The 5 Best Calf Exercises For Women

So you want to learn about calf exercises for women? You want sexy and toned calves but you don't know where to start? Perhaps you've tried other calf exercises out there and they did nothing for you? (This won't surprise you by the time you've finished reading here!).

You've come to the right place - and I am so glad you're here!

Women often ask me 2 questions that seem the same but are actually completely different...

What are the best calf slimming exercises?

and...

What the best calf muscle toning exercises?

Let’s just straighten this out….

Calf Slimming Exercises Don't Exist!!!

A calf muscle exercise is purely to grow and define the calf muscle.  As with all other muscles in the body, there is no way to ‘spot-reduce’ fat.  People often misinterpret the ‘burn’ in exercises when working muscles to be ‘burning off’ fat.  This is not so. 

The only way to lose fat through exercise is through high energy huffy puffy cardio workouts. 

Therefore, if you need to lose weight on your calf the best exercise you can do is anything huffy puffy that will burn more calories, like running, that will increase your energy out, and help you lose weight overall.

On the other hand...

Calf Toning Exercises do Exist!!!

Calf exercises do work if your goal is to increase your calf muscle size or tone.  The most effective calf exercises for women are those that target the 2 main calf muscles, being the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle.  The gastrocnemius muscle is responsible for the plantar-flexion movement when the heel raises up higher than the toes) in a standing position, and the soleus muscle (which sits beneath and lower than the gastrocnemius) is worked in a sitting position.  Therefore, both these muscles need to be worked in these positions.

I'm also often asked about calf exercises for women to tone Inner calf muscles – there is no such thing as a certain exercise that only works the inner calf.  As mentioned above, when working the calf, you have only 2 muscles and these are worked as a whole muscle.  As with any other muscle, you cannot work the ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ of a muscle that has the same origin and insertion attachments, as it is only one muscle that gets worked at the same time :)

My Top 5 Calf Muscle Exercises

 5 of the best calf exercises for women to do at home are as the ones below.  Incorporate these into your lower body strength training.  I'd always put these at the end of your lower body session after working the larger muscle groups.

Calf Exercise For Women 1) Standing Calf Raises

These little burners can be done with or without dumbells.  If you have dumbells, hold them at your sides to increase the overall weight for you calves to raise.

  • Stand with your feet facing forwards shoulder width apart
  • Raise your heels off the ground as high as you can whilst maintaining balance and ensuring your ankles don’t ‘roll’ inwards or outwards
  • Hold the ‘tip-toe position for 2 seconds, then slowly lower them back to the ground
  • Aim to perform these until your calf really starts to fatigue and you are struggling to raise up and keep good form
Standing Calf Raise Step 1
Standing Calf Raise Step 2

Calf Exercises For Women 2) 1 Legged Calf Raises

  • Using the edge of a ledge/stair,  place the ball of one foot on the stair, and hang the other leg off.
  • Hold onto a wall or bar for support, and lean slightly forward to create tension in the working leg. 
  • Then raise your heel up quickly as high as you can while maintaining form and not allowing the ankle to ‘roll’ or the knees to bend.
  • Hold it there for 2 seconds then control it back down, ensuring you keep the tension in your calf and up the back of your leg, don’t lean back with your body weight.
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps then do the other leg.  Then you can do it with both feet together.
1 Legged Calf Raise - Step 1
1 Legged Calf Raise - Step 2

Calf Exercise For Women 3) Sitting Weighted Calf Raises

These are used to work the soleus muscle which sits beneath the gastrocnemius and attaches lower on the calf.  When standing, the gastrocnemius is targeted, so use these to also work the soleus muscle.

  • Sit with your bum on the edge of a seat.  Finf some kind of weight to place on your knees.
  • Raise you heels off the ground, lifting the weight.
  • Hold there for 2-3 seconds then lower back down with control.
Sitting Weighted Calf Raises - Step 1
Sitting Weighted Calf Raises - Step 2

Calf Exercises For Women 4) Squat Calf Raise

This is a fantastic plyometric exercise for the calves. 

  • Perform a deep squat
  • On standing from the squat, push up with force and extend until your knees straighten and you raise all the way up onto tip toes.
  • Hold it there on your tip toes for 2 seconds whilst maintaining balance and ensuring your ankles don’t ‘roll’ inwards or outwards
  • Lower back down onto your heels and begin your next squat.
  • Repeat for 10-20 reps, great as a finish to a lower body session, and used as an overload to the above calf exercises.
Squat Calf Raise - Step 1
Squat Calf Raise - Step 2

Calf Exercise For Women 5) Squat Jumps

  • Perform a deep squat
  • From your squat position, push off the floor with force, jumping as high as you can into the air, extending your knees and most importantly – ensuring you point your toes towards the floor.
  • Land and repeat for 10-20 reps.
  • Another option from the squat calf raises, and great as a finish to a lower body session, and used as an overload to the above calf exercises.
Squat JumpsSquat Jumps - Step 1
Squat JumpsSquat Jumps - Step 2

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