8 Best Calf Exercises For Better Lower Body Support

by Evelyn Valdez

When you think of your lower body muscles, you probably think of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, which are the biggest muscles in the area. But your calves also need some love since they offer great support in many strength training and cardio movements, as well as in your daily life!

Because they’re so far down in your body, a lot of lower-body exercises are not very good at targeting them since they primarily recruit your bigger muscles for the movement. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! There are many effective exercises that isolate your calves or work them together with other muscles for a more well-rounded routine.

In this article, we’ll show you the best exercises for calves that you can add to your strength training days, both for beginners and more advanced lifters so you can choose according to your current fitness level and make progress as you go!

Single-leg calf raises

Calf raises are the most popular calf workouts out there – and for a good reason! They specifically target your calves, stretching and isolating them so that all of the tension goes to that area. This single-leg variation is a great way for beginners to start building functional calf strength!

How to do it:

  1. Find an elevated platform and stand on it with the balls of your feet, leaving your heels hanging off the edge of the platform.
  2. Leave your right foot on the platform and cross your left foot behind your right leg, so that you’re only standing on one leg.
  3. Begin the movement by pressing through the ball of your foot and lifting your right heel so that you’re standing on your toes. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand for added resistance.
  4. Squeeze your calf at the top of the movement, then lower your heel to go back to the starting position and repeat.
  5. Finish your reps and switch to the opposite side.

Barbell calf raises

This is an advanced variation of the calf raise, adding a barbell to the movement for maximum resistance. It’s the preferred variation of active weightlifters because of how effective it is at building strong and sculpted calves!

How to do it:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on a squat rack and stand in front of it with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Step under the barbell and grab it with an overhand grip, placing the bar over your traps, just under your neck.
  3. Unrack the bar and take a step back, as if you were preparing for a back squat, then begin the movement by lifting your heels off the floor until you’re standing on your toes.
  4. Squeeze your calves in this top position, then slowly bring your heels back down and repeat.

Farmer’s carry on tiptoes

The standard farmer’s carry is a great exercise for your shoulders, core, and grip strength since you’re carrying a pair of kettlebells, but that resistance can also work your calves by standing on your toes while walking. You can also opt for a pair of dumbbells to begin with!

How to do it:

  1. Grab a couple of kettlebells and hold one in each hand, then stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your heels off the floor so that you’re standing on your toes and begin by walking forward in a straight line. Make sure you don’t hit the sides of your legs with the kettlebells.
  3. Walk in 15-second intervals until you’ve completed your reps.

Jump rope

While jumping rope is generally regarded as a cardio exercise, it’s also great for building muscle, particularly on your lower body. The jumping motion activates your calves and gives them a great dynamic workout that anyone can do!

How to do it:

  1. Find a jump rope and hold the ends on each hand so that the rope is behind you. You can choose a weighted rope for added resistance to your session.
  2. Lift your forearms so that your elbows are pointing down and begin the movement by rotating your wrists, bringing the rope over your head and down in front of you, then jump.
  3. For better calf activation, jump with the balls of your feet and land on them each time, without ever resting your heels on the floor.
  4. Keep the movement swift and controlled for the desired amount of time without jumping too high to avoid exhausting yourself too quickly.

Box jumps

This popular HIIT exercise is a killer movement for your calves because of how explosive it is. It requires enough lower-body strength and overall power to perform it correctly, which is why it’s considered an intermediate to advanced exercise that you can work your way up to with other jumping exercises.

How to do it:

  1. Find a plyo box or another elevated surface that’s around knee height and stand upright in front of it with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure the box is secure so it doesn’t slip when you jump on it.
  2. Bend at the knees slightly and begin the movement by explosively jumping on the box. Swing your arms to help propel you and make sure to land on the balls of your feet for a smooth landing.
  3. Without missing a beat, reverse the movement by jumping back down, always keeping a slight bend on your knees, and repeat for the desired reps.

Lateral lunge to curtsy

This is one of the most complicated movements on this list, but it definitely pays off! It not only targets your calves, but your glutes, quads, and hamstrings too since you’ll be using your whole lower body to change positions.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and a weight in your hands if you want to make it more challenging.
  2. Begin by stepping to the side with your right foot, hinging at the hips, and flexing your knee as you lower yourself as much as you can without losing your balance.
  3. From this lateral lunge position, push through your right foot to go back to the standing position. Immediately bring your right foot back and to the left, right past your left foot as you lower yourself while bending both knees.
  4. With your left thigh almost parallel to the floor and your right knee almost touching it, squeeze your working muscles, then go back to the standing position and repeat with the opposite side, alternating legs each rep.

Jumping jacks

Another jumping exercise, this time more beginner-friendly so you can improve your jumping power and cardiorespiratory endurance. Any jumping exercise will give your calves a great workout, so don’t be afraid to go back to the basics, they’re still super effective!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet close together and your arms to your sides.
  2. Begin the movement by jumping out with your feet as you bring your arms up to your sides simultaneously so that your hands touch overhead
  3. For better calf activation, jump with the balls of your feet and land on them each time, without ever resting your heels on the floor.
  4. Reverse the movement by bringing your arms down and jumping your feet back together, and repeat for the desired reps.

Clean pull

Finishing strong, the clean pull is an explosive exercise for advanced lifters because of how challenging it is. It involves the classic clean movement, except that you will be on your toes at the top of the movement.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight in front of a loaded barbell on the floor, and place your feet hip-width apart under the bar.
  2. Hinge at the hips and slightly at the knees to grab the bar with both hands in an overhand grip wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keeping a straight back, begin the movement by pulling from the bar and explosively lifting it. When the barbell goes past your knees, use the power of the moving weight to stand on your toes until your body is upright again and the bar is touching your thighs.
  4. From this calf raise position, squeeze your working muscles, then slowly bring the bar back down under control and repeat.

Train your calves for better, well-rounded lower body results

Your legs are in charge of supporting your whole body when you’re standing and performing a wide number of exercises, so make sure you don’t neglect any lower-body muscle group, like your calves. A good mix of different compound and isolated exercises can help you grow and strengthen these muscles in no time, you just need to put the time and effort into it!

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