16 Best Calf Exercises and Workouts for Men


Calf exercises are often looked upon as the vainest of workout routines. It seems all they do is spruce up a muscle for seemingly cosmetic purposes. But in reality, they serve as a signal of sorts, letting other dudes know that you’re a next-level fitness freak.

Whether you’re trying to impress the other meatheads, improve overall health, or simply add more definition to those sexy legs, you have plenty of reason to practice calf workouts on a regular basis. “Classic exercises like squats and lunges will also target calves, in addition to all the major lower-body muscles,” says personal trainer Sam Downing. Check out these calf workouts and training exercises for the best calves around.

Best Calf Exercises and Workouts for Men

1. Standing Barbell Calf Raise

Easily ranking amongst the best calf exercises for men, this one brings a barbell into the mix. Here’s how to execute:

  • Stand tall and support a barbell on your upper back, with your toes facing forward
  • Raise both heels and contract your calves on each leg
  • Gradually return to the starting position and repeat

Reps: 10-15 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45 seconds between each set

2. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

You’ll need both a weight plate and a dumbbell for this one. Here we go:

  • Place the weight plate on the floor
  • Sit at the end of a bench and rest your toes on top of the weight plate
  • Put a dumbbell on your knee, holding the handle with your right hand while your left hand holds the top
  • Raise your toes as high as you can without lifting them off the plate
  • Hold for a moment, lower your toes, and repeat

Reps: 15-20 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45 seconds between each set

Want to take your fitness to the next level? Check out all our medically reviewed fitness guides and workout plans

3. Seated Calf Raise (Leg Press Machine)

This popular calf exercise requires a leg press machine. Here’s how to execute:

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  • Sit at the leg press machine in a manner where just the top part of each foot is touching the bottom of the platform in front of you
  • Push back as far as you can while keeping your toes connected to the platform
  • Return and repeat

Reps: 15-20 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45 seconds between each set

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4. Farmer’s Walk (on Tiptoes)

More than one of the best calf workouts, this exercise will improve upon things like grip strength, balance, and overall muscle. Let’s get into it:

  • Pick up a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and hold them at your sides
  • Get on your tippy-toes and walk forward as fast as you can for as far as you can go, taking short steps
  • Use a lighter weight to sustain balance and add more weight as you progress

Distance: as far as you can go
Number of sets: 2-3
Recovery: 2-3 minutes between each set

5. Box Jumps

This workout builds strength all over your legs, calves included. Do the following:

  • Find a secure box and stand a short distance away from it, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Drop into a quarter squat and swing your arms as you powerfully jump onto the box — land on your whole foot (not just with your toes on the edge)
  • Land softly and step backward, maintaining a tight sense of form and control

Distance: 3-5 reps per set
Number of sets: 2-3
Recovery: 45-60 seconds between each set

6. Jumping Jacks

As it turns out, this fitness classic is also one of the best calf exercises you can perform. Here’s a refresher:

  • Stand upright with your feet together and your arms at your sides
  • Simultaneously jump and spread your legs while clapping your hands above your head
  • Jump again as you return to the starting position
  • Repeat

Distance: 20-25 reps per set
Number of sets: 3-5
Recovery: 45-60 seconds between each set

7. Seal Jumps

This is basically an alternative to standard jumping jacks. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start in jumping jack formation
  • When you jump, move each arm out to either side instead of moving them overhead — keep your hands at eye level
  • Jump again and clap your hands in front of you, keeping your movements fast and sharp
  • Repeat

Distance: 20-25 reps per set
Number of sets: 3-5
Recovery: 45-60 seconds between each set

8. Single-Leg Calf Raise

The beauty of even the best calf workouts is that they seem pretty basic compared to most modern exercises. Proving as much is the single-leg raise, which entails the following moves:

  • Stand atop an elevated surface like a block, rail, or step
  • Raise one leg and rest your weight on the ball of the other foot (which is still on the surface)
  • Wrap your raised leg around the fixed leg and lower your body toward the floor, stretching your calf in the process
  • Hold for a moment before thrusting upward on the ball of your foot, raising your heel
  • Hold at the top before returning to the starting position
  • Repeat

Reps: 15-20 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45 seconds between each set

9. Lateral Lunge to Curtsy

Okay, so maybe not every calf exercise is all that simple. For example, this one requires some nifty lower body movement and can be performed either with or without a weight (plate, dumbbell, etc). Beware of this move if you have knee or ankle issues. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand upright holding a weight plate, dumbbell or kettlebell
  • Move your right foot to the side while hinging your hips back as you form a lateral lunge
  • Push off the right foot and rise upward to the standing position, simultaneously bringing your right leg into a curtsy lunge behind your left leg
  • Switch legs for a full rep
  • Repeat

Reps: 10-12 reps per set
Sets: 2-3
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

10. Agility Ladder

If you can’t find an agility ladder, try to create one using tape or chalk. Then bring out your inner football player by doing the following:

  • Place the agility ladder on the floor and stand at one end
  • Run or hop from one end of the agility ladder to the other
  • Walk back to the starting position and repeat

Reps: 10-12 reps per set
Sets: 2-3
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

11. Bosu Ball Squat

In case it’s not yet obvious, you’ll need a Bosu ball for this advanced exercise. Don’t add weights until you’ve mastered the body-weight version. Now do the following:

  • Place the Bosu ball on the ground, dome-side down
  • Stand on the ball and keep your balance. “If you’re struggling to stand on the Bosu, place one foot on it and press that foot to the floor. Then place your other foot on it till you find your balance,” says personal trainer Sam Downing
  • Lower into a squat position without losing control
  • Stand and repeat

Reps: 10-12 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

12. Seated Band Pushes

This excellent calf exercise will help you build explosive power through progressive resistance. Grab the resistance band and perform the following steps:

  • Sit on the ground with your feet straight out in front of you
  • Place one end of a looped resistance band around the balls of your feet and hold the other end in your hands, keeping the band tight
  • Bend your ankle so as to push against the resistance band, thereby flexing your calves
  • Return to the starting position and repeat

Reps: 15-25 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

13. Explosive Calf Step-Up

Work the legs, calves, and ankles with this exercise. You’ll need a box or bench or something to step onto. Here’s how to get it done:

  • Place one foot on the box or bench surface, leaving the other foot on the ground
  • Drive upward off the elevated foot, jumping into the air and ideally switching feet as you come down
  • Switch legs for a complete rep
  • Repeat

Reps: 15-25 reps per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

14. Static Neutral Hold

This isometric exercise works the calf muscles and improves ankle flexibility. Feel free to use an elevated surface like a box or block. Do the following:

  • Holding onto something for support, place the balls of your feet on top of the block
  • Keep most of the weight on the balls of your feet
  • Straighten your ankles and flex your calves
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds

Reps: 30-60 seconds
Sets: 3-4
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

15. Jump Rope

Here’s another fitness classic that also happens to be a solid calf exercise. Grab a jump rope and do the following:

  • Hold each end of the jump rope in either hand
  • Swing the rope and jump as the rope passes under your feet

Reps: 30-40 seconds per set
Sets: as many sets as you can do in five minutes
Rest: 30 seconds between each set

16. Hill Runs

Take the action outdoors by finding a nearby hill. Then do the following:

  • Sprint uphill in a 20-second dash
  • Walk or jog back down
  • Repeat

Reps: 20-second sprint
Sets: 5-6
Rest: none between each set

Weights for Calf Exercises

Onnit Color-coded Kettlebells and Gorilla Primal Bell | Image: Onnit


One of the most effective pieces of equipment to use during any explosive workout is a kettlebell. These versatile and compact weights come in a myriad of sizes and styles, and can easily be substituted as you grow in strength and stamina. We recommend buying a This Fitness App Grants Access to 50+ Gyms in Sydney to begin with — that way you can ensure you have the right weight for each individual exercise. Once you have a decent selection to choose from, you can start specialising with custom designs like Onnit’s 70lb Darth Vader kettlebell.

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Product image of Athleteus Adjustable Dumbbell Sets with plain white background
Athleteus Adjustable Dumbbell Sets | Image: Gym Direct


Dumbbells have remained a staple of bodybuilding gyms for decades, and for good reason. The versatile piece of equipment can be used for a vast number of calf exercises or utilised for a killer arm workout. For those looking to purchase their own dumbbells, we recommend considering an adjustable dumbbell set. This way you don’t have to buy new dumbbells each time you outgrow a weight class; you simply add more weight and push your limits.

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General FAQ

Is it OK to train calves everyday?

While it’s important to stretch your calves on a regular (i.e. daily) basis, you don’t want to overwork this muscle group. Start with 3 calf workouts per week and see where it takes you

Does walking make calves bigger?

Regular walking won’t do much to increase calf size. For that, you’ll need to implement an intensive calf workout routine.

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Last medically reviewed on 7 July 2022

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Jacob Osborn

Staff Writer

Jacob Osborn

Jacob Osborn is an accomplished author and journalist with over 10 years of experience in the media industry. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and co-authored a Young Adult novel through Simon & Schuster. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Jacob specialises in entertainment, technology and alcohol reporting. You might find him crate-digging at the nearest record store or sampling whisky at the nearest bar. He daydreams of travelling around the world, but for now, the world will have to come to him by way of lifestyle products, gear, gadgetry, and entertainment. Let’s call it a happy compromise while he saves up for the next big trip.

Source link: https://manofmany.com/lifestyle/fitness/best-calf-exercises-workouts by Jacob Osborn at manofmany.com