Seated Calf Raise

Exercise Name:
Name: Seated Calf Raise
Muscles Worked:
Primary: Calf (soleus)
Function: Strength
Mechanics: Isolation
Force: Push
Main: Seated Calf Raise Machine
Experience: Beginner
Rep Range: 8-12
Training Tempo: 2 – 1 – 2 – 2
Related Exercises:
Variations: Standing Calf Raise
Alternatives: Calf Press, Donkey Calf Raise

Instructions with Pictures

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Sit down and place balls of feet on platform, with feet hip width apart.
  • Adjust pad so it’s pressing firmly against lower thighs (just above knees).
  • Place hands on thighs or at sides (or grasp machine handles – not advised).
  • Raise heels to lift the weight off the pin; then move the pin out the way.
  • Maintain an upright torso and neutral spine and look straight ahead.

2. Concentric Repetition

  • Plantar flex ankles (i.e. heels up, toes down) until heels reach maximum height.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause for a second

4. Eccentric Repetition

  • Return to the starting point by lowering heels as far as possible, until the calves are in a full stretch.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the motion for the remaining number of repetitions.
  • The seated calf raise is most effective in the 8-12 rep range.

Common – Errors to Avoid

Mistake: Solution:
Bouncing the weight The most common way to cheat is to “bounce” the weight off the achilles tendon (called “elastic recoil”). Avoid this by pausing to stretch the calves at the bottom of the rep for a full second; thereby eliminating any elastic energy.
Using handles Grasping the handles is a problem only if you pull on them to cheat. It’s easy to do this without thinking about it. My solution? Lay my hands on my lap or hold the seat’s edge; and only use the handles to rack the weight.

Seated Calf Raise Tips

  1. Position feet forward and push through the inside of the ball of the foot (i.e. just below the big toe). This is the most efficient way to push the weight up. And it helps keep your feet on the platform.
    • Optional: Target the outer soleus by turning feet inward and pushing through the outside. This just hits the soleus from a different angle. It doesn’t make the outer part bigger. I prefer the above method.
  2. Keep a slow and controlled 2 – 1 – 2 – 2 tempo (2 seconds down, 1 second squeeze at the top/midpoint, 2 seconds up, and stretch it for 2 seconds at the bottom). Weight training tempo is incredibly important for calf exercises. In fact, they are the only exercises where I actively count out the tempo in my head.
  3. Use moderate weight and aim for perfect form. If you have to bounce to the weight, up you’re going too heavy. Less (weight) is certainly more for the seated calf raise.
  4. You should feel an intense burn in the calves by the end of each set. If you don’t, then the load is too heavy and/or your tempo is off.
  5. Seek a moderate to strong stretch at the bottom of the rep. But you shouldn’t overstretch the calf. That is, don’t force your heels beyond full range of motion to the point strain, as this may eventually cause plantar fasciitis (heel inflammation).
  6. You must do seated and standing calf raises to get a complete calf workout. Seated calf raises are great. But they only hit the soleus. Standing calf raises ensure you hit the gastrocnemius as well.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The seated calf raise can work for all levels of experience.

However, it is also a completely optional exercise. For example, some trainees never train their calves directly.

If you’re a beginner, you can train calves if you want to. I usually advise against most isolation training for beginners…

…But honestly, calf training can’t do much (if any) harm in terms of recovery or interferance with important compound lifts. You can sort of “tack it on” to the end of a workout.

If I were a beginner again, I probably wouldn’t do it. But I have the benefit of knowing (in hindsight) that my calves tend to keep with my physique without any direct work.

Having said all that, an experienced trainee with small calves is the best candidate for seated calf raises (and other direct calf work)…

…This is the type of trainee who has built a solid base, but whose calves have failed to keep up with the rest of their physique.

Other good candidates include experienced lifters with well developed calves who haven’t done direct training, but who want bigger and more beastly calves!

You be wise to avoid it if you have any ankle or foot issues that prevent you from performing the exercise correctly or without pain.

About the Author Alex

Hey! My name is Alex, and I'm the owner and author of King of the Gym. I started this website back in late 2009 during college, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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