Many people think that they can’t work their calf muscles if they don’t have a standing or seated calf raise machine. That is far from the truth and more like a lazy excuse to get out of extra leg work.
While it might be a little harder, you can still work your calves if you just get creative and take advantage of the equipment you do have. . Here are 5 of the best machine standing or seated calf raise alternatives.
The leg press machine can actually be one of the best ways to work your calf muscles. The setup of most machines allow you to get in calf work, whether it be a horizontal or vertical press.
To do this lift, you simply place the balls of your feet on the bottom of the foot platform. Then, you simply press your toes out as far as you can. Be careful entering and exiting the machine though. It usually works best if you do at least one leg press first, then slowly lower your feet down to the starting position, then back up once you’ve completed your reps.
There are many benefits to using the leg press machine and it starts with the fact that it is super convenient and very easy to change the resistance. You can also do a superset with leg presses and calf presses to make your gym workout more efficient.
You can also use the Smith machine for substitute calf work. This works best if you have a stable small box or some other item to put the balls of your feet on. In the video below, you can see it being demonstrated with the athlete on a bumper weight plate.
To do this exercise, you load up the bar, unlock the weight and put the balls of your feet on the platform. You then raise yourself up using only your calf muscles. The Smith machine also makes it easy to switch up the resistance.
Donkey raises are a classic calf exercise that have been popular for decades. It can be done in many different ways, but it is most famous for having another lifter – or multiple different lifters – sitting on your back.
You do this by bending forward at a 90 degree angle and leaning against something for balance. The other lifter basically just sits on your lower back to act as the resistance. From there, you do basic calf raises. You can see what it looks like in the video below.
Make sure to take plenty of precautions if doing donkey raises. You don’t want anyone on your back who you are sure you can’t lift safely and you’ll want to make sure you are leaning on something for balance.
This exercise is pretty much identical to the Smith machine exercise above, except with it being a free weight alternative, it is significantly more difficult to balance and really challenges the core muscles.
Again, you will load up the barbell and need some kind of stable box or weight plate to place the balls of your feet onto during the movement. The taller the box, the more range of motion you can achieve. Although, if the box is taller, it will be more difficult to balance.
Jumping is actually a great way to work your calf muscles, and probably the most common way they get worked out, along with running. Plyometric calf jumps can be done in a number of different ways, but the video below demonstrates a simple single leg calf jump.
To do this exercise, you begin by standing on one leg with your knee slightly bent. You want to have a stable core and strong posture. You then jump up. Land softly, but when your foot is on the ground, explode back up in the air.
These can actually be done for height or distance. If you are strong enough and want a new challenge, you can add light dumbbells to hold by your side for extra resistance. Beginners would be wise to start with a double leg version, as it is much less challenging.
A lot of the exercise above can be done with single or double leg work. Single leg calf work can be tricky for some exercises, though, as it is very difficult to balance.
Barbells or dumbbells can also absolutely be used for calf work, but they are a little trickier. If you are standing and holding dumbbells by your side or a barbell on your back, it can be very challenging to balance yourself while on your toes. It can certainly be done, but when most people attempt it, they are challenging their balance and core muscles more than their actual calf muscles.
Another option is to sit on a weight bench or other sturdy surface and hold a barbell over your knees and do calf raises as if you were on a seated machine. This can be done, but more as a last resort. Frankly, resting a barbell – that has to be heavy enough to challenge your calves – on top of your quads is just uncomfortable. You also don’t get to work the full range of motion, although this can be fixed by resting the balls of your feet on a short box.
Your calves do get worked in a variety of different ways. If you have a solid leg training program that works quads, hamstrings and glutes, you are probably getting in a lot of calve work. Exercises like squats and deadlifts indirectly target the calf muscles.
Calves are an important body part, whether you are an athlete or just want a balanced body. Not all fitness centers or home gyms have access to a quality standing or seated calf raise machine, but you can use these calf raise alternatives in their place.