Calf / Gastrocnemius Exercises

Author: Rod Ferris B.A., CPT (YMCA, ACE), CFC, CPAFLA


The gastrocnemius (or calf muscle) has two heads. The medial head and lateral head. The functions of the gastrocnemius are ankle plantar flexion and knee flexion. The origin of the gastrocnemius attaches to the posterior medial condyle on the femur. The calf inserts onto the achilles tendon on the calcaneous. Underneath the gastrocnemius is the soleus muscle.

: When most people think of the calf muscle they are actually thinking of the gastrocnemius.

Training and Notes

  • The calf can be trained more often than other muscles (as it is more resistent to fatigue) but keep at least 24-48 hours of rest between heavy training.
  • Calves can be trained to failure easily by doing bodyweight or donkey calf raises.
  • Another example routine would be to do heavier weight to failure at 8-12 reps.
  • Like all muscle groups, they respond best to a periodization type workout:
    1-3 reps@2 weeks, 6-8reps@2 weeks, 12-15 reps@2 weeks and repeat.
  • Click for an FAQ


Cankles or 'calf ankles' can happen during pregnancy, diabetes, hypertension or just through water rentention (1). Training your calf muscles will not help reduce the side of your cankles which are a larger 'ankle', but calf training will help increase the size of the calf muscle which will help give shape to your lower leg which should help.

To develop that part of your calf you need to lose the fat overtop of the muscle for it to show. You can then build the calf muscle with a lot of standing calf raises which will help musculature.

Yes, you can work on plyometrics and explode up using your calves. This will help you jump higher. A sample calf workout could be:

  • Machine Calf Raises (8-12 reps) JUMP TO ->
  • Standing Calf Raises (To Failure) JUMP TO ->
  • Jumping up using your calves until failure (Plyometrics)
  • Rest and complete 3-4 sets

Calf Exercises By Muscle Activation | Read More

Donkey Raises 80%
Standing one-leg raises 79%
Standing two-leg raises 68%
Seated Raises 61%