The leg press machine is actually more versatile than people think. While leg presses and their variations are the first exercises that come to mind, they are one of the best machines out there for working your calves. By simply changing your foot placement, you can get a lot more out of the machine.
You can see what calf raises on a leg press machine look like in the video below. You place the balls of your feet on the bottom of the foot platform. Extend the machine out to full distance. Then your press out with your toes as far as you can.
You then slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps. Depending on the setup of your machine, you may have to do a full leg press out first, and then lower your feet to the bottom of the platform. You would then have to do the opposite at the end of the exercise to return to the starting position.
Most leg press machines, whether horizontal or vertical, should allow you to perform calf raises. They can be trickier if you have a vertical machine, but it should be doable as long as you follow all safety precautions. Just make sure you know what your are doing and don’t put your body in any risky positions.
The setup of most machines allow you to work your calf muscles through a long range of motion. Something like that can be tough to replicate with other calf exercises.
Free weight alternatives are great, but many of them work your balance and core muscles more than your calf muscles. Just think of dumbbell or barbell lifts that target your calves. The hardest part of the exercise is the balancing you have to do. It is so difficult to balance that you won’t be able to go heavy enough to really work your calves.
This exercise should work all of your calf muscles, but you can also vary the stance to target specific parts. For instance, pointing your toes in with heels out will work the outer portions of your calf more. A toes out setup would then work focus more on the inner portions.
You can also try a wide stance or narrow stance if your machine allows it. If you want to make sure the muscles are being hit from different angles, try working different stances in the same workout. For instance, if you are performing 3 sets of 10, you could perform 1 set with toes pointed in, 1 with toes forward, and the final with toes pointing out. This would ensure your calves are blasted from all angles.
You can also vary the tempo of your reps to mix things up. A typical bodybuilding type of rep would be a fast press out, followed by a slow return to the starting position. You could try doing a more explosive version, to work on developing power in your calf muscles.
If you are a fan of efficiency in your workouts, then the leg press machine can be very helpful on leg day. You should be able to superset standard leg press with calf raises. For instance, you could perform 10 reps of the leg press the, with your legs extended, walk your feet down to the bottom of the platform.
Then, you would perform 10 reps of calf presses. You could then rest or start back over with leg presses. This allows you to work almost all of the major muscle groups in your legs with one set of exercises. With a superset like this, you could work the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves in a short period of time.
This could be great finish to a volume workout. You could rotate between sets of leg press followed by calf presses and then repeat until your legs can’t take any more. This should definitely get a pump going in your legs and would cause some serious soreness.
The leg press is one of the better machines out there for developing size and strength in all of your major leg muscle groups. By getting creative with your training, you can get a terrific lower body workout in a short amount of time.