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Best Calf Exercises

Best Calf Exercises

Sext legs are not complete without sexy shapely calves. Here are my favorite exercises to make the calves get noticed!

Your calves consist of two separate muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both muscles are located on the back of your lower leg. The gastrocnemius is located anteriorly to the soleus and is composed of two sections, one proximal and one medial. Both sections attach just above the knee and come together at your achilles tendon. The soleus lies underneath the gastrocnemius and extends from just below the knee to the achilles tendon which joins with the gastrocnemius.

The primary function of the calf is plantar function or extending the ankle. The soleus is more involved in extending the ankle when the knee is bent, whereas the gastrocnemius takes on a greater work load when the knee is straight. As a result, bent calf raises such as the donkey calf raise is best for targeting the soleus and standing calf raises will target your gastrocnemius.

The soleus is primarily a slow-twitch muscle fiber meaning it is great for endurance type movements. Fast-twitch muscle fibers such as those that primarily make up the gastrocnemius are better suited for strength and power lifting.

Sexy Calf Workout

1. Donkey Calf Raise  6-8 reps, no rest (heavy weight)
Superset with
Seated Machine Calf Raise   12-15 reps, 60 second rest (light weight)
Repeat x2

2. Single-leg Toe Hops off bench 15 reps each leg, no rest
Repeat x2

Don’t forget to take before and after pictures and share your comments below.



Join the discussion 30 Comments

  • Darla says:

    How do you perform a single leg toe hop? Do you have the foot half off the bench when you hop? I couldn’t find any videos for it. How do you recommend doing the donkey calf raise if you do not have the particular machine? Thanks

  • Wow! You go girl. 🙂
    I will be doing those exercises. 🙂

  • Rumiana says:

    Really good looking calves 🙂 I don’t have dedicated exercises for calves because I do lots of jumps and rope skipping which are enough calves workout.

  • T says:

    I just have a question. does this work out burn the fat around the calf as well.

  • Deb says:

    I need those curvy calves! Thanks Flavia. If I don’t have access to a Seated Calf Raise machine, what can I substitute in its place?

  • Beverly says:

    HI, can you explain or show how to do the single-leg toe hops off bench..having trouble picturing it. also, i would like your opinion, i have large calfes persay and should i skip training them seoparately and jsut get the training in with my other plyos, spin, jog, etc. I don’t want them bigger but would like more muscle def. no matter how much weight i lose they still are on the large side stopping me from wearing nice looking boots etc. but that is my problem. please let me know what you think. Thanks Bev

  • LeRoyTrainer says:

    Hi, This sounds great, could you please go into more detail re the last exercise ‘the Single-leg Toe Hops off bench’.

    Am I correct in thinking that the ‘donkey calf raise’ involves bending at the hip with someone on your back to provide added resistance – if this is so then this is a straight leg (not a bent leg) exercise which best suits the gastro rather than the soleus. The body of the text above contradicts the exercise listed.

    I will give this a go and ‘feel the burn’

  • Colleen Jensen says:

    I appreciate calf targeting exercises, but I have no idea what the donkey calf raises are! Could you please explain further? I am also trying to envision the toe hops and having trouble with understanding them. I must not have much imagination.

  • Heidi says:

    Flavia, Im so glad you posted this. Calves have always been something I wanted to improve, and they have even with your workouts already! Glad to hear,from you, more GOOD things to make them grow. Are those your calves in the photo? If not, have they always had muscular type calves? I would love to see someone’s before and after photos of their calves, and know what specifically they did to acheive it! Have you seen improvement in yours just by adding certain moves?

    • Flavia says:

      Nope, not mine. I am in the process of getting calves like those. I have been trying various techniques and these are my fav so far!

  • Miriam says:

    You’re awesome!

  • Flavia says:

    Hope that clears everything up for you guys. 🙂 Thanks for your posts.

  • Debbies21 says:

    Your calves are awesome. But can you suggest some exercises where you don’t have access to a gym. Thanks

    • Flavia says:

      Seated calf raises can be done with dummbells on your quads instead on the machine. Standing calf raises can also be done with holding dummbells in each arm.

  • Anna says:

    Thanks Flavia, great article! I will be trying these exercises soon. I hope you and Vince had a great time in Mexico!

  • Issy says:

    Hey Flavia.

    I am new to your program and this it looks amazing. I am petite and around 17% body fat but just can’t get rid of some fat spots on my inner thigh, upper arms and tummy.

    Also i am a little bulky looking because i am short and pretty muscular but i really want to slim down overall and lose the fat in order to show my already pretty well developed muscles.

    I am pretty fit and workout 4-5 times per week with weights and cardio.

    First question: what is a good weight range for me on your program for arms and legs to strip off the fat and slim down my body (which is toned but hidden with fat)?

    Second: i here a lot of bad stuff about doing 60 minute cardio work outs but I really love classes like Body Step and Boxing. Now I push myself super hard here and get my heart rate up to 190 (I’m 23) are these workouts ok or still be considered taboo.
    Also boxing is really intense and shaped my arms more than anything else i have ever tried so it has worked good for me

    Third: how do you feel about weight training classes like body pump. I do about 20kg for legs, 12 for back and 7 for arms. Is this too soft for my goals?

    Third: I also seem to have a cellulite issue. Now I work out a lot and eat really well yet i just can’t seem to get rid of the odd lumps on my thighs.I am really hoping your program will help but no ammount of excercise seems to. Any suggestion?

    Thanks so much from a very frustrated excerciser!

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Issy, thanks for hiring me as your coach! For weights, start with a weight that is challenging around 8-10 reps and increase the weigts every week.
      2. Those classes sound great, if you are getting your heart rate that high, that’s great! Remember that your body will adjust so make sure you change things up.
      3. As long as you are challeged with those weights and you are getting stronger and lifting more every week. The trick is to make sure you are challenging yourself.
      4. Cellulite has to do a lot with toxins in your system. Try to cut out processed foods and anything with additives. Also, think about working your glutes when you are
      training legs, this will tighten glutes. The final thing is to get lean enough that you will lose as much as you can. Don’t binge in order to not add any additional fat cells to those
      areas…this is where bulking phases aren’t recommended.

      • Issy says:

        Hey Flavia,

        Thanks for the detailed response! Just to clarify:

        So in order to lose the fat and generally slim down overall (rather than increaseing muscle mass) I will need to keep up with the heavy weights but with more reps and also add in some high intensity cardio?

        How would you recommend fitting in the cardio classes with you 5 day program?


        • Flavia says:

          Yes! I would add them after 2-3 of your workout days (not Day 2) or if you can first thing in the morning. You can also add a cardio session to one of your days off.

  • gillian says:

    Hi Flavia

    I have naturally big calves and Im looking for ways to make them appear smaller. Would these excercises help to reduce the size or will these increase the size of my calves?


    • Flavia says:

      To reduce them, you should likely not train them intensionally at all. If you do, use really light weights or better, bodyweight. You will lose size if you don’t train them at all, so my suggestion would me to leave them out completely.

      • Marilyn says:

        So glad somebody asked this question! i was going to if it hadnt been mentioned. i too have those annoying big calves. So hard to find knee high boots to wear! lol this answer gives me some hope that they may get smaller one day! 🙂

  • mariah says:

    so i am 5’4″ and have really big calves im not over weight im 126 but my calves are huge! like almost the size of my thighs..weird so i was wonder what i should do if i want to make them smaller…just ignore the exercises? and i know that people say its just how my body is but i have seen them smaller than they recently are…so please help

    • Flavia says:

      I wouldn’t do any direct work on your calves, especially with weights. When you lose weight you will see them shrink as well.

  • Lily says:

    Interesting posts. Thanks. I just got your Bodylicious program and have reviewed the program and watched the videos. I have been following Isabel de los Rios and your friend Karine in the nutrition area and Dr. K for excercises. I have lost 7.2 pounds in 4 weeks, working out only 3 times a week, eating a bit cleaner and controlling portions. I thought your program is pretty good. Very straight forward, backed up by science, but to the point and with no BS. I agree that the only secret to lose fat is hard work and that’s what I want to do. I’m very committed this time. You know, I’m 5’2″ as well, and was about 116 pounds until I went to university. I gained weight, and then I started dieting for the first time in my life. So I lost weight, but then when I was off the diet, started gaining again, and so on. I moved to Canada from South America and I guess all that stress made me gain weight even more. I was at my heaviest been 130 pounds. That was 11 years ago. When I got engaged, I dieted again and lost weight, but after the wedding, guess what happened? Yup, I gained it all back and with compound interest!! At the beggining of this year I was 174 pounds!! And I made a decision to cut the bs and do something because I know I can do it!! I know I’m beatiful, but I need to be healthy. 174 and being that short is not good. I want to look good again! I know that following your program is not going to be easy, but I know that I will do it!! I have committed to it and that’s why I’m posting here!! 🙂 My goal is to hit 154 pounds by March 8th. I’m 12 pounds to go and I’m sure I’m going to make it. After I accomplish that, I will set another goal. Just have to get there to see what I want to do next. For sure other 20 pounds, but dont know what the timeline will be. Anyways, thanks for this program. Don’t want to bore you with my story. God bless!! 🙂 oh question, what type and brand of calipers would you reccommend? Thanks

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Lily! Thanks for sharing your story and your goals. For sure you will hit it if you are committed and follow the program. I don’t have a brand of calipers that I can reccmmend but I would recommend measuring with a tape if you don’t find calipers and taking pictures.

  • Aly says:

    How long will it take for my calves to get curvier if i do these workouts everyday? Amazing calves btw

    • Flavia says:

      That totally depends how your calves look now and what you are eating. You should see some great shape within a couple weeks if your diet is good and you are using enough intensity!

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