The standing calf raise is a classic bodybuilding move, and with good reason!
This exercise is simple to perform, requires no equipment other than a barbell and/or weight plate or two, and will significantly strengthen your lower legs.
take a look at how to do this exercise properly and talk through some of its variations and alternatives.
What is the Standing Calf Raise?
The exercise is a lower body isolation exercise that builds strength and muscle. They can be performed with either a barbell, dumbbells and any other odd object.
- What is the Standing Calf Raise?
- What Muscles Does the Standing Calf Raise Work?
- Standing Calf Raise Benefits
- How to do standing calf raises with proper form
- Can you Do Standing Calf Raises with a Smith Machine?
- Can you Do Standing Calf Raises with Dumbbells?
- Standing Calf Raise alternatives
- Standing Calf Raise Variations
- Can Beginners do Standing Calf Raises?
If you have never done this before, or if you want to make sure that you do it safely, we recommend using this equipment until your form is perfect and there’s no doubt about how much weight you should use for each set of repetitions and sets.
What Muscles Does the Standing Calf Raise Work?
A seemingly simple question, the answer is more complex.
The muscles targeted by this exercise are the soleus and gastrocnemius. The soleus is primarily responsible for decelerating your body as you walk or run, so it’s important to target that muscle if you want to improve your ability to stop quickly.
The gastrocnemius acts as a plantar flexor of the ankle joint, meaning it helps you point your toes downward. Both muscles are located on the posterior side of your lower leg, which is why they can get worked during standing calf raises.
The other two small muscles involved in this movement are also posterior: tibialis anterior and plantaris.
Tibialis anterior acts as an antagonist against extensor digitorum longus (EDL), which means it helps extend your toes back into position after they’ve been flexed upward by EDL contraction.
Plantaris is located near the Achilles tendon; its role in walking/running mechanics isn’t well understood yet but some researchers believe its primary function may be stabilizing internal rotation at the knee joint.
Standing Calf Raise Benefits
This exercise is one of the most effective ways to strengthen and develop your calves. It’s also great for improving balance and posture, as well as cardiovascular health.
They can increase lower body strength, coordination, balance, muscle tone and endurance.
How to do standing calf raises with proper form
To do this exercise, you will need to stand on a step or platform with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight and focus on pushing through the heels of your feet rather than rolling up onto the balls of your feet.
Keep your knees slightly bent and avoid allowing your heels to rise off the floor throughout this exercise.
Can you Do Standing Calf Raises with a Smith Machine?
Yes, you can do the exercise with a Smith machine.
The Smith machine is an adjustable barbell device that allows you to perform exercises with no risk of dropping the weights.
It’s especially helpful for beginners and people with injuries, as it enables them to focus on form without worrying about dropping heavy weights on themselves.
You can also use the smith machine for many different kinds of upper body movements like shoulder presses and squats as well as lower body movements like leg presses and squats.
Can you Do Standing Calf Raises with Dumbbells?
Yes, simply load them up onto your shoulders or keep them in a front rack position and you are good to go.
Standing Calf Raise alternatives
Any squat will test (but not isolate) and improve the calves.
- Back squat
- Front Squat
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Hack Squat
- Zercher Squat
Standing Calf Raise Variations
The best way to vary the exercise is to switch up the load.
- With dumbbells
- With kettlebells
- With sandbags
- With barbell in the front rack position
Can Beginners do Standing Calf Raises?
This is an exercise that can be done by beginners.
The key to getting the most out of this move is starting with body weight-based resistance and then working your way up to heavier weights. If you’re just starting out, try the following:
- Stand on the balls of your feet while keeping the toes straight ahead.
- Bend both knees slightly and lower yourself down until you feel tension in your calves but not pain or discomfort.
- Keep your upper body upright throughout (don’t lean forward).
The standing calf raise is an isolation exercise that strengthens the calves.
It can be a good way to target an often undertrained body part that will help improve the power and strength of the lower body in general.