Exercise Moves That Will Give You Stronger Calves

Man's strong calves

Want stronger calves? We have the answer. | iStock.com

Nothing sends the message that you’re both fit and able to deliver a powerful roundhouse kick like swollen calves. You know them when you see them — the cyclists, runners, and weight lifters who put in a lot of time with the barbells. They’re bound to have monstrous, muscular calves. These are people who are often off their feet and turning calories into lean muscle tissue to go along with what are likely bulging biceps and a solid six-pack.

But, how do you get there? If you want to develop a pair of leg-pythons of your own, it’s as easy as working on any other part of your body. You don’t necessarily need access to a gym, barbells, or heavy fitness equipment either. There are plenty of exercises that can be done from the comfort of your living room, or even the backyard. Of course, having access to free weights and machines can help, too!

After some research, we’ve put together a short list of the best exercises you can do to bring your calves to a whole new level. Whether your goal is to run faster or get better at your favorite sport, toned, strong calves may be the ticket. These five exercises will deliver bigger calves.

1. Calf press

Man performing a seated calf press

The seated calf press is effective. | iStock.com

This exercise is all in the name — the calf press. The calf press is one of those exercises that requires you to have access to a gym, and the correct equipment. You’ll need a 45-degree leg press machine to which you’ll be able to add whatever weight you’re comfortable with (it’s basically a barbell you’ll be pushing up with your feet). The press will isolate your calves, ensuring that you’re getting some solid resistance training on those specific muscles.

Muscle & Strength has a good tutorial and description of how to properly pull off a calf press, with reminders that you should ensure each rep is slow and steady and you get your full range of motion with every push.

2. Jump rope

Man jumping rope outside

Jumping rope is great for the calves. | iStock.com

This one is simple enough, right? All you need is a jump rope. Jumping up and down uses your body’s natural pogo-sticking muscles, which happen to be your calves. While the calf press is weight-intensive and an isolation exercise, using the jump rope is more about stamina and persistence. Think of it in the same vein as running — the longer you go, the more stress you’re putting on your muscles, and the better the workout.

It’s also an aerobic activity, meaning you’re burning calories and fat, which will help the muscles underneath become more exposed with time. Of course, you can’t spot-target fat burning, so through the process of becoming slimmer, your calves will look better.

3. Standing barbell calf raise

man weightlifting with barbells

Working out with barbells can help your calf muscles. | iStock.com

Barbell lovers: Here’s an exercise for you. The standing barbell calf raise is easy enough — you just need to make sure you have access to barbells and plenty of space. Like the calf press, the standing barbell calf raise is about building strength through resistance. In this instance, you’re pulling the barbell up against gravity as opposed to pushing the weight up with the force generated by your legs.

Men’s Health notes a few important things about this exercise to keep in mind, for safety’s sake. Since you are dealing with free weights and barbells, make sure you keep your back straight so as to not hurt yourself. You may be only using a relatively small amount of weight, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself out of whack with one wrong twist or turn. Also, make sure your feet are properly spaced, and if need be, have someone spot you.

4. Mountain climbers

Woman performing floor exercises outside

Mountain climbers are great for the calves. | iStock.com

You probably remember mountain climbers from gym class in high school. Essentially, they are performed from the push-up position, except in this case you’re working your legs, not your arms and chest. By keeping your hands in place and simulating a climbing motion with your legs, alternate left leg with right to get a serious burn going through your lower extremities. They may sound easy, but give it a minute or two, and you’ll be feeling it.

Mountain climbers will give your calves a serious workout, along with the rest of your body. You’ll also get some cardio going as well, as will become apparent when you’re out of breath at the end of your set. There are also variants of the mountain climber exercise you can work in for when you need a little extra resistance or challenge.

5. Yoga — downward-facing dog

downward-facing dog yoga pose

Downward-facing dog is a great position for stretching those calves. | iStock.com

Yoga lovers, this one’s for you. The popular downward-facing dog pose will give your calves a hell of a stretch and help them become stronger and more toned at the same time. It may look easy, but just give it a try — there’s a lot more to it than you might think.

The key here is to make sure your feet remain flat on the ground, as that is what really targets the calves. Even if you’re not familiar with yoga, this is still something you can try as an exercise all on its own. Check out a couple tutorials and give it a shot.