For many, calves are a hard muscle to build. For many guys, biceps and pecs are no problem! Quads and hamstrings – not easy but can be done if you don’t mind some painful squat workouts. But calves? They often seem very resistant to growth.

Ironically, a lot of people who have great calves don’t even train them, at least not directly. This is one of life’s cruel injustices. While there is no secret to calf training, the truth is that if what you are currently doing is not working  – it’s time to do something else. Doing more of what is currently not working will not suddenly start to produce the results you want.

So, instead of doing more of the same, shake up your calf training routine with these tips, hacks, and unusual exercises…


Calf training is normally relegated to the end of a leg workout. Instead of treating your calves like a ginger stepchild, make them your priority by training them every training day BEFORE you start your main workout. It doesn’t matter if it’s chest day or arms day – work your calves before you do anything else. 



Before the advent of the calf raise machine, this humorously-named exercise was the go-to calf exercise for generations of old school bodybuilders. Take a heavy dumbbell in each hand or rest and hold a barbell across your shoulders. Rise up into your tiptoes and then go for a walk around your training area.

Do not allow your heels to touch the floor. Continue until you are no longer able to stay up on your toes. Use heavy weights for this calf mass exercise.



To maximally target all the fibres in your calves, do low, medium and high reps – either in the same workout or across your workout week.

  • - Perform sets of 5 to 8 with very heavy weights for strength

  • - Perform sets of 9 to 12 with moderate weights for growth

  • - Perform sets of 13 to 20 with light weights for pump



Pause/pause reps are beastly tough because they extend your time under tension which is an important component for muscle growth. Make sure you ease into this technique gradually as being over-zealous could lead to very severe DOMS.

When doing any calf raise variation, pause in the stretched, heels down, position for a slow count of two AND then pause again when you are up on tip toes for the same two count. The first stretch dissipates elastic energy so each rep begins from a dead-stop while the pause at the top simply makes the exercise tougher by extending the time under tension even more.


There is no need to limit your calf training to the gym; you can easily work them at home too. Stand in front of a wall and balance on one leg. Place your hands on the wall for balance. Push up onto your toes and then lower your heel back down to the floor. Continue until you are unable to do any more reps, then switch legs without rest. Continue this back and forth until you have completed five sets.

By the last set or two, your rep count will be pretty low. Do this mini-workout on non-training days when you need an extra calf pump.



Half range reps will produce half-assed results. Make sure that when working your calves, you lower your heels as far down as you can and you push up as high as you can onto your toes. The exception to this rule being the exercise described in the home calf workout and goose steps. You’ll also get more from calf raises if you go barefoot. Some gyms will not allow this but you can always do the home workout without shoes for better results.



Jumping works your calves explosively – arguably what they were designed to do. Include some jumping exercises in your calf workouts. You can do jumps before your regular calf exercises or after. Good choices include:

  1. 1. Vertical jumps

  2. 2. Box jumps

  3. 3. Hurdle jumps

  4. 4. Long jumps

  5. 5. Hopping

  6. 6. Jumping rope

Go for maximum height/distance in all exercises except jump rope. For jump rope, alternate legs so you are hopping. Do 20 on your left and then 20 on your right. Next, do 19 on your left and 19 on your right. Keep decreasing the rep count by one until you reach zero.


Walking up a steep hill provides your calves with a real slow burn workout. You can do this on a treadmill set to 10-degrees or more, or outside in the “real world” as preferred. Make sure you push your heels down and then roll off your toes on each and every step. This provides a great finisher to a calf workout or you can do it on your day off for an extra lower leg training session.

Speed is not the important thing here – focus on a full range of movement and really pushing off your big toe. Wear a loaded backpack to make this exercise harder.


When you perform seated calf raises, the bend in your knees slackens off your gastrocnemius muscle, which is the bigger of the two muscles that make up your calves, so your lower calf muscle, the soleus, does more of the work.

However, when you do standing calf raises, the straight position of your knee means gastrocnemius is back in full effect.

Performing a seated-standing calf raise superset allows you to pre-exhaust soleus and then use gastrocnemius, which is relatively fresh, to push your calves even harder than usual. Simply do your set of seated calf raise and then quickly hobble over to the standing calf raise and do your second set. Rest a moment and then repeat this pairing!

Bro-science aside, this is a great way to get a major pump which will help stretch the fascia or fibrous sheath that encases your muscles allowing them more space to grow.

There you go – nine ways to make your calves grow. You might be wondering why there is no mention of pointing your toes in or out to work different parts of your calves. The reason for this omission is that doing so has no effect on your calves as the change in angle originates at your hip and not your ankle. The direction in which you turn your hip will have no significant impact on your calf development. Keep your feet facing straight ahead for best calf training results!


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