How should I exercise my calf muscles?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
To strengthen your calf muscles you can do a one-leg calf lift exercise using free weights.

Muscles worked: Gastrocnemius and soleus (calves).

Starting position: Stand with the ball of your right foot near the edge of a stair. Hold a weight in your right hand and hold onto a railing or wall with your left hand to balance yourself. Lift your left foot up so that it hangs relaxed near your right ankle. Lower your right heel off the edge of the stair as far as you comfortably can.

Action: Keeping your right knee straight, but not locked, use your right calf muscle to press yourself up on your toes as high as you possibly can. Slowly return to the starting position. When you have finished all the repetitions in the set, repeat with left side.

  • Keep the ankle and foot aligned so that your weight remains over the center of the ball of the foot. Do not allow the ankles to roll out.
  • Avoid dropping quickly into the starting position, which causes a bouncing or rebound motion.
  • Beginners should start this exercise using both legs and performing the exercise on the floor, without extra weight. Gradually advance to one leg and then to the stair. Finally, add weight.
Grant Cooper, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
To exercise your calves, stand on a stair with your toes or balls of your feet on the edge of the step, with the middle of your feet and heels hanging off the edge. Hold on to a sturdy railing or wall for support. Push down with your toes so that you raise yourself up and are standing on your tip-toes. Pause and then slowly lower yourself down so that your heels lower down beneath the step. You should feel a very slight stretch in the back of your calves. If you feel more than a slight stretch, your calves are probably tight. Pause with your heels down, then rise up again to stand on your tip-toes. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Your back should be straight and your stomach slightly contracted. Remember to exhale as you rise up on your toes and slowly inhale as you slowly lower yourself so that your heels are down. If this exercise becomes too easy, you can try doing it one foot at a time, but remember to hold onto the railing or wall for support. If this becomes too easy, you can hold a small weight with one hand and the railing or wall with the other. Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions. You don't need a piece of equipment to perform the exercise. You just need to be in a place that has steps and a secure banister or wall for you to hold onto so you don't lose your balance.
The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

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The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

According to conventional wisdom, arthritis pain is an inevitable part of aging. Not so, says Dr. Grant Cooper in this practical, accessible guide. For those who do develop osteoarthritic conditions,...

A calf raise exercise helps to strengthen your calf muscles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.