If you are someone who was born with very skinny legs, you may well have discovered that it is extremely difficult to increase the size of your calves because there are very few exercises that actually target these muscles.
Although you engage these muscles every time you walk around and go for a run, this is not really enough to make them grow. The only way to make them bigger and give them a bit of definition is to isolate them and put them under stress, and the best way to do this is to perform some calf raises.
This is the number one exercise that you can do if you want to develop your calf muscles, and the good news is that they are very easy for anyone to perform. Indeed there are actually a couple of variations of this exercise that you might want to try.
Standing Calf Raises
The easiest way to work your calves is to do standing calf raises. All you need to do is stand in an upright position before raising your heels as high as you can and standing on tiptoes, ensuring that you stay there for at least a second before lowering yourself back down.
This sounds remarkably easy and you may not necessarily think that’s it doing anything, but you will start to feel it in your calves when you repeat this for at least 20-50 reps.
Once this becomes a little too easy, you can then start doing this exercise with weights to increase the intensity. You can either lift yourself up whilst holding a pair of heavy dumbbells, or you can do this exercise whilst holding a barbell, like you would at the start of a squat. Either way is just as effective.
If you don’t have any weights at home, you can simply use a backpack and fill it up with anything you can find that will add weight to it, or you can simply perform this exercise whilst holding a really heavy item that you might find lying around your house.
You can also add intensity by putting all of your weight on one leg and performing calf raises one leg at a time, although it’s a good idea to do this in front of a table or a wall, for example, in order to stop yourself falling over if you happen to lose your balance.
Here is a video that demonstrates how to do these standing calf raises (with very light weights):
Seated Calf Raises
The standing calf raise is the one I perform the most, but it is also possible to do seated calf raises. All you need to do here is to find a way to place weight on your legs when sitting down, and lift it up by raising your heels, as you would if you were doing a standing calf raise.
There is a dedicated machine at the gym that can help you perform this exercise because it will enable you to place a weighted padded bar on the top of your legs, but you can also rest a barbell on your legs (as demonstrated in the video below) or do one leg at a time with a dumbbell if you don’t have access to one of these machines.
Alternatively if you want to do this exercise at home and don’t have any weights you can use, you can simply fill your backpack up and place this on your legs, or find something else that is heavy (and stable) enough to provide some kind of resistance.