Bodyweight Calf Raise to Build Mass and Strength of Calves

For most individuals, working to grow the leg muscles, specifically the calves, is a great challenge. The bodyweight calf raise is an exercise that targets the calves muscles.

Bodyweight calf exercises are often included in training programs with the goal of increasing calf muscle size. However, training the calves also proves to be important in daily activities, as this improves the force of plantar flexion.

Plantar flexion is a movement required in almost all types of sporting events, as well as mundane day-to-day activities such as standing on the tips of the toes and pressing down on the car pedals while driving.

How to Do Bodyweight Calf Raise

To increase muscle, size and develop muscle strength in the calves, sufficient muscle contraction, frequency, and variation must be incorporated into the routine.

The calf muscles are not usually trained as much as upper body muscles. This is because people usually forget to train the calf muscles due to the inconspicuous action of these muscles. Thus, muscle growth is slowed down because of insufficient training frequency.

Training frequency refers to the number of times an individual works out, or in this case, a muscle group is worked out in a week. The frequency of training depends on the individual’s needs and primary goal.

A beginner will start out at fewer sets, while more experienced lifters may benefit with more sets.

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Calf Muscle Anatomy

The calf is made up of two superficial muscles: the upper gastrocnemius, and the lower soleus.

These are located at the back of your lower leg and join together to become your achilles tendon and attach onto your heel.

  1. The gastrocnemius is the visible muscle of the calf. The two heads (medial and lateral) of the gastrocnemius arise from the rear of the femur bone, Immediately above the knee joint.
  2. The soleus arises from the rear aspect of the tibia and lies underneath the gastrocnemius.

The gastrocnemius attaches above the knee, and the soleus below the knee. The soleus is responsible for the work when the knee bends. When the knee is straight, the gastrocnemius is doing the heavy lifting.

These muscles are responsible for plantarflexion, which is the movement that occurs when you point your toes downward.

The calf muscles also help to stabilize the ankle joint and support the weight of your body during activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

Anatomy of Calf Muscle.

Muscle Worked During Calf Raise

When performing calf raises, several muscles are worked primarily in the lower leg.

The main muscles targeted during calf raises include:

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus
  • Plantaris
  • Tibialis anterior and posterior
Muscle Worked During Calf Raise

Bodyweight calf raise Benefits

Body weight calf raises are a simple and effective exercise that can provide a range of benefits.

  1. Since the calves are used so extensively, including during walking, running, jumping, and moving your body during functional movements, it is important to train them with calf-dominated exercises.
  2. Training your calves is particularly important to build calves strength, endurance, and explosiveness. It’s great for improving ankle stability and overall balance.
  3. Doing calves raises, for stronger calf muscles, will allow you to increase your vertical jump, like in burpees, and reduce the impact on your knee joints.
  4. Bodyweight calf raises help to strengthen muscles around the ankle that are extremely important to prevent injury.
  5. Strong calves are also important for performing plyometric and power exercises properly.
  6. If you are passionate about running but are afraid of injury, then you should consider doing calf raises regularly. It can reduce the likelihood of injury and increase your speed.
  7. It’s allows unilateral training (training one limb at a time), increases core stability for athletes, and improves any muscular imbalances.
  8. Bodyweight calf raises exercises are perfect for the at-home exerciser with the limited space.
Read More To Know More: Bodyweight Leg Exercises For Mass, Strength And Power

6 Bodyweight calf raise Exercises

There are several ways to do bodyweight calf raises, depending on your level of fitness.

If you are new to performing a bodyweight calf raise, you may want to apply a few modifications to make the exercise easier. One way to counter this problem is to do chair supported calf raises or floor calf raises.

If you are looking for a more advanced variation of bodyweight calf raise, then you can do Squat Hold Calf Raises and single leg calf raises. You could also make it more challenging by using weights. But focus on form while doing the same.

1. Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise

Standing calf raises (also known as heel raises) is a classic move, even bodyweight calf raise exercises are an effective way of strengthening your calves because the calf muscles take on so much of your bodyweight. 

The standing calf raise is a really easy exercise to do. They only use bodyweight, so they’re a really convenient calves exercise that you can do that home, or pretty much anywhere.

Bodyweight calf exercises are handy to exercise your calves without having to set foot in the gym.

Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise

Muscles Worked

Primary: Gastrocnemius.

Secondary: Soleus.

How To Do Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise

  1. Stand up straight with your feet facing forward and placed hip-width apart.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your knee and hold your hands by your side
  3. Raise your heels by pressing the balls of your feet into the ground.
  4. You should raise your body until you are on your toes.
  5. Hold this position and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground.


  • Pause and squeeze for a count of 1-2 at the top of the movement for added intensity.
  • Keep the balls of your feet on the edge of the block/step. If you allow the balls of your feet to come in more, the exercise becomes easier.

2. Donkey Calf Raises

Donkey calf raises are an excellent bodyweight calf raise exercise for building calf muscles. This raise is mostly the second option after standing calf raises.

The donkey calf raises primarily engages the two muscles that make up the calves: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

The donkey calf raises secondarily activates the hamstrings and abs. When you bend over to initiate the calf raise, the hamstrings receive a stretch.

This exercise is done with a training partner sitting across your back.

Donkey Calf Raises

Muscles Worked

Primary: Calf muscles.

Secondary: Gluteals, Hamstrings

How To Do Donkey Calf Raises

  1. Stand on a board and bend forward, holding a table for support. Ask a training partner to sit across your back.
  2. Lower your heels and get as low as possible and fully contract your calf muscles fully.
  3. Extend your calves and get back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.


  • Exhale while you exert, in this case, while raising your calves against resistance.
  • You must go through full-range movements to target the calves muscles, including both gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Since partial calf movements happen every day in walking and running.
  • Make sure that you are not limited in the range of your movements by using high blocks.

3. Single Leg Standing Calf Raises

Single leg standing calf raises work both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles through a full range of motion.

A single leg bodyweight standing calf raise can be performed by standing on the edge of an elevated platform, such as a step on the stairs, with the hands placed on the railing for stabilization.

Single Leg Standing Calf Raises

Muscles Worked

Primary: Gastrocnemius.

Secondary: Soleus.

How To Do Single Leg Standing Calf Raises

  1. Stand up straight on one foot (Say right foot). Cross your left ankle behind your right.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your knee and hold your hands by your side or on the railing for stabilization.
  3. Raise your heel by pressing the balls of your feet into the ground.
  4. You should move your body upwards until you’re standing on your toes.
  5. Hold this position for one to two seconds, and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground.


  • Avoid the temptation to crank out reps quickly. Time under tension is one of the key elements to potentate muscle growth.
  • Pause and squeeze for a count of 1-2 at the top of the movement for added intensity.
  • For stronger or bigger calves, maintain a slow, controlled tempo.

4. Squat Hold Calf Raises

Squat hold calf raises works the soleus muscles more than the gastrocnemius, but a considerable amount of force is still produced by the latter.

To complete this exercise, the individual should assume a squat position with feet shoulder width apart and hands in front or placed on the hips.

While maintaining the squat position, the individual pushes up to stand on their tip toes and then back down to the ground. You should try this bodyweight calf raise exercise.


Muscles Worked

Primary: Calves, glutes, inner thighs

Secondary: Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors

How To Do Squat Hold Calf Raises

  1. Stand with your feet about three to four feet apart, toes turned out.
  2. Bring your hands together in front of your chest.
  3. Squat down by bending at the knees and hips, letting your glutes track backward to lower yourself into a squat.
  4. Raise your heel off the floor, and squeeze your calves.
  5. Repeat until the set is complete.


  • Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and maintain your knees in line with your toes.
  • Don’t perform this exercise with cold muscles. Do a cardio warm up before it.

Best Alternate of Bodyweight calf raise

Before, we take a look at the best bodyweight calf raise alternatives. We must keep in mind that a good alternative to the Bodyweight calf raise will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

  1. You should also activate the calf muscle groups, which are trained in the Bodyweight calf raises.
  2. Isolate the muscle groups during execution.
  3. Train the calf muscle through a longer range of motion

1. Jump Squat

Jump squats are a power-packed version of HIIT squats. This exercise is often used as the beginning movement to develop proficiency in vertical jumping, high jumping, long jumping, and box jumping.

Squat jumps are a great exercise to include in-home workouts since they can be done in a small space without any equipment.

Jump Squat

2. Jumping Rope

Jumping rope utilizes muscles that the seated calf raises miss. It builds endurance for the calf muscles, as well as strength and coordination. Furthermore, jumping rope provides endless variations to keep the exercise challenging.

To jump rope, the individual must first make sure that the rope is the appropriate length for their height.

Jumping Rope

3. Dumbbell Step-Up

If you’re looking for an alternative to the bodyweight calf raise exercise that you can do with dumbbells, then the Dumbbell Step-up is the best option. It is a great way to build strength and power in your lower body. 

This work out exercise targets hamstrings and quadriceps and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.

The step-up is a great all-round exercise that is perfect for all, since it can be modified to create a challenging workout for anyone, whether you have just started exercising or have been training for years.

Dumbbell step-up

Final Thoughts

Bodyweight calf raise exercises targeting the calf muscles are beneficial for individuals wanting to increase lower leg size, as well as the general population.

Whether you are just beginning your fitness journey or are already very fit, there are calf exercises that you can do at every workout to help you achieve your goals.

Frequently Asked Question

How many calf raises should i do?

Do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per set. The range allows you to focus on correct posture and gradually increase the strength in your calf muscles.

Can bodyweight calf raises build muscle?

Yes, bodyweight calf raises are the best exercises to build calves muscle mass and strength.

How many bodyweight calf raises should I do?

Though the number of sets and reps may vary based on your fitness experience, 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps is a good start. Gradually increase the volume and perform at least 20 reps per set.

You could also increase the workout intensity by trying one-leg calf raises.

Can I do calf raises without weight?

Yes, you can do calf raises without weight, There are several calf raises exercises that will improve strength and definition. That includes the following: standing calf raise, donkey calf raise, single leg standing calf raises, and Squat hold calf raises.

Is it OK to do calf raises everyday?

It is not advisable to do calf raises daily. Remember to give your calf muscles enough rest. Do not overtrain because that will lead to fatigue and breakdown. 2-3 days a week is enough for a calf workout.

Will calf raises make my calves bigger?

Standing Calf raises are one of the best exercises you can do to make your calf muscles bigger and stronger. If you really want to strengthen your calf muscles, you should train them in different ways.

  • Set calves are a high priority, treat them that way by training them first on leg day.
  • Emphasize high volume and perform at least 20 reps per set. Keep it under 20-25 reps per set.
  • Include one standing and one seated exercise per calf workout.
  • If you want to grow your calf, you need to focus on the squeeze and contraction—i.e., the top part of the movement.

Know More About Calf And Leg Training

Best Bodyweight Calf Exercises That You Can Do At Home Without Equipment

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