Seated or standing calf raises? For optimal calf growth

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The calf raise is a basic exercise for the calves. But how do you best do this: standing or sitting? Or does it not matter?


First the anatomy of the calf. This consists first of all of the gastrocnemius muscle, also called the large or superficial calf muscle. It’s the two-headed muscle on the back of your legs. The soleus muscle is the smaller, flat calf muscle that lies beneath the gastrocnemicus.


New research provides more clarity about standing or seated calf raises. A group of untrained individuals performed the same calf training program with each leg, except that one leg performed seated calf raises while the other leg performed standing calf raises. Differences in lifestyle and nutrition did not matter; this way you can purely look at the differences between the two legs.

The result of the study? After twelve weeks, standing calf raises were significantly more effective at growing the calves, especially the gastrocnemii heads of the calves. Seated calf exercises stimulate virtually no growth in the gastrocnemii heads, which are the largest parts. For the soleus, both calf raises were equally effective.

These results can be easily explained biomechanically. With a bent leg, the gastrocnemius at the top of the knee is already shortened. That is why he is less able to shorten over the ankle joint in a sitting position. You would expect that the soleus would be better stimulated during seated calf raises, but according to the research this is not the case. However, there are also studies that indicate that seated calf raises for the soleus may be slightly more effective than standing calf raises.


Calves are known for having difficulty growing. But often it is simply a matter of too little training volume (sets). For muscle growth you need an average of 10 to 20 sets, depending on your training status. This also applies to the calves. Fill this volume with targeted calf exercises such as the standing calf raiseseated calf raisedonkey calf raiseleg press calf raisecalf jumpssingle leg hops and the farmer’s walk. This is in addition to the indirect calf work  already provided with squatsleg presses and deadlifts! Spread those sets over at least two workouts per week.


You can do both seated or standing calf raises, but if we had to choose, we chose standing calf raises.

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