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The Best Workout Routines for Bigger Calves

Attack your lower legs with a routine that's sure to get them growing.

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  • 3 days

  • 12

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Weighted Standing Calf Raise
gilaxia / Getty
Weighted Standing Calf Raise
gilaxia / Getty

If your calves refuse to grow, it’s probably because you’re not willing them to do so. Most guys’ calves are very stubborn, and if you half-ass your lower-legs workouts—doing a few uninspired sets of calf raises right before you leave the gym a couple of days a week—chances are those stubborn muscles won’t budge. To get this body part to respond, you need to train calves frequently (at least three days a week), and you need to feel the burn when you’re training them. A calf workout that doesn’t illicit pain from start to finish is probably not intense enough. But don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.

The routine

You don’t need to spend forever training your calves—15 minutes or so three to five days a week should suffice, provided you’re lifting with focus and a purpose during that time. The one thing that should always be on your mind is range of motion. Half reps of calves are a waste of time, so go light at first if you need to. Just make sure you feel a stretch at the bottom of each rep; and at the top, get those heels up high so that you’re up on your tippy-toes. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that he tried to reach the en pointe position of a ballerina on each and every rep of calf raises. It’s a painful position, being up that high on your toes, but that’s what you should be trying to achieve.

The following routine takes you through four different calf exercises with a combination of moderate rep ranges (10–20) and high-rep sets (30 plus). Calves respond well to high reps, but you also need to load them up with weight to spark growth. This workout achieves both extremes. After going through it a few times, add variety by changing the order of exercises (doing standing calf raises before seated, for instance) or swapping rep counts between the different moves. The key is to throw anything and everything you can at your calves to get this stubborn muscle group to cave in and grow.

The basics

  • This routine can be done on its own or at the end of another workout where larger muscle groups (upper or lower body) are being worked.
  • Keep rest periods brief: 30–60 seconds between each set.
  • Perform this workout three days a week, giving your calves at least one day off between workouts. As the muscles become more conditioned, bump it up to four or five days a week, training calves on consecutive days if you like.

Routine

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Day 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 12

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
10-15
Rest
30-60 sec
Exercise 2 of 12

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
3
Reps
30
Rest
30-60 sec
On each set, start with a moderate weight and do as many full-range reps as possible. After that, do as many dropsets as necessary to reach 30 reps.
Exercise 3 of 12

Leg Press Calf Raise

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
30-60 sec
How to
Perform the first set with your toes pointed straight ahead, the second set with your toes pointed outward, and the third set with your toes pointed inward.
Exercise 4 of 12

Donkey Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
--
Reps
50
Rest
30-60 sec
Using a relatively light weight, complete 50 total reps (making sure to achieve full range of motion on each) in as few sets as possible.

Day 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 5 of 12

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
10-15
Rest
30-60 sec
Exercise 6 of 12

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
3
Reps
30
Rest
30-60 sec
On each set, start with a moderate weight and do as many full-range reps as possible. After that, do as many dropsets as necessary to reach 30 reps.
Exercise 7 of 12

Leg Press Calf Raise

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
30-60 sec
How to
Perform the first set with your toes pointed straight ahead, the second set with your toes pointed outward, and the third set with your toes pointed inward.
Exercise 8 of 12

Donkey Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
--
Reps
50
Rest
30-60 sec
Using a relatively light weight, complete 50 total reps (making sure to achieve full range of motion on each) in as few sets as possible.

Day 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 9 of 12

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
10-15
Rest
30-60 sec
Exercise 10 of 12

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
3
Reps
30
Rest
30-60 sec
On each set, start with a moderate weight and do as many full-range reps as possible. After that, do as many dropsets as necessary to reach 30 reps
Exercise 11 of 12

Leg Press Calf Raise

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
30-60 sec
How to
Perform the first set with your toes pointed straight ahead, the second set with your toes pointed outward, and the third set with your toes pointed inward.
Exercise 12 of 12

Donkey Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
--
Reps
50
Rest
30-60 sec
Using a relatively light weight, complete 50 total reps (making sure to achieve full range of motion on each) in as few sets as possible.
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