The secret to strong calves is in the science. To tone and build this important muscle group, you need to target both the gastrocnemius — the big ball of a muscle on your calf — and the soleus, which runs beneath it from your heel up to the back of your knee. “Both of these muscles make up the calves,” explained Ashley Kelly, NASM, a personal trainer with Bach in New York City and a 2016 Olympian in track and field.
Strong calf muscles, Ashley told POPSUGAR, help to stabilize your knees, feet, and ankles. That stability, in turn, can help prevent injuries from overpronation, when your ankle rolls too far inward during a stride, and excessive supination, when your ankle bows outwards. And if you’re a runner, Ashley added, strong calves can help you dominate. These muscles are important in short sprints, and building them will increase the power in your legs overall.
You can build calf muscles through both running and strength training, Ashley said. “Runners normally have tighter calves because of the constant impact and contractions,” she explained. Strength training can help isolate those muscles without the pounding impact that can make running hard on your joints and other muscles.
If you’re looking for calf strength exercises in particular, you’re in the right place. Ashley recommended adding a few calf moves as a superset in your regular lower-body workout if you’re especially focused on strengthening and building those muscles. You can also mix in a few throughout a full-body workout. Start with simple bodyweight exercises (here are our favorites for strengthening calves), then try out a few of these weighted moves that Ashley recommended.
Calf Exercises With Weights
To make these calf exercises a superset, do 10 reps of each and repeat the full circuit three times, taking a 30 second to one minute rest after each circuit.
- Double leg calf raise with a barbell
- Elevated double leg calf raise
- Seated calf raise
- Calf raise with leg press machine
- Jump rope
- Box jump
Keep reading to see how to do each move, and when you’re done, don’t forget to stretch out with these eight effective calf stretches.