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How to build strong calves?

Group of people exercising their legs doing cardio training in g

Developing your physique necessitates a lot of time as we’ve all come to realize. Unfortunately for those who want big and aesthetically pleasing legs, the calf muscle group is no different.

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More often than not calves are dependent on genetics. That is precisely the reason why some people who never do isolation exercises for their calves still have huge calves while others who put their blood and sweat into it see little to no results.

Now, this is no reason to simply give up on trying, is it? Of course not. We’re challenged by our bodies on every single corner and this is just another fight we have to take. Also, remember that while you may not have been given the gift of amazing calves, you might have a great core or some other body part. That’s just how nature works.

Before we venture into some of the exercises we highly recommend you try, we also want to give you a heads up on a couple of things.

For starters…

Calves are STRONG! They can take serious tension and heavy weight. However, that doesn’t mean they are impossible to overwork. You can go overboard with calves and suffer an injury as a result. To avoid that try finding a balance between volume and intensity.

Also, if you practice a sport and go to the gym simultaneously, you probably don’t need as much calf isolation. Keep that in mind when you’re making your next workout plan.

Lastly, as much as it is important to break down muscle tissue to make it stronger, you also want to stretch your muscles. Calves need to be elongated if you want to perform complex movements, such as a squat or a deadlift.

Let’s take a look at some of the exercises.

Single leg standing calf raise

Find a platform on which you’ll be performing the exercise. It should be slightly elevated from the ground because you will need to go down into the negative angle (for the deep stretch).

Next, stand with the ball of your left foot (mix them every set) on the surface with your right heel hanging off. On the next set, you will switch the feet and so forth. The key to this exercise is balance and stability so feel free to grab a bar or anything else you find close.

You can perform this exercise almost anywhere! All you need is a staircase or any sort of elevated surface.

Make sure not to cheat your way through the exercise by cutting the depth of the movement or by involving other muscles. Perform a full range of motion during each and every repetition. If you can’t then it means the set is over. Have a break and then go for another set.

You don’t need a lot of weight for this one. In fact, if this is your first time doing it you don’t need a dumbbell at all. Simply perform the exercise using your own weight. It will fatigue your calves if you do the exercise correctly.

The thing you also don’t need is speed. Keep your momentum slow and balanced out at all times. This way you ensure that you’re actually isolating the muscle group you want to work with, and in our case, it’s the calf.

Three sets of 10 to 15 reps should be the sweet spot when it comes to single-leg standing calf raises.

Toe raises

This is a tibialis anterior exercise. This specific muscle is located in the front of your shin and it tends to be highly undertrained with most athletes. People neglect the importance of this balance-making muscle. The tibialis is responsible for the stabilization of the ankle joints, therefore, we ought to have it developed.

Toe raises can be thought of as the inverted version of our previous exercise. Instead of standing on the ball of your feet, you should stand on the heel and raise your toes. Try raising them as high as your foot allows it.

Similar to the first exercise, start with whatever foot you like and switch it later. Anywhere between 10 and 15 reps will be sufficient to reach hypertrophy. Perform 3 sets for each foot and you’re good to go.

Jumping rope

The third calf-building exercise we recommend is jumping rope. This exercise will not only challenge your feet but your heart too since this is mostly a cardio exercise.

Jumping rope is a typical exercise many athletes such as MMA fighters like to incorporate inside of their workout regimen. No wonder! It is an interesting exercise because it involves coordination, stability, and precision. If you are new to this one then you will quickly find out what we mean. Mastering the rope can be one heck of a task.

However, the results can be very rewarding. Not only will you develop your endurance but your calves too.

Boxer jumping with skipping rope
Boxer jumping with skipping rope

Hold the rope handles right about your hips or slightly above/below, depending on your body type. Spin the rope above and under as you jump over the rope with both feet. It is easier to keep track of time with this one, so settle for time measurement with this exercise. Start with 30 seconds or a minute just to warm up. If you feel comfortable with more feel free to increase the time you spend jumping.


These three exercises should be more than enough for your calves to develop. If at any point you find yourself feeling saturated and bored, fear not. All of the above can be modified and tampered with. That’s what makes them so appealing.

For example, as you progress with the standing calf raises you can start adding dumbbells to your sets or you can bend your knees and perform the exercise that way. All of these will surprise your muscle and develop them further.

Jumping rope is no different. Once you master the basic form of the exercise you can start jumping with one leg, switching the speed of the rope movement, etc…

Remember that quality beats quantity any day. If you use too many exercises you won’t get that far. Rather, stick with a couple of exercises that provide good results. They can be the exercises which we’ve recommended or any other you manage to find. What matters is that you find your picks and work on those.

Have a great workout session!

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