf raise.
This can be a downside if you are lacking time or resources.
3. Smith Machine Calf Raises
It is easy to forget about the smith machine when it comes to calf exercises but it can be great for this purpose.
Especially if you have a good calf raise platform and a pad for comfort, smith machines offer similar effects to standing calf raise machines.
That being said, many people will still go for one of the two previous options.
The main reason is that smith machines are not always available in the same numbers as the previous machines.
Even if you prefer the smith machine a bit more, being able to start your calf workout more quickly is likely more important.
4. Dumbbell Calf Raises
Dumbbell calf raises are somewhat more doable in the sense that they don’t require big gym machines.
At the same time, it is fair to say that dumbbells are not ideal for weighted calf raises either.
The elevated version where you stand on the edge of something can be relatively challenging in terms of balance.
This can interrupt your sets and slow down your calf workouts.
Another option is doing dumbbell calf raises on a flat floor.
This may require less balance but also involves a smaller range of motion. In turn, your gains will generally be slightly less optimal.
You could consider working one calf at a time too and balancing yourself with your free arm.
However, this would increase how long your calf raise workouts last.
When it comes to seated calf raises, dumbbells are a relatively good choice.
With both variations, the weight increments of dumbbells are on the higher side for calf training.
5. Barbell Calf Raises
Barbells are extremely versatile but for weighted calf raises they are far from ideal.
Similar to dumbbells, the free weight aspect of barbells makes them hard in terms of balance.
This is even more the case with this standing barbell calf exercise since you need both of your hands to hold the weight.
For seated calf raises, barbells can be a good choice.
Secondly, for calf training beginners, the 45 pounds (20 kg) of the bar alone could be too much for ideal set and rep ranges.
If you only have a barbell setup at home and want to train your calves, you can likely make something work.
At the same time, the average gym will likely have better equipment options when it comes to doing calf raises with weights.
6. Calf Raises With Weight Plates
The extra balance and minimum weight of barbell calf raises may sound worse than just holding a weight plate or two.
For a few very specific strength levels, this may indeed be the preferred way of doing weighted calf raises.
That being said, you also want to keep in mind that holding multiple weight plates is not ideal.
Your forearm grip muscles could fatigue too early.
Even if you have weight plates with handles.
In short, calf raises with weight plates are another example of a variation some people could make work but is far from ideal.
The seated version is not as suboptimal but not that great either.
Is it good to do weighted calf raises?
At a certain strength level it is good to do weighted calf raises since this enables more training progress, faster workouts, and better bone density.
How heavy should weights be for calf raises?
For a popular goal like muscle growth, weights for calf raises should be so heavy that you can only do 6 to 25 calf raises for 3 to 6 sets.
This could come down to 20 pounds (9.1 kg) for some people or 45 pounds (20 kg) and more for other people.
What muscles do weighted calf raises work?
Similar to regular ones, weighted calf raises mainly work your gastrocnemius (the upper calves) when standing up and soleus (lower and deeper calves) when sitting down.
Whether you work any forearm grip muscles or core muscles too depends on your choice of weights.
Can you do weighted calf raises at home?
Yes, even if it is not always ideal, you can do weighted calf raises at home.
Some of the more popular equipment options for this include resistance bands, a workout sandbag, and dumbbells.