Get ready to grow and sculpt your calves with an effective strength training exercise – the Smith machine calf raise. This isolation exercise really zeroes in on and develops the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles of the calves.
The Smith machine calf raise is a good way to make your lower legs look bigger and thicker than just doing regular bodyweight calf raises.
This machine-based exercise primarily targets the gastrocnemius or upper calf muscle, with supporting muscles including the soleus and tibialis anterior.
Check out our guide for step-by-step instructions, variations, and tips on how to get the most out of this exercise
Let Dive In!
- What is Smith Machine Calf Raise
- Smith Machine Calf Raise Muscles Worked
- 1. Primarily Muscle Worked
- 2. Secondary Muscles Worked
- 3. Supporting and Stabilizing Muscles
- How To Do Calf Raise On Smith Machine
- 2. Foot Placement
- 3. Starting Position
- 4. The Lift
- 5. The Lowering Phase
- Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
- 1. Bouncing at the Bottom
- 2. Improper Foot Placement
- 3. Lack of Range of Motion
- 4. Rushing Through Reps
- 5. Knee Lockout
- 6. Overloading Too Soon
- 7. Leaning Forward
- Smith Machine Variations and Progressions
- 1. Standing Smith Machine One Leg Calf Raise
- 2. Seated Machine Calf Raise
- Is the Smith machine good for calf raises?
- How many reps for Smith machine calf raises?
- Smith Machine Calf Raise Exercises (3 Best Ways)
What is Smith Machine Calf Raise
The Smith Machine Calf Raise is a machine-based exercise that targets the muscles of the calves, particularly the gastrocnemius or upper calf muscle. This exercise is great for improving calf muscle strength and size, lower body strength and stability, athletic performance.
The exercise is performed by raising the heels as high as possible and then lowering the heels back to the starting position.
Smith Machine you to focus solely on the muscles calves without worrying too much about stabilizing the weight yourself. This is a safe place to do a variety of exercises, such as the calf raise.
There are different ways to do smith machine calf raises, like doing them with one leg calf raise, standing calf raise, and seated calf raise.
Smith Machine Calf Raise Muscles Worked
When performing calf raises, several muscles are worked primarily in the lower leg.
1. Primarily Muscle Worked
- Gastrocnemius: This is the large, diamond-shaped muscle that forms the bulk of the visible calf muscle. It originates behind the knee and inserts into the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius is worked in knee extended calf raises.
- Soleus: This is the smaller, flat muscle located underneath the gastrocnemius. It originates below the knee joint and also inserts into the Achilles. The soleus is better isolated in seated calf raises with the knees bent.
2. Secondary Muscles Worked
- Tibialis posterior: This lies deep within the calf. It assists with plantarflexion of the ankle.
- Peroneals: These are the smaller lateral calf muscles that run along the outside of the lower leg. They aid in stabilization during calf raises.
- Flexor hallucis longus: Deeper muscle that helps flex the big toe. It contributes minimally during the movement.
3. Supporting and Stabilizing Muscles
- Glutes: Help extend the hips and stabilize the torso.
- Hamstrings: Act isometrically to stabilize the knee joint.
- Lower back: Extends the spine to maintain an upright posture.
How To Do Calf Raise On Smith Machine
1. Smith Machine Set Up
- Bar Height: Adjust the Smith Machine’s barbell to approximately waist height.
- Safety Catches: Make sure the safety catches or pins are properly set.
- Weight Plates: Add the appropriate amount of weight to the barbell. If you’re new to this exercise, start with a lighter weight to focus on form.
2. Foot Placement
- Standing Position: Step under the barbell so it rests on your upper traps and shoulders.
- Position Your Feet: Place your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. If possible, stand on a raised platform or calf block with the balls of your feet on the surface and heels hanging off.
3. Starting Position
- Straight Back: Keep your back straight and chest lifted.
- Hand Position: Hold the barbell with a grip that is a little wider than shoulder-width.
- Slight Bend in the Knees: Keep your knees slightly bent to avoid locking them, which can put undue pressure on the joint.
- Lift the Bar: Unrack the barbell by rotating it, then step back if needed to ensure you are in the correct position.
4. The Lift
- Engage Your Core: Tighten your core muscles for stability.
- Push Through the Balls of the Feet: Press down through the balls of both feet, lifting your body upwards.
- Full Extension: Elevate your heels as high as possible, fully extending your ankles and flexing your calf muscles at the top.
5. The Lowering Phase
- Control: Slowly lower your heels down, going past the level of the platform or floor if possible, to get a good stretch in the calf muscles.
- Stretch: Allow the calves to stretch fully at the bottom, but without resting or losing tension.
Related Post: 12 Most Effective Smith Machine Leg Workout & Exercises
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Performing Smith Machine Calf Raises may seem straightforward, but several common errors can hinder your progress or even lead to injury. Below are some mistakes to watch out for, as well as tips on how to avoid them.
1. Bouncing at the Bottom
Bouncing at the bottom of the lowering phase. Slow down the descent and stop carefully at the bottom before going back up.
2. Improper Foot Placement
Feet too close together, too far apart, or not parallel can reduce exercise effectiveness and cause strain. Keep your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart.
3. Lack of Range of Motion
Not lifting the heels high enough during the lifting phase or not lowering them low enough during the descent phase.
Try to get the calf muscles to contract as much as they can at the top and stretch as much as you can at the bottom.
4. Rushing Through Reps
Performing the exercise too quickly can lead to sloppy form and reduced muscle engagement. Keep a steady pace and focus on the muscle contraction and stretch in each phase of the workout.
5. Knee Lockout
Locking out the knees, which can put too much stress on the knees. To reduce strain on the knee joints, keep your knees slightly bent throughout the exercise.
6. Overloading Too Soon
Don’t sacrifice contraction for the sake of adding plates. Start with a manageable weight and focus on technique. Only add weight when it’s necessary.
7. Leaning Forward
When doing a Smith machine calf raise, you should keep your back straight. Leaning forward can put stress on your lower back.
Smith Machine Variations and Progressions
Here are some variations and progressions of the Smith Machine Calf Raise:
1. Standing Smith Machine One Leg Calf Raise
The Standing Smith Machine One-Leg Calf Raise is a more advanced and challenging variation of the standard Smith Machine Calf Raise
One-leg machine calf raise is a very effective isolation calf exercise which targets the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles.
You can do the standing machine one-leg calf raise on the floor if you don’t have a platform to perform the exercise from.
- Focuses on individual calf muscles, which can help address muscle imbalances.
- Increases muscle activation due to the greater load on a single calf.
- Allows for more concentrated effort and potentially faster progression
How To Do
- Position yourself with one foot flat on the floor or on a calf block.
- Stand upright and hold the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold the barbell with a grip that’s wider than shoulder-width.
- Lift one leg off the floor and either bend at the knee, crossing it behind the standing leg, or hold it in the air.
- Raise your heel as high as possible.
- Lower your heel back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch legs.
2. Seated Machine Calf Raise
The Seated smith Machine Calf Raise is another popular calf exercise, which places more emphasis on the soleus muscle of the calf.
The seated calf raise is a one of the best strength-gaining exercises that targets your calf muscles and accelerates their growth. In the seated calf raise, your soleus is the target muscle and your gastrocnemius is the synergy muscle.
Since the soleus comprises slow-twitch muscle fibers, performing the seated calf raise builds your endurance required for running, cycling, and walking.
- Targets the soleus muscle, which lies beneath the larger gastrocnemius muscle.
- Isolates the calf muscles effectively.
- Allows for a controlled range of motion and precise loading.
How To Do
- Set up the Smith machine by placing a flat bench in the machine and putting a step or calf block under the bar
- Sit on the bench and place the balls of your feet on the step or calf block.
- Place toes straightforward, knees bent at 90 degrees, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep hands on the bar for support but use a light grip to avoid arm strain.
- Lower your heels until they are almost touching the ground.
- Raise your heels up as high as you can, squeezing your calves at the top.
- Slowly lower your heels back down to the starting position.
Is the Smith machine good for calf raises?
Yes, the Smith machine is good for calf raises. It allows you to isolate the calves without other muscles assisting, maximizing calf activation. The fixed bar path lets you safely use heavier weights than free weight calf raises. This leads to greater overload and growth stimulus.
How many reps for Smith machine calf raises?
For optimal hypertrophy in Smith machine calf raises, it is recommended to aim for reps in the 8-12 range. Going heavier in the 6-8 rep range can help you build more strength and grow stronger. Higher reps of 15-20 will facilitate more of a pump and endurance effect.
Calf raises are an essential exercise for developing both strength and size in your lower legs. The Smith Machine can be used for standing calf raises or the specialized seated calf raise machine. Each version has its own unique benefits and focus.
- Standing Smith Machine Calf Raises primarily target the gastrocnemius muscle. It offers variations like single-leg raises and using a calf block to stretch the muscles deeper.
- Seated Machine Calf Raises are excellent for isolating the soleus muscle.
I strongly recommend that you incorporate Smith machine calf raises into your workout regimen to achieve stronger and more sculpted calves.
Smith Machine Calf Raise Exercises (3 Best Ways)
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.