How to Build Strong and Defined Calf Muscles

You can show off your quads and hams, but small calves can lead to slower sprints times, less stability on the court, lower jumps at the hoop, and a higher risk of injuries.

Brock Armstrong,
Episode #362
Photo of three woman building stronger calf muscles

Stretching the calves

Stretching along with your calf workouts will prime your legs for stronger movement and fewer injuries in your calves as well as hips and hamstrings. Do each of these for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Calf Stretch Hands Against Wall

  • Stand a few feet from the wall, and place your hands flat on the wall.

  • Keep your back straight, and press your heel(s) against the ground.

  • Don’t use brute force but rather relax into the stretch.

  • Don’t forget to breathe!

Standing Gastroc Calf Stretch

  • Place your right heel on the step or bench, extend your knee.

  • Grab your right toe with your right hand.

  • Pull your right toes toward your knee until you feel a stretch in your calf.

  • Release and repeat the movement on the left side.

The Stair Stretch

  • Stand on the stair with your right heel over the edge.

  • Lower your heel as far as you can by relaxing the calf and ankle.

  • Repeat with left heel.

  • Again, don’t use brute force, just breathe into the stretch.

Calf Strengthening Tips

Avoid thick and rigid footwear, to ensure full range of motion and that your calves are doing all of the work (not the foam in your shoe).

To finish off, here are a few rapid fire tips to keep in mind while you develop your enviably tree-trunk-like calves.

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes before each workout to fill your target muscles with blood and prepare them for the load.

  • Avoid thick and rigid footwear, to ensure full range of motion and that your calves are doing all of the work (not the foam in your shoe).

  • Change your workouts frequently, to avoid reaching a plateau or getting bored.

  • Although we are focusing on calves today, always train your entire body to maintain balance and symmetry.

  • Remember to take a week off of training every two to three months to ensure your muscles fully recover. You can do other physical activities during that time, you don’t have to just lay on the couch.

  • You may need to join a gym to get access to more equipment and heavier and heavier weights as you grow.

  • Rest at least one day in between each calf workout.

  • Rotate through different foot positions: toes straight, toes slightly in and tow slightly out since each position activates your calves differently.

  • Don’t save your calf workout for when you’re exhausted.

  • At the bottom, get your heels as low as they’ll comfortably go. At the top, make sure you’re on your tippy-toes with your calves fully contracted.

  • Once you hit the top of your rep range then add ten pounds. If you’re doing a standing calf raise in the four to six rep range and get 100 pounds for six reps, move up to 110 pounds for your next set and work with it until you can raise it for six reps, and so on.

  • It’s important to take in the proper amount of nutrients and protein to sustain your exercises. The Nutrition Diva has some great info on how much protein you should eat.

  • As with any bodybuilding protocol, make sure you give your body the appropriate time to rest and recover between each workout session. Train like a beast, recover like a champ.

Aside from solving Victoria’s problem of needing to wear boots with her leggings, our calf muscles are important in all our fitness and lifestyle endeavours. They act as both the gas and the brake when we run. When you are climbing a steep hill, that is your calf muscle in action. Coming down the other side of the hill, your calf makes sure you don’t wipe out.

According to a Runner's World survey of 14,000 injured runners, calf pulls were the second most common injury reported. If you don’t strengthen and stretch the lower leg, you are at risk.

Plus shapely calves are aesthetically pleasing. Toned calves compliment pretty much any body type especially one with bulging muscles elsewhere. Strengthening and developing the thighs and glutes while ignoring the calves can compromise your muscular symmetry and make you look like a balloon animal that is slowly deflating. And no one wants that.

For more lower leg info, calf tips, and to join in the bodybuilding conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.


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