Donkey calf raises are one of the more unique exercises available for the calf muscles. While you don’t see them at every gym, they are still one of the more effective ways to work the calves.
There are a few different ways to do this exercise and not all of them begin with someone climbing on your back. Below you will find the 3 of the better ways you can do them.
Using a lifting partner – or partners – is the traditional way to perform this exercise. This is really old school calf training, as there is video of people like Arnold Schwarzenegger doing these with several people on his back. You can see a demonstration of these in the video below. This biggest problem with theses, other than the challenges of someone climbing on your back, is that it can be tough to vary the resistance. What if 1 person isn’t enough weight but 2 is too many?
To do these, the athlete puts the balls of his feet on the edge of the calf block, which allows a greater range of motion. You should be leaning forward with a flat back while resting your upper body on something stable for balance. The lifting partner safely climbs on your back and sits on the lower portion of your back. From there, you perform calf raises with a full range of motion.
This is a crazy, but creative way to do donkey raises. To do these you basically replace a person with the bar – preferably with a pad on it – from a Smith machine. This allows you to more easily alter the resistance and you could do it without a partner. It is a very tricky exercise, though, so I wouldn’t recommend trying it by yourself. You can see a demonstration of the technique below.
While you can do these with just your body weight as resistance, you can add a dip belt if you want to add more weight. This allows you to add resistance in a safer way than sitting someone on your back. It’s also a whole lot easier if you are lifting on your own and want to be able to add or change resistance quickly.
The video below demonstrates donkey raises using a dip belt and bumper weight plates as a calf block.
Donkey calf raises are called that because, well, they essentially put the lifter in a position that looks like a donkey. While you don’t have all 4 hands and feet on the ground, your back is flat and your hands are likely resting on something in front of you for balance. And, of course, in the partner version of the lift there will literally be someone sitting on your back, like a donkey.
Donkey calf raises are still so popular because they are one of the most proven ways to add muscle size and strength to your calves. Whether you want someone to climb on your back or not, there are several ways to do these and get the benefits.