Fitness Blog – Calf Raises


This is an exercise that isolates the calf muscles and depending on how you do it, has an element of balance in it as well. It hasn’t got the same level of applicability as jumping exercises for the sportsperson, but it does have its place in sports exercise programs.

To qualify this last statement it is because many people gain calf injuries competing in through the complete range of sports that I would add it into the program. You can have strong calves but weak ankles if you don’t use the element of balance, therefore the exercise is best done as demonstrated in the series of photos above.

Saying this, there are many ways to do the exercise and each way places a different emphasis upon the various muscle groups of the lower limb, including the muscles intrinsic to the feet. In the initial part of a rehab program it is best done on a leg press machine and using both legs at the same time, start the exercise from a quarter-squat position to bring the muscles supporting the knee into play. This way it also has more applicability to sports. Doing the exercise with both legs helps by sharing the loading over the injured and non injured legs.

Continuing on in the rehab program, you can progress by using just one leg at a time. After this in your next phase you would do it holding one dumbbell and holding the wall, or any stable structure, then continue onto the way as demonstrated above.

You can progress to using very heavy weights but I have noticed that people who do this often shorten the movement in that they don’t fully extend their calves at the top of the movement and/or they don’t go to the complete depth at the bottom. I suggest that you use a calf raise platform where you can touch your heels on the floor at the bottom of the movement. Then to progress, use a platform that enables you to go slightly lower and therefore a more complete movement before you progress to using heavier resistances. If you cannot demonstrate the full movement in every repetition, use a lighter resistance.

Another problem people have with this exercise is that they cannot control the movement, particularly when they progress onto the balanced versions. As I said in a previous blog on balance, to help stabilize the movement concentrate on balancing from the muscles intrinsic to the feet and focus on a point at head height in front of you. Building up to the balanced versions of the exercise will help in strengthening the smaller muscles around the ankles. In rehab programs add in jumping movements once your ankles have regained stability.

One last point: don’t do too many repetitions as when you get tired, you will tend to shorten the movement so suggested number of sets/ repetitions is 4 x 12.

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