You can be an absolute beast in the gym and have low levels of body fat; however, none of these will hit those problem areas we all have.
It takes focus and dedication to get these areas to catch up with the rest of your body. One of these lagging, nagging body parts are your calf muscles.
Commonly known as “chicken legs,” people with body image issues are sometimes jacked like crazy… but they wear sweatpants all the time because they think their legs are tiny.
Best Calf Raise Machines
- TDS Standing Calf Machine
- XMark Fitness 11-Gauge Seated Calf Raise
- Powertec Fitness Levergym Squat/Calf Machine
- Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine
While this isn’t true usually, they do have a point when it comes to the lower leg muscles. Calves are a tough nut to crack.
Thankfully, there are things out there that can help you grow your calf muscles without having to spend too much time on them.
One terrific resource is a calf raise machine. These bad boys are wonderful for targeting your lower legs, allowing them to increase in size alongside the rest of your leg muscles.
In this article, we’ll go over what a calf machine is, what the benefits are, what you need to look out for if you’re buying one, and how to use a calf raise machine.
Plus, we’ll give you a few exercises and workouts you can do to help your calf muscles grow quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, we’ll go over the top calf raise machines you can buy on the market.
Let’s rise to the occasion, shall we?
What Is a Calf Raise Machine?
It’s as the name says: It’s a machine you use to raise your calves.
Now why would you want to do such a thing? Well, this is the premier way to build calf muscle mass.
You can doctor it up any way you want — and we’ll get into the various ways you can do calf raises — but no matter what, it involves calf muscle contraction, which means pointing your toes away from your legs and making your calves lift a form of resistance.
A calf machine can either involve you standing or sitting (which we’ll go over as well). It’s fairly unobtrusive, meaning it isn’t in the way compared to other types of exercise equipment.
Usually, calf raise machines include places where you can add or subtract weight to the movement.
This is pivotal for progressive overload, which is how you make your muscles grow (a.k.a. hypertrophy).
Benefits of Using a Calf Machine
Obviously, this machine can work wonders for your calves. But there are tangible advantages to getting your own and using a calf raise machine outside of building thick calves.
Here are the multiple benefits:
- You gain ankle strength/stability: Your body is made up of more than just muscles. Your joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones also need to be taken care of. With a calf raise machine, you improve your ankles’ strength and stability, helping you with everything from walking to balancing. This is an overall increase in the quality of your life.
- You remain in control/prevent injury: Unlike other free weight exercises, you can control how much weight and range of motion you do with a calf raise machine. This additional control gives you the ability to monitor and gauge how your calves feel at certain resistances. You will avoid unnecessary and painful injuries this way.
- You improve your sprinting and running performance: With stronger, more stable ankles, bigger calves, and a better mind-muscle connection with your lower legs, all of this equals a boost in your ability to run. Speed and form can be improved upon, and using a calf raise machine is a crucial piece to the sprinting and running puzzle.
- Your calves improve size-wise: Of course, if you progressively overload the resistance you use on the machine (amount of weight, number of reps, intensity, etc.), your calf muscles will grow. Granted, how much they grow is somewhat dependent on genetics. But that doesn’t mean you can’t visually see a difference if you work hard at it.
- It does a lot for being little: This machine is a very unimposing piece of equipment. You can get in, get a great calf workout, and get out without spending too much time on your volume. Plus, it can be easily tucked away into a corner when it isn’t being used. All things considered, it’s worth way more than the cost.
The advantages of a calf raise machine are numerous and supremely helpful. With one simple machine, you get all of this, which overall affects your quality of life and athletic performance.
Considerations Before Buying a Calf Machine
You’ll have to conduct solid research before moving in on your own calf raise machine. The characteristics that make up the machine are super important because they will transform your entire calf workout routine.
- Budget: Everyone has a price point that they won’t go over. You can get a high-quality calf raise machine for not a ton of cash. You don’t have to remortgage your home or anything. Aim for a price that falls below $300 for most machines; if it’s anything above this price, it better be pretty damn special.
- Quality: Of course, you shouldn’t skimp on your budget and sacrifice the quality of your machine. The materials, setup, and structure should all be extremely durable. Not only that, you must be comfortable during your sets (well… comfortable in the seat or the padding below the knees; your calves should be on fire). Look for thick padding, quality leather, and a sturdy metal frame.
- Size/Space/Footprint: The smaller, the better. For such a minute body part, you don’t want this machine to take up your entire garage. At the very most, this machine should take up four feet in any given direction. That way, it can be tucked into a corner when you aren’t using it.
- Calf Anatomy/What You Want To Build: This will help you decide which specific calf raise machine you should purchase. Depending on what you actually want in terms of your calf development, you either want a standing calf machine or a sitting calf machine. You may want to put a ton of volume on your calves, or you just want them to be an afterthought tagged onto the end of a workout. In any case, it’s best to test out both types of machines to make sure you know your preferences.
Take all of this into consideration when looking to buy a calf raise machine.
How to Use a Calf Raise Machine
The cool aspect of calf raise machines is that they’re really simple to use. After a single trial run, you’ll be able to have proper form and start to progress in terms of weight or reps.
Here’s how to rep out calf raises on both a seated and standing machine.
Seated Calf Raise Machine
This is as easy as sitting down… literally. Once you get on the bench, adjust the knee pads to have them resting right on your thighs.
You should already feel some of the tension from the load. Don’t put the pads too high, or you won’t be able to properly lift and lower the weight.
One you’re situated, lift the pads with your knees, flexing your calf muscles and feeling the mind-muscle connection with your calf contractions.
Take the lever (which should be in front of you, to the right of the platform) and shift it over; this way, you can lower the weight all the way down, to where your calves are at their most extended.
Switch between extension and contraction, each back-and-forth counting as a rep.
To re-rack, lift it one last time, move the lever back to its original position, and let the load come down onto the cradle.
Remove your legs from underneath the knee pads and get up.
Standing Calf Raise Machine
This kind of machine involves you standing up on a slightly raised platform, where you balance on your toes and your heels are suspended in the air.
As well, you fit your shoulders under pads, not your knees; this is where you’ll “shoulder” the brunt of the load.
If it seems like it takes longer to get a burning sensation in your calves on a standing machine, that’s because it does; contrarily, on a seated machine, the force is more concentrated.
In any case, once you are fully set, you should be shouldering the weight if you’re standing straight up.
Simply raise your body via your calves, then lower your body, past horizontal so your calves get extended. Your body should stay rigid this entire time.
Go between fully contracted and fully extended, each counting as a rep.
To re-rack, bend your knees to take your shoulders away from the pads. Step down and away from the platform.
The Ultimate Workout to Build Your Calves
Another terrific thing about calves is that there’s basically one exercise — the calf raise. All you can do is adjust the angle, position, or load.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a crazy hard calf workout in. Here’s a straightforward, burn-inducing workout that targets your calves and gets them on the road to muscle growth.
- Calf raises (either seated or standing): 3 sets x 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 reps
- Toes-out calf raises: 2 sets x 15-20 reps
- Toes-in calf raises: 2 sets x 15-20 reps
- Calf raise holds (at the top and bottom): 2 sets x 45-60 seconds each
For the first exercise in the workout, you’ll want to start with your heaviest weight for 6-8 reps. Then, rest for two minutes.
Reduce the weight by about 10 percent, then go for 8-10 reps. Do this one more time, this time for 10-12 reps.
This is what’s known as reverse pyramid training, which will be your primary way of progressing in terms of load.
Once you can hit the top of each rep range (8, 10, 12 reps), increase the weight by 5 pounds and go back down to the bottom of the range (6, 8, 10 reps).
The next two exercises are straight sets, meaning you keep the weight the same for all sets. What these do, though, is target other areas of your calves.
By flexing your feet inwards or outwards, you get a different stimulus.
Rest for only a minute between all of these sets. (If you want, you can alternate between the two, in a sort-of mini-circuit.)
For the last exercise, you’ll be using isometrics to develop insane muscle growth.
By holding the calf raise movement at both the top and the bottom will cause your calves to get stronger at both extremes.
Getting stronger on the eccentric (lengthened) part of the movement, i.e. the bottom, you’ll be able to see results quickly; your calves are bound to blow up from this style of training!
(Side note: You can use any and all of these training styles for whatever body part you want. Another terrific type of working out is slow negatives.)
Top Calf Raise Machine Reviews
First up on our list of the top calf raise machines is the TDS Standing Calf Machine, by far one of the best standing machines money can buy.
This piece is easy to set up, with zero professional assistance required. On top of that, it gives you dual plate holders, meaning you can load up to 1000 pounds in Olympic plates.
The height is adjustable, which means it can function for anybody, short or tall.
The dimensions are 50 inches by 32 inches at the base, meaning it isn’t very in-your-way.
Combined with a non-slip wide steel deck foot plate and professional quality shoulder pads (3.5 inches thick), this is a solid, straightforward standing calf raise machine.
If you’re looking to do your calf raises while standing — and want to get up to heavy, heavy loads, look no further than the TDS Standing Calf Machine.
Next up is the 11-Gauge Seated Calf Raise from the people over at XMark Fitness.
This thing can be considered one of the best built machines on the market. It looks exactly like what you’d find in a high-end gym.
It has height-adjustable, swiveling thigh pads, meaning it rotates with your thighs as you rep out your calf raises (basically, the pads won’t dig into your legs).
The machine is made out of 11-gauge 2″ x 3″ steel, as well as skid-resistant feet and a non-slip foot brace bar, meaning you’ll never get injured and the machine will stand the test of time.
Equipped with dual Olympic weight posts, this calf machine is everything you could ever want.
For a no-B.S. calf workout that gets the job done, it’d be tough to find something better than the XMark Fitness 11-Gauge Seated Calf Raise.
Powertec Fitness is the next brand on this list, coming in with their Levergym Squat/Calf Machine.
Now, this machine takes the budget concept and throws it out the window. But you get what you pay for, and this machine gives you more than just a simple calf raise machine.
For one, it’s an all-encompassing leg workout machine; you can do your classic calf raises, along with squats, single-leg calf raises (which you can add to our calf workout above), and single-leg squats.
And with a weight load capacity of 500 pounds, you can get a big and burly lower body with a single piece of equipment.
Plus, the innovative slide handle bar allows the user to start and stop the exercises in the top position.
For a kickass burn throughout your entire legs, you’d best go with the Powertec Fitness Levergym Squat/Calf Machine.
Lastly, we have the Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine.
While this one gives you the best value in terms of your budget, that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a lot of bang for your buck.
Made of thick steel, this machine gives you a solid calf workout each and every time.
It has an angled foot platform with a no-slip surface and an adjustable design that can fit any user, any size.
The machine measures 45 inches long, 21 inches wide, making it one of the least imposing pieces on this list.
Tack on a couple of foam thigh pads, and you’ve got one hell of a calf raise machine (and for one hell of a price, too).
If all you want is a simple, inexpensive machine that helps you develop your calves, you can’t go wrong with the Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine.
The calf muscle is the most often neglected, yet most lamented muscle in history.
Bros and bras who have packed on the muscle complain about their tiny lower legs… but they don’t even give them any attention!
We say no more. It’s time to give your calves the respect they deserve.
You want thick, powerful calves. And you can achieve them. So long as you have the right equipment, take consistent action in the form of our calf workout, and dial in your nutrition.
Take another look at our list of the top calf raise machines.
Figure out which one fits your training routine — as well as your home gym — and give it a spin.
Here’s to elevating your calf gains!