T Nation

Calf Development w/out Specific Equipment


I'm training in a new gym for the next 3 months to be closer to home and family commitments. The gym has ample free weights, squat racks, smith machines etc but nothing dedicated for calves (no leg press for toe press, no calve machine both seated or standing). There are some aerobic type platforms but I am not sure how heavy it can stand (BW + weights).

I flicked through some old threads on this topic and this older article by Chris - http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/building_fat_guy_calves

What are your thoughts on the following?

  1. Using the smith machine, standing on a stacked (3) set of bumper/weight plates and performing a standing calf raise full ROM?

  2. Single leg standing calf raise with dumbbell in one hand. Standing on the floor or set of weight plates?

  3. Seated, some padded using a towel, balancing a barbell across the thigh and performing a seated variation?

Will these limit the calf development? i.e. it will work for some parts of the calve but not all muscles in the calve?

What are the most important variables to consider?
a. Range of motion? Apply full above and below to stretch the muscle or partial above ground?
b. Weight used vs. number of reps? i.e. heavy weight x some sets/reps, some x some, some x lot, heavy x lot, etc.
c. Slow down the tempo even more? Doing about 2 seconds up and 3 seconds down now.

I don't have moderate level development in my calves yet but I am training them 2 to 3 times a week for 3 sets per session and working on getting them better. Thanks.


Id have a problem with this one, I'd be afraid the plates would slip out and would end in injury.


I work in a council gym and do calves while I?m working, I use the aerobic steps under the smiths and they work fine, the only concern I had with them is it tipping up. To remedy this I use it the opposite way round?.! I have my feet on the narrow end of the step not the wide side. So length ways instead of width ways. Hope this makes sense! Also I sue the leg extension as a seated calf raise. Bit awkward but allows me to train at work.
See if you can picture that!

also we have stairs and after 15 steps a landing. i try to do 15 reps on each calf (body weight) on each step.
but whatever you do its better than nothing and 3 months is not forever.


IMO, the biggest thing with calves is not "bouncing" at the bottom of the rep since that only proves that your achilles is quite elastic rather than actually working your muscle. i see a lot of guys with tiny legs bouncing big weights around at my gym.

when in a pinch, my favorite calf exercises are straight leg smith from platform (bilateral), straight leg from platform holding one db (unilateral), and holding one db and jumping with the same leg, trying not to let your heal touch the ground. i remember seeing that last one in an article on here a year or two ago.


I have also used the smith with an aerobic step, it worked fine. I have also used a dip belt and done donkey calf raises before.


"2. Single leg standing calf raise with dumbbell in one hand. Standing on the floor or set of weight plates? "

You could also use a dip belt instead of holding a dumbell. I've never seen this but I just thought of it a couple weeks ago... it's a lot more comfortable


Yep, I do these too. Really like both.


You could also do standing barbell calf raises with either sqaut or deadlift hold. Standing on one plate only is probably safer. Si would not bother about the limited ROM too much and just focus on progressive overload.
There are some exercises videos from Thib on these exercises.