T Nation

How to Train Calves with Little Equipment


I lift at home, and I have a power rack, a bench, barbell and weights, and dumbbells, but no machine or anything that would allow me to train calves. What should I do, get a 2x4 and use the dummbells and hope I can keep balance? I can't train them sitting down then, but im not sure thats a problem anyway.


If you have a power rack try almost leaning against the front or back of it with a barbell on your back while you do calf raises on a 2x4. (sort of using the 'leaning motion' in a smith machine kind of sense) This should help you balance a little better and push out more reps without messing up your footing. (I hope that made sense, it's hard to describe)
You can also put a heavy dumbbell on your knee as you sit and do calf raises that way.



"You'll also notice that the entire routine is "home gym-friendly." You need a step or block, a power rack, and some dumbbells. That's it."

You certainly don't need to do the entire routine, but there are four solid lower leg exercises that requires only free weights. If you're going to go with the barbell calf raise, try to either superset it with unweighted calf raises on a block/step/brick or add some unweighted calf raises on a block/step/brick as part of a cooldown, to be sure you're still working your calf/ankle through the full ROM.

Lies. All lies. :wink:

See the lunge-position calf raise.



if you want to train them seated you can use the seated barbell (or dumbbell) calf raise.


You can build something simple for seated and donkey calf raises. build a 1' by 2' frame out of 2x4's, nail a 1'x2' piece of heavy plywood to it, and attach some padding and covering to it (preferably heavy canvas or leather, for some friction). Cut a notch in each 1' 2x4 for the bar to sit in.

I'm going to build one very soon. I'll post pics if you want.


Good link. I'm doing Wendler's 5/3/1 and am wondering what the best way to incorporate calf work into the routine. Would it be alright to do standing barbell calf raises on one day (Squat day), along with unweighted full ROM calf raises, then a couple days later do the lunge position calf raise (deadlift day)? That way I can hit the calves in both standing and seated positions, but with less time in the gym. Or would it be better to do them on the 2 upper body days, that way my quads/hamstrings don't limit the weight I could use (after I just killed them doing squats/deads and other leg exercises, im not sure I could put a lot of weight on my back for standing calf raises)


Id say try some sprint training. If that doesnt get your calves burning i dont know what will.


Ha. I thought so, thanks. :wink:

I'll admit that I haven't yet had a chance to pick up the 5/3/1 book, but if I can quote Wendler himself from Bryan Krahn's 5/3/1 article here a few weeks ago:

"Assistance work is just that - assistance. Do one or two exercises for five sets of 10, or maybe do a few more exercises for fewer sets. It's assistance. It doesn't fucking matter."

Knowing Big Jimmy, if you were to hop over to the 5/3/1 thread and ask him how to arrange your calf training, he'd have a minor coronary. If you're doing the 5/3/1 program, I wouldn't overanalyze the issue, and just choose one calf exercise as part of your assistance work on the squat day. In your next cycle, choose a different calf exercise.

In your particular case, I'd either use the standing barbell calf raise with something a little less than your top squat weight for the day for whatever sets and reps you can handle until you get 50 or so total reps, or just go with the one-legged dumbbell calf raise and work whatever set/rep scheme is appropriate. And like I said, in your next cycle, you can use a seated calf variation.


x2 especially hill sprints