Calves form the most visible part of the leg and strong, muscular calves are found among very few people, usually only those who have trained hard to make some serious gains in this part of the body. The following are the best calf exercises dedicated towards developing bigger and stronger calves and defining them to the hilt:
1. Smith Machine Calf Raises
For doing this exercise, you need to be familiar with using the Smith Machine. This machine offers more stabilization and thus, ensures greater safety. This machine ensures that your chances of falling backwards are almost nil. It also helps to engage more body-weight into the exercise. Ensure that you are using a stable platform before you head towards un-racking the bar. Once you are sure about the platform, ensure that one heel of the shoe is hanging from the back of your platform. This ensures that you can fully stretch. This means better extension of the calf muscles when moving them up and back. Doing this exercise comes almost naturally since the machine itself explains the way in which you should be positioned and every time you rise off the platform, you can feel the calves being worked upon.
2. Seated Calf Raises
Using the Smith Machine, you need to seat yourself rather than stand. Here, it is vital to ensure that your legs are planted and you get a good grip. For doing so, you have to lock the knees a bit below/beyond the padded part of the machine. Your heels should be positioned such that they are far away from the platform and your calves are stretched to the maximum. In this stance, you are bound to feel the flexed calves and they might feel sore but this is how seated calf raises are done. It is advisable to do your basic warming-up repeatedly, particularly for the lower legs, before attempting this. Try to start off with limited load so that your calves aren’t strained too much. When your calves are bent downwards let the stretch before bringing them back. For gaining results through seated calf raises, higher reps are needed and thus, you should be prepared to spend some dedicated time in the gym.
3. Donkey Calf Raises
The Old School bodybuilders from the 60s to the 70s depended upon Donkey Raises for maximizing the volume on their calves. These are ideally done with a training partner or a spotter—this is the classic calf exercise with which you cannot go wrong. You need the Smith machine here and when you get onto it, position the feet spread about at your shoulder’s width. You need to be leaning forward a bit with your elbows and the forearms, using the padding that should be facing you head-on. You should have a good arch in the spine but not a hunch. This means that your butt would be pushing against the padded back lever that has a spring-like system within it and moves up and down with your body, i.e. every time you try to raise it with your bums. The idea is to use your bums as the medium for moving upwards, i.e. the force comes from the calves and not the hips. It’s a bit difficult to ensure that your glutes are not engaged when you try this for the first time but it can be done after a few attempts.
4. Standing Calf Raises (DB)
You can get started by getting hold of a dumbbell. It is better to begin with lighter weights since it takes time to get accustomed to the range-of-motion involved here. You need just one dumbbell for this exercise. Hold your chosen dumbbell in one hand. Ensure that you are standing on a stable, plain platform. The back of your heels should be hanging off a bit, i.e. they should be slightly pushed into the air, off the platform. This is vital to get the right kind of extension and stretch in your calves. Since you have one hand engaged and one free, use the free hand for holding onto something for better balance.
5. Toe Pushes or Single Leg Calf Presses
To attempt this exercise, you need to understand the dynamics of the right posture/stance. You should get started by searching for a seated sled machine or any other variation of the leg press machine that is located in a non-congested manner. Ensure that you have minimal bending in your knees as you try to do the conventional leg calf press when standing on this platform. However, you need to do something more for making this a better challenge for your toes and thus, your calves. You need to un-rack the weight by exerting your legs outwards. This creates a fuller extension in your legs. Using a single leg at a time means that you are concentrating more on the muscle groups of a single leg rather than distributing the workload among your two legs. When attempting this exercise, ensure that your ankles are extended to the fullest. For this, your toes should be pointing away from your body. The flexing part comes-in when you flex the ankles. This is done by pointing the toes backwards, i.e. in the direction of your head. This should make you feel that your calves are being really stretched. This entire range of motion is just one rep and when done with heavier weights, this exercise is ideal for bulking-up your calves.