5 Standing Calf Raise Techniques and Variations

standing calf raise

Demonstration of a Standing Calf Raise using a barbell and calf block – Photo By: Wikimedia

The standing calf raise is easily one of the most popular exercises for working all of the muscles in the calves. The setup of the movement allows you to use your bodyweight and external resistance to blast your muscles.

While most people think you need a dedicated machine for this lift, you don’t have to have one. It may be easier to balance with a machine, but there are several other ways to do them.

Below you can see with video how to do standing calf raises with a dedicated machine, Smith machine, barbell, dumbbell, or resistance band. You can mix and match with whatever equipment you have available at your fitness center or home gym.

Standing Calf Raise Machine

Having a dedicated machine is probably the most ideal way to do calf raises from a standing position. They take out any worries about balance and have a foot platform specifically designed to work your calves.

The designs of the machine may vary greatly between different brands. In general, though, they usually have a padded area that goes over your shoulder to provide resistance and a foot platform to place your feet. A leverage squat machine can usually be used for the same purpose.

To perform this lift, position yourself under the shoulder pads with good posture and the balls of your feet on the edge of the platform. Unlock the machine and lower yourself as far as possible with your heels close to touching the ground. Then explosively press your toes into the ground and raise up as high as possible.

Smith Machine

A Smith machine may be the next best alternative to a dedicated calf raise machine. You would also need a calf block, a small piece of equipment to prop your toes on to get a greater range of motion. If you don’t have one, you can use a short box or even a bumper weight plate. Just make sure it is sturdy enough to do so.


Free weight calf exercise are more challenging because they can just be so difficult to balance. You can do calf raises with just a barbell on your back and a small calf block to stand on. Just make sure to use good technique and posture as well as a stable core so you aren’t wobbling during the movement.


Dumbbell calf raises are very similar to the barbell option, except you hold the dumbbells to the side of your body. Again, these can be difficult to balance, but they are a little bit easier than the barbell alternative because the weight is by your side and not your back.

The video below shows proper technique for a single leg dumbbell calf raise. This shows that you can lean with one arm on to something for balance. You hold a single dumbbell in the arm that is the opposite of the leg you are performing the exercise with.

Resistance Band

Resistance bands can be tricky for some exercises, but if you are patient enough to figure them out they can be quite versatile. The video below shows the resistance band wrapped under the bottom of the feet and held above the shoulders. From there, you can do raises on top of the calf block.


There are many things you can do for variety when doing these exercises. For starters, you can vary the height of the platform your toes are standing on. You could do anything from a flat surface to something more extreme that works a full range of motion.

You can also switch between single leg and double leg raises. Single legs can be tougher to balance, but allow you to really overload the muscles on the side that is being worked. If you are new to the exercise, begin with the double leg option until you are comfortable with it.

The standing calf raise is a great exercise for developing muscle size and strength. While most people think machines are the only way to perform them, you should be able to do them anywhere, using pretty much anything as your resistance.

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