The calves are one of the most noticeable yet often neglected muscle groups in the leg. Well-developed calves can dramatically improve the overall look of your legs.
We need to work on our calf muscles to make them bigger and stronger, but it can be hard to do it with just bodyweight exercises.
Here, the gym machines are important in building bigger and stronger calves.
Gym machines offer several advantages over bodyweight exercises for calf training. Machines allow you to isolate the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles to stimulate greater calf growth.
This article will discuss:
- Top gym machines for building bigger calves.
- How to perform calf exercises with proper form.
- Benefits of using gym machines for calf workouts.
- A complete calf workout program
7 Best Machines for Calf Raise
While calf raises are a staple for building calves, adding strength machines to your program is important to make your calves bigger and more defined.
The top 5 workout machines to add for a complete calf workout are:
1. Seated Calf Raise Machine
The seated calf raise machine is a piece of gym equipment that has been specifically designed to target the calf muscles, specifically the soleus muscle.
The seated calf raise machine has a seat, a cushion for your knees, a place to put your feet, and various ways to add weight.
This helps you do calf raises while sitting down. It isolates the calf muscles to make them stronger and better.
The seated position reduces the risk of injury or strain on the lower back that may happen with standing calf raises.
How to Use It
- Adjust the seat height so your knees are bent at roughly a 90-degree angle and your feet are flat on the platform.
- Position the padded lever comfortably across the base of your thighs, just above the knees.
- Allow your heels to hang off the edge of the platform.
- Press through the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as you can.
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement to contract your calf muscles.
- Slowly lower your heels back down and stretch your calf muscles at the bottom.
- Do 15–20 reps and 3–4 sets.
2. Standing Calf Raise Machine
The Calf Raise Machine is designed to strengthen and target the calf muscles. It consists of a padded lever and a platform where you place your shoulders.
Similar to the seated option, this machine ensures primary focus on your calf muscles, specifically gastrocnemius muscles.
Some machines allow you to adjust foot placement (toes pointing forward, in, or out) to target different areas of the calf muscle.
- The primary muscles targeted by the calf raise are the gastrocnemius and soleus.
- The gastrocnemius is the calf’s larger, more visible muscle,
- Meanwhile, the soleus lies beneath the gastrocnemius and contributes to overall calf development.
How to Use It
- Step on a Calf raise machine with your toes on a block and heals extended into space.
- Place the shoulders under the pads and hook the weight off the support.
- Now raise yourself using only the toes and come as far as possible.
- Hold this position for a second, flexing your calf muscles.
- Slowly lower your heels as far as possible towards the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent.
3. Donkey Calf Raise Machine
A specialized machine designed to simulate old-school donkey calf raises with additional stability and control.
Unlike regular calf raises, donkey calf raises involve placing the weight as close to your legs as possible. A padded plate rests on your tailbone, and you lift the weight by raising your heels.
This is usually more comfortable than holding a barbell on your neck or heavy dumbbells.
Due to the forward-bent position, this machine gives you a very deep stretch in the bottom position of the calf raise, potentially promoting greater muscle growth.
How to Use It
- Adjust the platform or pad to a height, allowing you to bend at the waist comfortably.
- Step onto the foot platform with the balls of your feet positioned shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at the waist with a slight arch in your lower back, and position your tailbone under the pad.
- Push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as possible.
- Hold briefly at the top of the contraction.
- Slowly lower your heels back down towards the starting position, getting a deep stretch in your calves.
4. Smith Machine For Calf Raise Workouts
A Smith Machine consists of a barbell fixed within steel rails, allowing only vertical movement. This guide helps lifters stay stable and in control, which is helpful for both new and experienced lifters.
The machine’s stability helps you maintain proper form and reduce the risk of injury. This is why the Smith machine is stable and safe for different calf exercises.
It is a great way to overload calf training for growth and strength safely. Use it to lift more weight through a full range of motion.
It can be used for various calf movements to influence the muscles targeted in your workout.
- Smith Machine Standing Calf Raises: Isolate your calves with higher weight than free weights.
- Smith Machine Single Leg Calf Raises: Focus on each calf individually for complete development.
- Smith Machine Seated Calf Raises: Sit for a constant stretch and contraction.
- Smith Machine Negative Calf Raises: Emphasize the eccentric to build calf strength.
- Smith Machine Jump Calf Raises: Explosive concentric to train explosive calf power.
How To Do Smith Standing Calf Raise
- Set the bar on the Smith machine to around shoulder height and rack up the weight you want to use.
- Step up on the block and position the balls of your feet on the edge.
- Grasp the Smith bar with a wide grip and position it across the top of your back muscles. Rotate the bar to unrack it.
- Push off the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as possible.
- Make sure to flex your calf at the top of the contraction.
- Hold the contracted position for a second. And then slowly lower your heels back to the starting position.
5. Cable Machine for Calf Exercises
The cable machine is a versatile tool that effectively targets and strengthens the calf muscles (primarily the gastrocnemius and soleus).
Here’s why it’s a great option for calf training:
- Consistent Tension: Unlike free weights, cables keep constant tension on the calves throughout the range of motion.
- Varied Angles: The adjustable pulley allows you to work the calves from both standing and seated positions, hitting different parts of the muscles.
- Customization: Using an ankle strap or other attachments lets you fine-tune the exercises for your specific needs.
Here are some effective calf exercises you can perform on this machine:
- Cable Seated Calf Raise: Isolate calves while removing strain from the lower back.
- Cable Single Leg Calf Raise: Focus on each calf individually for balance and symmetry.
- Cable Tibia Raises: Target the soleus muscle by dorsiflexing from a calf raise.
How To Do Cable Standing Leg Calf Raise
- Start by setting up either a dip belt, rope, or straight bar on a low pulley cable machine and placing a bench in front of the machine.
- Step onto the bench with the balls of your feet on the edge and let your heels drop as far as possible.
- Then, slowly raise your heels up as far as possible, squeezing your calves and holding for a count.
- Return to the starting position.
Know More: 15 Most Effective Cable Leg Exercises
6. Body-Solid Leverage Squat Calf Machine
The Body-Solid Leverage Squat Calf Machine combines elements of a squat machine, and a calf raises machine into one unit.
It typically features a padded shoulder and back support, a foot platform, and a lever arm with weight plates for resistance.
The padded shoulder and back support provide stability during heavy lifts.
How to Use It (Calf Raises)
- Stand on the calf block with the balls of your feet on the platform and your heels hanging off.
- Adjust positioning as needed depending on your height.
- Lower your heels slightly below the platform level.
- Push through the balls of your feet, raising your heels as high as you can, squeezing calf muscles at the top.
- In a controlled manner, lower your heels back down for a deep stretch in the calves.
- Complete the necessary number of repetitions and sets.
7. Leg Press Machine of Calf Exercises
The leg press machine typically consists of a seat with a backrest and a platform where the feet are placed.
It targets multiple leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
The machine has an adjustable seat and footplate to accommodate different users. By altering your foot placement, you can emphasize different muscle groups.
Experiment with foot positions (toes forward, inward, outward) to target different areas of your calves.
How To Use It
- Sit in a leg press machine and place your feet on the bottom of the footplate so that your heels hang off the footplate.
- Press the footplate up from the safety hooks (but do not unlatch them) by straightening your legs.
- Drop your toes down toward your shins to stretch your calves.
- Press the weight up with your toes by contracting your calf muscles.
- Hold this position for a second, flexing your calf muscles, then lower your heels back to the starting position.
Gym machines can be a great way to build bigger, stronger calves and reduce injury risk.
Some of the most popular gym machines for calf workouts include the seated calf raise machine and standing calf raise machine, and rotary calf machine.
You can also use a smith machine and leg press machine to strengthen your calves.
So, the next time you’re at the gym, utilize these powerful tools as part of a well-rounded program for building thicker, stronger calves. Calf machines provide the required progressive overload that can lead to new growth.
- Reynolds RF, Smith CP, Yang R, Griffin R, Dunn A, McAllister C. Effects of calf muscle conditioning upon ankle proprioception. PLoS One. 2020 Aug 31;15(8):e0236731.
- Green B, McClelland JA, Semciw AI, Schache AG, McCall A, Pizzari T. The Assessment, Management and Prevention of Calf Muscle Strain Injuries: A Qualitative Study of the Practices and Perspectives of 20 Expert Sports Clinicians. Sports Med Open. 2022 Jan 15;8(1):10.
- Warneke, Konstantin & Keiner, Michael & Lohmann, Lars & Hillebrecht, Martin & Wirth, Klaus & Schiemann, Stephan. (2022). The Influence of Maximum Strength Performance in Seated Calf Raises on Counter Movement Jump and Squat Jump in Elite Junior Basketball Players
- Schwarz NA, Harper SP, Waldhelm A, McKinley-Barnard SK, Holden SL, Kovaleski JE. A Comparison of Machine versus Free-Weight Squats for the Enhancement of Lower-Body Power, Speed, and Change-of-Direction Ability during an Initial Training Phase of Recreationally-Active Women. Sports (Basel).
Manish brings over 10 years of hands-on experience in weight lifting and fat loss to fitness coaching. He specializes in gym-based training and has a lot of knowledge about exercise, lifting technique, biomechanics, and more.
Through “Fit Life Regime,” he generously shares the insights he’s gained over a decade in the field. His goal is to equip others with the knowledge to start their own fitness journey.