Five Strategies to Beef Up Your Calves

5 approaches to calf training to help you maximize your growth.

Five Strategies to Beef Up Your Calves


While facing a hack-squat machine, position yourself under the shoulder pads and stand so your toes are on the edge of the platform with your heels unsupported. Keep your knees slightly bent as you rise up and down on your toes. These focus more on your upper gastrocnemius.


Being both free weight and unilateral, this lift forces you to balance while allowing you to focus on one leg at a time. Stand with one foot on the edge of a block (at least 4" high), and keep the other leg bent. With one hand, grasp something sturdy, and hold a dumbbell with your other hand (the hand that corresponds to the leg you’re working). Rise up and down on one foot.


Either balance a barbell on your shoulders as if squatting or hold two dumbbells. While standing on a flat floor, rise up on your toes as far as you can. Then, when your heels come down, lift your toes off the floor as far as possible. That’s one rep. In this manner, your feet will rock back and forth, and you’ll stress the rear (gastrocnemius) and front (tibialis) of your lower legs equally.


The function of your tibialis is to pull your feet toward your shins. Growing these small muscles will not make a notable difference in leg circumference. However, when developed, they provide detail and depth to the front of calves, and training them helps prevent shin splints (a common running injury). Some gyms have tibialis machines. If yours doesn’t, sit on a lying leg curl machine and position your toes directly under the ankle pads. Pull your toes up and back toward your shins, lifting the weight. Very little resistance is required to work your tibialis.


Opinions about how often to train calves vary from once per week to once per day. We recommend twice per week as a baseline, but you need to find the correct frequency for yourself. Experiment with every-other-day calf training. You may even want to try a week of hitting calves daily. Alternate a heavy workout (eight to 12 reps) with a light workout (20-25 reps). Generally, training lower legs more than twice weekly leads to either uninspired low-intensity workouts or overtraining, but it can be an effective shock strategy.

Instead of an excuse for giving up and going through the motions with lackluster sets of calf raises, this is a call to continuously challenge your lower legs with new high-intensity workouts. Don’t fret about the DNA you were born with. Instead, use the approaches outlined here to start growing bigger calves.