Calf Exercises

Written By: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Calf exercises look to work both of the calf muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus.  Strengthening the calf will help to support the ankle, foot and knee and can help to reduce the risk of problems developing.

Here, we will look at some intermediate and advanced calf exercises.  If you haven’t already tried the basic calf workout, start there.  Once you are finding those easy to perform, come back to here to strengthen the calf muscles further. 

Intermediate Calf Exercises

1) Single Standing Calf Raises

Purpose: Calf strengthening in isolation

Single calf raises are great calf exercises.  Approved use

Starting Position: Standing holding onto a chair or the wall for balance and lift one foot off the floor.

Action: Push up onto your tiptoes as high as you can.  Hold for 3-5 seconds and then slowly lower back down to the floor.

Repetition: Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Notes: Get maximum benefit from calf exercises by not taking any weight through your hands – let your legs do the work.  Your hands are just there for balance if needed

2) Step Standing Calf Raises

Purpose: Works the calf muscle through a great range to further increase strength.  One of my favourite calf exercises

Standing calf raises on a step.  Approved use

Starting Position: Stand with your heels hanging off a step, holding onto something for balance e.g. wall or banister

Action: Let your heels drop down as far as feels comfortable and then push up onto your tip toes.  Hold for 3 seconds and then drop back down as low as you can

Repetition: Repeat 10-25 times

Notes: Make sure you are taking your weight evenly through both feet.  You may feel a stretch in your calf as you let your heels drop down – that is fine.  You are just having a bit of a stretch as well as strengthening the muscles

3) Toe Pointing Against Resistance

Purpose: Strengthen the calf using resistance but without having to stand and bear weight on the leg

Resistance bands are a great tool with calf exercises.  Approved use

Starting Position: Either lying on the bed or sitting in a chair with your legs out straight. Wrap a resistance band such as theraband around the ball of your foot and hold onto the end.  Take up the slack in the band

Action: Push your foot downwards against the band so you are pointing your toes as far down as you can.  Hold for 3 seconds and slowly let your foot come back up

Repetition: Repeat 10-20 times

Variations: You can vary the resistance in 2 ways
1) The more tightly you pull the band to increase the tension, the harder the calf muscles will have to work
2) You can choose from a range of bands at different resistances.  The higher the resistance, the harder the calf workout will be

4) Jumping

Purpose: It sounds simple but this is a great calf workout.  Jumps are very functional strengthening calf exercises and are a good cardiovascular exercise too

Jumping calf exercises.  Approved use www.

Starting Position: Stand with both feet flat on the floor

Action: Jump up and down on the spot.  You should be pushing up through your toes on the way up, and landing on your toes first as you land.

Repetition: Repeat 10-50 times either in one go or in 3 sets of 15

Variations: 1) If you want to make things more interesting, rather than just jumping up and down, jump in different directions (as shown in the picture), or jump up onto a step or box and then jump back down.
2) To work harder, hold weights as you do this exercise e.g. dumb bells or bottles of water
3) To work even harder, start in a squat position and then jump up and down

Advanced Calf Exercises

1) Single Step Calf Raises

Purpose: Advanced strengthening calf muscle exercise

Calf exercises on a step - great for strengthening.  Approved use

Starting Position: Stand with your heels hanging off the back of a step, holding the wall for balance.  Lift up one foot so you are standing on one leg

Action: Push up onto your toes as high as you can and hold for 3-5 seconds.  Then, slowly lower down as far as you can, dropping your heel lower than the level of the step. Repeat

Repetition: Repeat 10-30 times on each leg

Progression: Wear a backpack containing heavy books while doing this exercise to make this even harder

2) Hopping

Purpose: It sounds simple but hopping is a great calf workout.  Not only does it work the calf muscles, it also helps to strengthen your core, improves balance and is a good cardiovascular workout

Starting Position: Stand on 1 leg

Action: Hop up and down

Repetition: Repeat 10-50 times on each leg either in 1 go or in 3 sets of 15

What Else Can Help?

If these exercises are feeling too difficult, have a look at the basic calf exercises section and start there.  After a few weeks, as your calf gets stronger, you should be able to return to doing these exercises.  You'll be amazed how much easier they feel.

As well as doing these strengthening calf exercises, it is also important to stretch to ensure the muscles are in top condition.  Visit the Calf Stretches section to find out how the most effective ways to stretch the calf muscles.

If you are looking to strengthen the rest of the foot and improve strength, stability and flexibility in the foot, make sure you also visit the ankle strengthening section. 

Go to Exercise Guide or Foot Pain Guide

Page Last Updated: 14/01/19
Next Review Due: 14/01/21

Your Comments

Share your foot pain experiences with others, whether it be ideas, top tips, things that worked well for you, problems you've had, questions etc.......

This comments section is moderated occasionally and posteriorly by our editorial team. Internet users posting comments here should not be considered as health professionals. Comments posted here should be designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician. See our full terms of use in the commenting policy section.