Seated Calf Raise

How to Do Them With or Without a Machine

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: December 22, 2021

Building your calves is a challenging endeavor. And it feels like they never respond as fast as other muscle groups.

For this reason, it’s vital to hit your calves from multiple angles with a variety of exercises. One such exercise is the seated calf raise.

Learn how to do seated calf raises to grow your calves, including multiple variations that you can do at home without a machine.

Seated Calf Raise

What Is a Seated Calf Raise?

A calf raise is an exercise where you lift your heels by pushing through the balls of your feet. And the seated calf raise is a specific variation of this exercise performed sitting down.

But seated calf raises aren’t just for those who want to take a load off. The bent leg position targets a different part of your calf muscles.

Seated Calf Raise Muscles Worked

Obviously, an exercise called a calf raise works the calf muscles on the back of your lower legs. However, the calf comprises two smaller muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

The gastrocnemius is a short muscle on the upper calf. In contrast, the soleus is a long muscle running from the heel to the back of the knee.

Calf Raise Muscles Worked

Seated vs Standing Calf Raise

The main difference between a seated and standing calf raise is that your legs are bent when seated and straight when standing. Moreover, the different leg angle changes the part of the calf muscle targeted.

For example, a seated calf raise primarily targets the soleus. Whereas the standing calf raise primarily targets the gastrocnemius.

Seated Calf Raise Bottom
Seated Calf Raise Top

How To Do Seated Calf Raises

Start by sitting down and placing your feet on the platform with your heels hanging off the back. Your feet should be roughly hip-width apart.

Next, slide your knees under the thigh pad until they’re about even with the front edge. Your knees should be about the same width as your feet.

Now push up on the thigh pad and tilt the safety catch out of the way. Then lower the weight by dropping your heels slowly until you feel a stretch in your calves.

From here, lift the weight by pushing up through the balls of your feet and raising your heels as high as possible. Then, squeeze your calves for a moment at the top.

Repeat for the desired number of reps before replacing the safety catch and setting down the weight.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Sit on the seat and put your feet on the platform about hip-width apart
  2. Slide your knees under the thigh pad
  3. Lift and tilt the safety catch out of the way
  4. Lower the weight slowly until you feel a stretch in your calves
  5. Push through the balls of your feet and squeeze your calves to lift the weight
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps and replace the safety catch

Seated Calf Raise Form

One benefit of the seated calf raise is that you can’t extend your knees or cheat by using your legs to lift the weight. However, it’s still possible to use bad form on this exercise.

The most common mistake is high-tempo bouncing reps with partial range of motion. This allows you to lift more weight by utilizing momentum, but your calves won’t grow!

Seated Calf Raise Form GIF

Instead, focus on using the full range of motion. Lower your heels as far as you can without your feet slipping. Then raise them as high as you can and squeeze at the top to get a deep contraction in your calves.

Another important tip is to line up your ankle, knee, and hip joints. This helps to transfer the load evenly through your bones and muscles.

Seated Calf Raise Form

Finally, you can target more inner or outer calves by changing the angle of your feet. For example, point your toes out to target your inner calf. Or point your toes in to target your outer calf.

Calf Raise Foot Position

Seated Calf Raise Without A Machine

Now you’re ready to add seated calf raises to your workout routine. But what if you don’t have a seated calf raise machine at your gym?

Fortunately, you can do the seated calf raise at home or any gym, even without a machine. Below are some seated calf raise variations using free weights.

Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

First up is the seated dumbbell calf raise. This exercise involves sitting on a bench with the balls of your feet on a box or plate.

Then rest a dumbbell on each thigh to add resistance while performing the calf raise movement.

Dumbbell Seated Calf Raise

Barbell Seated Calf Raise

Another option for a seated calf raise at home is with a barbell. Rest a bar across the tops of your knees while performing the seated calf raise movement.

You may want to wrap the barbell in foam or a towel to pad your legs for this variation.

Plate Seated Calf Raise

Lastly, you can set a weight plate on your lap while doing seated calf raises if you prefer. This variation is useful if you don’t have dumbbells or a barbell. But it is harder to use heavy weight.

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

Get a personalized meal plan built to fit your body and lifestyle. Including a custom workout routine designed around your fitness goals.

With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $24.99!

Click here to choose your plan.

Seated Calf Raise Alternatives

Of course, you don’t have to do seated calf raises in every workout. There are some other great exercises you can do to hit your lower legs from additional angles and target different calf muscles.

Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf raise is one of the best exercises for building the gastrocnemius. With your legs straight during the movement, you target the upper portion of the calf.

Standing calf raises can be done on a special machine, or you can do this exercise by holding dumbbells. In the video below, I demonstrate standing barbell calf raises.

Standing Smith Machine Calf Raise

Instead of a barbell, you can also use the Smith machine to do standing calf raises. Place a box or platform under the Smith machine bar and perform the exercise as shown in the video below.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

Leg Press Calf Raise

The leg press calf raise is like the standing calf raise. The main difference is that your upper body is slightly bent forward on the leg press.

With this body position, you get a little more stretch in your calves at the bottom of the movement.

Donkey Calf Raise

The donkey calf raise is another “bent over” calf exercise that emphasizes muscle stretch. While some gyms have donkey calf raise machines, you can also do them with free weights, as shown below.

7 Calf Exercises & Techniques For Better Calves

Seated and standing calf raises are tools in your toolbox for building bigger calves. But to build truly great calves, you need more than just a few good exercises.

That’s why I put together a list of the best techniques to torture your calves and force them to grow. Click below to learn my top 7 calf exercises and tips for better calves.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better body. And if you found this article helpful, be sure to check out some of my other content below!

Share with your community and get the conversation started!

By |December 22, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
Go to Top