When it comes to building a stronger lower half, many people hyperfocus on their quads and hamstrings. But if you’re looking to add muscle and definition to a pair of chicken legs (or to jump higher, reduce your risk of ankle injury, and generally increase your athletic performance), you can’t ignore your calves. And calf raises are one of the great ways to work them.
From flexing and stabilizing your ankle to helping to absorb the shock of jarring actions like running or leaping, your calves are essential for both facilitating movement and keeping you on your feet. And few moves target them more effectively than the standing, single-leg calf raise, which works one calf at a time to iron out muscle imbalances while building size and strength.
Here’s how to do it with perfect form.
How to Do a Single-Leg Calf Raise
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand by your side and place the ball of your right foot on a raised surface (the base an inclined bench works well). Cross your left ankle behind your right, hold onto the bench with your left hand for balance, and lower your right heel toward the floor (but don’t touch it). Rise up on the toes of your right foot as high as you can, giving your right calf an extra squeeze at the top. Pause, and then lower yourself back to the starting position. Do equal reps on both sides.
Bonus tip: Avoid the temptation to crank out reps quickly. When you do, your Achilles tendon does the bulk of the work. Maintaining a slow, controlled tempo ensures that you target your calves.
Need to make it easier?: Use lighter weight (or no weight at all), or work both legs simultaneously, rising up on the balls of both feet.
Want to make it harder? Use heavier weight.
Target muscles: Calf (gastrocnemius and soleus), as well as the tibialis anterior, which runs along the front of your leg next to your shin.