We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

7 Exercises to Build Your Calves

Woman doing calf raises in front of a white wall.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Leg days are all about building your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, but adding a few exercises that will target your calves will make your lower body workout more effective.

Unlike other leg muscles, you don’t need to dedicate an entire workout to fully fatigue your calves. A couple of exercises two to three times per week is more than enough. Your calves are always engaged, but it’s through targeted exercises that you can see maximum benefit and progress.

Calf Raises

Come close to a wall or another steady surface and hold on. Activate your core muscles and bring your feet side by side. Inhale and come high on the balls of your feet. Exhale and gently drop your heels back down. Repeat 15 times. 

Make the move slow and controlled, feeling the raise activate your calves. If you want to take it to another level, stand on a slightly elevated surface, and on your way down, let your heels drop over the edge, stretching your Achilles tendon as well as your calves.

Fitness Journal

Log and easily track your progress.

One-Legged Calf Raises

After you’ve completed your basic calf raises, lift one leg and bend the knee. Continue performing calf raises with just the standing leg, putting all the weight on just that one calf. Repeat 10-12 times before doing the same with the other leg. 

Activating your core is the most important muscle action in any balance, so make sure you’re strong and focused every time your heel goes up and down.

Ankle Strap

Workout ankle strap for cable machine exercises.

Squat Calf Raises

Start in a standing position, feet separated wider than your hips, and feet opened at 45 degrees. Take an inhale, activate your core, and slowly bend your knees, dropping down into a squat like you’re trying to sit in an imaginary chair behind you. Make sure your knees are tracking your feet and focus on preventing them from falling inwards. 

Hold at your deepest squat and stay low while lifting your heels up and down. This is challenging for your balance so take it slow and build up your stability. Repeat 10-12 times.

FLYBIRD Weight Bench

A versatile bench for any type of training.

Squat Calf Pulses

Once you’re in your squat hold, elevate both heels at the same time and perform little pulses up and down while staying as low as possible. If this becomes too challenging, drop your heels to the floor and get back into pulses after you regroup. 

Pulses are very effective at fatiguing your muscles and with your calves, you’ll undoubtedly start feeling the burn in your glutes and hamstrings. The elevated heels only intensify the exercise and they are a great leg day finisher when you want to bring your muscles to failure.

Gym Floor

Large gym mat for all types of exercise.

Squats With Lifted Heels

Full sumo squats with lifted heels are the most challenging calf exercise on the list, but they’re extremely effective in building your calves. Start in a standing position, the same for sumo squats. Inhale and slowly come down into a squat. Lift your heels and on your exhale, slowly start extending your legs until you’re back to standing, squeezing at the top. Inhale and keeping your heels elevated, come back down into a squat. Exhale and straighten your legs. Repeat 10-12 times. 

The activation of your core, as well as your quadriceps when they’re fully extended, will ensure you keep your heels lifted and stay in balance. If you start falling out of balance, simply drop your heels to the floor and pick them back up when you’re ready.

Squat Bands

Works your glutes and hamstrings without any other equipment needed.

Lifted-Heel Walks

Start in a standing position, feet separated at hip-width. Inhale and come high on the balls of your feet. Slowly start walking forward with your heels raised. Do six to eight steps, turn around and do another six to eight back. Continue like this back and forth for at least 24 steps in total.  

If you feel like you’re falling out of balance, hold on to a wall or another sturdy surface while you do your steps.

Athletic Socks

Your perfect sock for every workout.

One-Legged Holds

Start in a standing position, feet side by side. Come high on the balls of your feet, activate your core muscles, and on your inhale lift one of your legs up. You can do it only slightly, just to feel the transfer of balance, but if you feel like you’re stable, you can bend the knee of the lifted leg and feel the calf of the standing leg working hard.

Shaker Bottle

Perfect for mixing your post-workout protein powder.

Add these calf exercises to your next leg day and get a full-on lower body workout, targeting all the muscles.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?