Leg Press Calf Raise Exercise Guide: How to, Benefits, and Variations

leg press calf raise

Learn how and why the leg press calf raise is an excellent exercise for growing your calf muscles! 

Your calves play a role in many bodily functions, including running, jumping, walking, standing, and flexing your feet (1). They also play an essential role in blood circulation by contracting and pushing blood through your legs to your heart. 

Calf raises help to strengthen your calves and protect them against injuries. Training your calves, particularly as a bodybuilder, also helps to keep them from lagging behind your other muscles. When your calf muscles fall behind, it could lead to injuries when exercising your lower body.

One variation of calf raises can save time and help you load on weight. This is the leg press calf raise. Many bodybuilders add this routine to their leg workouts before, between, or after their sets on the leg press. Read on for all you need to know about the leg press calf raise, how to do them, the benefits of this exercise, and some other good alternatives.

How to Do The Leg Press Calf Raise

Leg press calf raises work on all your muscles but specifically target the gastrocnemius. This exercise is easy to do and lets you work on your inner and outer calves by positioning your legs (2)

  1. Sit in the leg press machine and put your forefoot against the sled plate. Your heels should be off the plates to fully engage your calves.
  2. Lift the platform off the safety stops by extending your legs and driving through the balls of your feet. At this point, it’ll look like you’re pushing your tiptoes against the plate. 
  3. Squeeze your calves as hard as possible and pause for a second.
  4. Lower the weight with your legs as straight as possible while returning your feet to a flat shape until you feel that stretch in the calves. 
  5. Repeat for a number of reps, and remember to keep your movement slow and careful.

*Tip: Extend your legs during this exercise to prevent your upper leg muscles from taking the work off your calves and preventing their growth.

Benefits

Leg press calf raises are a great way to build mass in your calves. However, they offer some other benefits to bodybuilders. Below are some things you can expect when you add leg press calf raises to your routine.

Ideal Calf Appearance

Since leg press calf raises are done with your legs fully extended, it works on your gastrocnemius. This muscle is easily visible and contributes significantly to the appearance of your legs and calves. It’s the perfect way to get lean and muscular-looking legs

Ankle Joint and Foot Reinforcement

Your calves stabilize the movement in your ankles and feet. Doing leg press calf raises work and strengthen the muscles that help you point your foot up and down. It also helps to reinforce your ankle joint.

Leg Strength and Stability

Developing your calves is excellent for your leg strength and stability. This is important for bodybuilders doing weight training as you need this for balance during many routines. Leg press calf raises also help to improve your lower body endurance.

Safety and Ease

Since leg press calf raises happen on a machine, it’s safer as it has a built-in safety mechanism. Doing your calf raises in a seated or lying position with the leg press also means little strain on other body parts except the lower limbs, which are your target.

Less Lower Back Stress

Calf raises on a leg press put little to no stress on your spine and back. This is safer than the calf raises done with a barbell. This can help to reduce excess strain on your pelvis and lower back. 

Leg Press Calf Raise Variations

leg press calf raise

Here are some other variations of this exercise that you can try.

Calf Raise

Regular calf raises can be done without equipment on the floor or even with a step. However, they require balance, so you might have to start with a wall for support. Then, you slowly raise your heels off the floor till you’re on tiptoes, all while engaging your core.

Calf Raise Machine Raise

This machine is made explicitly for calf exercises and is available in large-scale commercial gyms. It works like the leg press calf raise, but you’ll be standing.

Smith Machine Calf Raise

With the Smith machine calf raise, you get a great combination of machine and free weights. You can also control the position of your body. It’s done upright.

Seated Calf Raise

With seated calf raises, you can include a dumbbell or bodyweight in your routine. It’s done sitting on the edge of a chair or bench. Using a plate could also increase your range of motion. 

Single Leg Calf Raise

Only try the single-leg calf raise if you have been doing calf raises for a while. You can start this with your bodyweight and then progress to dumbbells when you feel your balance is better too. In this routine, one leg crosses behind the ankle of the other before the leg on the floor is then raised. 

Donkey Calf Raise

Donkey calf raises require a bench and a step. This routine requires you to hinge forward at your hips and put your forearms on the bench with your back below parallel. Then you do the calf raises. 

Calf Anatomy

Your calf consists of two main muscles — the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These muscles come together above your heels to attach to your Achilles tendon. A third small muscle, the plantaris, also runs between the two above. However, about 10% of humans don’t have plantaris. All these muscles together are known as the triceps surae. 

Gastrocnemius

This muscle is located at the lower back of your leg, just under the skin. It forms the bulk of the calf muscle and is easy to see. As a result, bodybuilders target this muscle for the right aesthetics. However, strains of this muscle are expected as it connects to two joints, the ankle and the knee joint (3)

Soleus

The soleus sits slightly more profound and is a broad flat muscle that starts just below the knee. It connects to the bones in the lower leg and is less prone to injuries. This is because it only crosses your ankle joint.

FAQs

Can I do calf raises on leg press?

Yes, leg press calf raises are done on a leg press and are very effective for calf muscles.

What does calf raise on leg press do?

They ensure that your calves are leaner, stronger, and better. It also helps to prevent post-workout leg soreness.

Is leg press calf raise better than standing?

Leg press calf raises are safer and easier to do than standing calf raises.

Final Word

A leg press calf raise is a safer and easier variation of calf raises. They’re great for working the gastrocnemius and give your legs a more robust, leaner, and better muscular-looking appearance. Variations like the donkey calf raise and cable machine calf raise also exist. Add leg press calf raises to your leg day routines for better leg muscle growth results and to explode your calves.  

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References

  1. Mann, R. A., & Hagy, J. (1980). Biomechanics of walking, running, and sprinting. The American journal of sports medicine, 8(5), 345–350. https://doi.org/10.1177/036354658000800510
  2. Nunes, J. P., Costa, B. D. V., Kassiano, W., Kunevaliki, G., Castro-E-Souza, P., Rodacki, A. L. F., Fortes, L. S., & Cyrino, E. S. (2020). Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 34(8), 2347–2351. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000003674
  3. Fields, K. B., & Rigby, M. D. (2016). Muscular Calf Injuries in Runners. Current sports medicine reports, 15(5), 320–324. https://doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0000000000000292
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.