10 Best Calf Exercises for Men
It’s easy to focus on building other groups of muscles and skip your calves. The result is usually a jacked-up upper body and twigs below the knees to carry all that massive muscle mass.
Apart from jogging, there are several other calf exercises you can do to strengthen your leg and calf muscles. Calf exercises don’t just target the calves; some of the routines, although easy to perform, work the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
If you’re planning a comprehensive leg day, here are some of the best calf exercises to include in your routine. The best part is that you can do these exercises at home, gym, or outdoors.
1. Jump Rope
Who hasn’t tried the classic jump rope exercise before? But not everyone is aware that this seemingly simple exercise does actually hits all the right spots in the calf and legs to give beef up those muscles. Find a good jump rope and do the exercise correctly, like this:
- Hold the handles of the jump rope in each hand
- Jump with both feet at the same time as you swing the rope to pass under your feet
- Keep your shoulders lowered and your core engaged
Reps: 30 seconds for each set
Sets: Repeat for five minutes
Rest: 30 seconds
2. Standing Barbell Calf Raise
Calf exercises don’t get any better than this classic. Why? It throws in some serious weight into the mix. Here’s how this works:
- Hold a barbell on your upper back
- Stand up straight with both feet facing forward and planted firmly on the floor
- Slowly raise both heels as you contract your calves
- Return your feet to the starting position
Reps: 15 reps per set
Sets: 5 sets
Rest: 45 seconds
3. Agility Ladder
The agility ladder exercise is not exclusively reserved for footballers, you know. Don’t have an agility ladder? That’s not a problem. You can always improvise with chalk or tape. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the ladder on the floor. If you are using tape or drawing, make sure there’s ample space between the rungs.
- Stand at one end of the agility ladder
- Hop between the spaces of the rungs until you get to the end of the ladder
- Walk back to the start of the ladder
Reps: 10 to 12 reps per set
Sets: 3 sets
Rest: 60 seconds
4. Lateral Lunge to Curtsy
If you want to up your calf exercises, try the lateral lunge. Besides crushing your calves, you’ll get the benefit of working on your lower back and upper leg as well. To make it more challenging, you can add dumbbells, plates, or any type of weight you are comfortable with. Once you’re ready, do the following:
- Stand upright with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate
- Assume a lateral lunge by moving your left foot to the side as you hinge your hips
- Push the left foot and move back into a standing position while bringing your left leg into a curtsy lunge
- Switch to your right leg to complete the rep
Reps: 12 reps per set
Sets: 2 to 3 reps
Rest: 45 seconds
5. Stair Run
You can train your calves by running up the stairs in a stadium or at home. The action of constantly flexing and extending your foot gives your calves a good workout. This is not running for cardio endurance, though. So, here’s how to do it properly.
- Start at the bottom of the stairs
- Run up the flight of stairs on the balls of your feet, making sure that you don’t skip any of the steps
- Walk down the to the starting position when you reach the top, or where you intend to stop (depending on the number of rows on the stairs)
Reps: 20 to 30 seconds per set
Sets: 3 to 4 sets
Rest: 45 to 60 seconds
6. Hill Runs
Okay, here’s one of the best calf exercises that don’t just smoke your calves but also works your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Grab a pair of good-quality trail shoes, find a steep terrain outdoors or a hill, and do this:
- Go for a 20-second dash up the hill
- Jog back down
Reps: 20 seconds dashes
Sets: 5 to 6 sets
Rest: None between reps
7. Box Jumps
Here’s another good leg exercise that targets nearly all the muscles in your legs to build strength. It may seem easy, but don’t be fooled by appearances. Your calves and every part of your leg will thank you for this. To do this:
- Get a sturdy box and place it flat on the floor, making sure it won’t topple over when you jump onto it
- With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand a short distance away from the box, where you can safely jump on it
- Go down in a squat, swing your arms, and jump onto the box
- Step down from the box and repeat
Reps: 5 reps per set
Sets: 2 to 3 sets
Rest: 45 seconds
8. Farmer’s Walk
The farmer’s walk will strengthen your overall muscle and improve your balance while also working your calves.
Here’s how to do it:
- Grab a pair of dumbbells in both hands, letting them hang at your sides
- Raise yourself until you are on your toes
- Walk forward quickly, making sure your steps and short and light
- Start with lighter weight and increase it as you gain more balance
Reps: As much as you can
Sets: 3 sets
Rest: 2 minutes
9. Single-Leg Calf Raise
This is one of the simplest and basic calf exercises, yet it is highly effective:
- Stand on a raised platform like a step, block, or rail
- Raise one leg, keeping the other on the elevated surface, and let your weight rest on the ball of the other foot
- Wrap the raised leg around the other and slowly drop to the floor as you stretch your calf
- Pause for one or two seconds, and then push upward on the ball of your foot as you raise your heel
- Pause again when you go up before returning to the starting position
Reps: 20 to 25 reps per set
Sets: 5 sets
Rest: 45 seconds
10. Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks are quite easy to do and are one of the best calf exercises you can do. It doesn’t require any equipment. As long as you can jump and clap, you’re pretty much an expert. To get the best results, do it this way:
- Stand fully upright with your arms at your sides and your feet together
- Jump and spread your legs as you clap your hands above your head all at the same time
- Once your feet touch the ground, go right back up
Reps: 20 to 25 reps per set
Sets: 5 sets
Rest: 45 seconds
Common Mistakes When Performing Calf Exercises
1. Limiting yourself to the typical rep range
The conventional 10 to 15 reps are okay but don’t stop there if you don’t have to. If you want an awesome pump, aim to hit 25 to 30 reps.
2. Using excessive weight
Weight can improve your results, but too much weight can rob you of gains. There’s no sense in using weights that are too heavy to prevent you from doing the exercise properly. Excessive weight can end a rep prematurely. Besides, too much weight adds excessive stress on your knees, vertebrae, and Achilles tendon.
Here are a few pointers to know if you are using excessive weight. If you feel pain in your Achilles tendon or the arch of your foot, you are using too much weight. If you can’t stop your knees from bending when you do calf exercise using weights, you are using too much weight.
3. Performing calf workouts after your leg workout
The worse time to work your calves is when you are already tired. If you wait until you’re done with your leg workout, you may not have enough energy left to do any meaningful calf workout. Isn’t this one of the main reasons calves are mostly ignored?
Here’s the deal, no muscle – calves or not – can develop if given subpar training. For the best results with your calves, you must train them with the same level of intensity as you would train your chest or back. Do these exercises when you are fresh.
Tips for Building Your Calves
- It is crucial to your success to do at least 15 reps for each exercise if you want to get good results in the least amount of time. If there is no specific set of reps in a particular exercise, aim to do between 15 and 20 reps, depending on your strength and fitness level.
- Endeavor to maintain a consistent workout schedule. If you plan on exercising your calves three times per week, stick to it. Like diet, cheating will likely cancel whatever progress you’ve made. Besides, most calf exercises are pretty easy to perform, so there’s really no reason to skip them.
- Remember to always keep your feet straight during your calf routines. You are not likely to see impressive results in good time if you do otherwise.
- If you are working out indoors, try doing your reps with your shoes off. Working your calves without shoes tend to yield better results because it allows you the freedom to tense your muscles more. And that’s what is required for building better calf muscles. However, it is okay to keep your socks on.
- Don’t worry if your calves don’t look like those you see on your gym buddies. These things take time for some people. And I’ll explain why it is so in a bit. But keep in mind that we all have different body and muscle types. So, don’t relent. If getting a perfectly sculpted calf is of significant importance to you, it is best to keep working those muscles. In time, you’ll get the results you want.
Calf Muscle Anatomy
In a way, you are always training your calf muscles if you do leg exercises, even if they are not targeting your calves. For example, deadlifts, lunges, squats, and other popular leg workouts, you are inadvertently engaging your calves. Look at it this way. When you engage in pressing or pulling motions, the muscles of your forearms are naturally engaged. In the same way, your calves are not excluded since they provide the base for all lower-body moves.
However, when you perform exercises that target your calves directly, you are essentially building the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. When you look at your buddy’s calves, the main muscle you see is the gastrocnemius. It is sharply defined when developed. The soleus is located under the gastrocnemius, so you won’t see it outwardly.
The gastrocnemius muscle contributes to calf movements such as explosive speeds, power moves, acceleration, and jumping. On the other hand, the soleus contributes to running endurance and walking. The best calf exercises are those that target both types of muscles.
Calf Exercise FAQs
How often should you work out your calves?
Whether you are working on your calves or performing any exercise routine that somehow impacts your leg muscles, it is best to keep things reasonable. You don’t want to risk overstraining your calves.
Aim to keep calf exercises to an average of 3 times per week, depending on your workout and the types of exercises you enjoy. For example, if you run frequently, you are already engaging your calves adequately. Adding daily dedicated calf workouts to frequent distance running might be overdoing it.
Can daily walks improve calf size?
Talking daily walks can improve your overall health and wellbeing, whether you do it briskly or leisurely. However, it is least effective for improving calf size. The most straightforward way to develop calf muscles and increase your leg strength is to execute a set of calf-dedicated exercises.
Does genetics play out in calf development?
Yes, genetics do affect your overall muscle makeup. This explains why some people rarely exercise yet have massive calf muscles, and others burst their behinds without significant results. Your genetics play a role in allocating different percentages of Type I and Type II muscle fibers.
Type I fibers naturally resist fatigue, making them have lower growth potential. They are generally referred to as “slow-twitch” muscle fibers. On the flip side, Type II fibers, also known as fast-twitch muscle fibers, tend to develop faster. Someone with a higher percentage of Type I muscle fibers is likely to have greater and rapid growth potential than someone with more Type II.
But that doesn’t mean you should fret if you are not born with naturally massive or well-defined calves. You can increase your calf size and strength, regardless of your genetic makeup. It only means you’ll have to put in more concerted efforts if you have more dominant Type I muscle fibers. It doesn’t matter what your grandparents passed onto you in terms of genetics; you can build athletic calves if you follow the right workout routine, recovery plan, and good diet.
What exercises do you recommend for calves?
All of the exercises mentioned in this article are great for defining your calves and building strength. The best exercises for your calves will depend on your fitness level and whether you want to include equipment or not. In addition to the ones outlined here, you can also include some other great calf-dedicated workouts in your routine. These are static neutral hold, the seated band pushes, explosive calf step-up, seal jumps, dumbbell jump squat, and downward dog.
10 Best Bicep Exercises for Men
If you’re looking to bulk up and build some drool-worthy biceps, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re looking to work it out in the gym or get some reps in at home, this list has various workouts to pick and choose from when working towards your dream arms.
Large bicep muscles are a true testament to a well-seasoned workout and can do wonders for your personal appearance. It can really pay off to incorporate some bicep workouts into your regular routine if you’re looking to add some well-earned girth to your upper body.
Many people don’t know that working to add some muscle mass to your biceps can be a bit of a challenge. However, don’t let that stop you! Though it may be hard, it is not impossible, as long as you zero in on target exercises and put some strict commitment to your workout goals. Before we dive into the bicep workouts you’ll need to master to tone your physique, let’s learn more about this muscle group.
Breaking Down Your Biceps
Let’s begin with some Bicep Muscles 101. Your biceps (known in Latin as biceps brachii, meaning “two-headed muscle of the arm’) are a large group of tendons found on the front-facing section of your upper arm. This muscle comprises two tendons, attached to the scapula bone in the shoulder and the radius bone found at the elbow. These tendons are often referred to as the “short head” and “long head,” combining to make up the single bicep muscle.
Your bicep is designed to both rotate your forearm and flex your elbow, allowing you to accomplish lifting and pulling movements. They are one of the most powerful muscles in your upper arm, supporting and stabilizing other muscles as you accomplish daily tasks. The biceps are also the only muscle group in the collection of muscles that make up your upper arm that pass through two joints, both the shoulder and elbow.
Key Bicep Workout Tips
It is in the best interest of anyone looking to get into the world of weightlifting to make their biceps a top priority. However, because biceps are involved in much of our daily heavy-lifting tasks, they are especially susceptible to harm. You must take care when strengthening this muscle group, as strains and tendon tears can happen easily. Be sure to keep some of the following tips in mind before embarking on your new bicep workout routine:
Always Properly Stretch
As with any workout, it is always important to ensure you are properly warmed up before you begin! While some may find this step tedious and boring, we promise you’ll notice an immediate difference if you incorporate some simple stretches into your pre-workout routine.
By properly stretching, you increase blood flow to your muscle groups, providing better oxygenation, and leading to better bulking results. As an added bonus, this increased blood flow and oxygenation will also lead to less risk for tears or muscle soreness while heavy lifting.
Invest in Equipment
To get your dream biceps faster, investing in some equipment can really make a difference. For those of you with a gym membership, most of the equipment referenced in our listed exercises can be found in any standard gym. For those who are embarking on a bicep workout journey from home, investing in some basic equipment can make a huge difference in your results.
Getting a set of basic dumbbells should be a priority for those working on their biceps at home. Resistance bands can also work as a great substitute in these exercises, with some modifications. If you’re looking to invest and build a larger home gym, an adjustable workout bench, cable machine, and barbell bar would also be worthwhile additions.
Don’t Forget to Squeeze
The novice lifter may not know the importance of squeezing with each rep. If you’re looking to build some serious muscle mass, squeezing the top of each muscle contraction as you exercise is a key practice. You are putting force and tension on the muscle by squeezing, breaking down fibers to build new mass. Constant tension is a must in bicep workouts if you want to reach maximum results.
Switch Up Your Routine
Finding your perfect routine can be nice but be sure not to let it get stagnant! It’s ideal to switch up your exercises every so often to ensure you’re reaching your full potential and properly working out this muscle group. Vary your reps and sets as you go, change up your equipment, and try new types of exercises as you reach for your goals.
When building your bicep routine, try to come up with two different variations, alternating between them weekly. By embarking on this kind of routine, you should be able to build fuller biceps faster and see visible results in as soon as eight to twelve weeks.
Take Deep Breaths
This may seem obvious, but don’t forget to breathe! Some may find themselves unconsciously holding their breath as they exert their strength on a heavy lift. While you may think this is helping, you are causing a lot of internal stress. Holding your breath can cause a momentary spike in blood pressure and leads to less oxygenated blood getting to your muscle groups. It’s more than worth your while to make sure you’re equally focused on taking in some air as you are on your lifting technique.
Many powerlifters use the art of “bracing” while they breathe. To perform this exercise, push your stomach into your chest, also engaging your sides and back as you breathe in, reacting as you would if you were about to get punched in the gut. This brace is essential for your core when doing hardcore lifting and can offer much-needed support during heavy-weight exercises.
Remember to Rest
Just like warming up, taking rest days are essential when it comes to any workout routine. Knowing how often to workout is extremely important. Sometimes you may feel that you want to power through soreness and exercise daily to achieve your results, but rest periods play a significant role in any workout.
Resting is essential for repairing ripped and torn tendons that naturally get worn and broken down as you work them out. Rest days will allow your muscles to fix the microscopic tears caused during workouts, helping your tissue to heal and return better than before. Rest day will also go a long way to prevent muscle fatigue and soreness and reduce your risk of injury in future workouts due to strain.
It is just as important to rest during a workout as it is to rest afterward. While some assume you only need to rest for thirty to sixty seconds between reps, it is actually good to give yourself more time.
When planning your bicep workout, try to find a way to incorporate three to four-minute rests for this muscle group between sets to allow your muscles to return to full strength before starting again. If you don’t want to wait around during the rest period, you could try training a different muscle group in the downtime.
The Ten Best Bicep Exercises For Men
As we stated above, there are many benefits to focusing on biceps as an area of improvement in your own workout routine. If you’re looking to put the work into bulking up your biceps, the exercises we break down below are a perfect starting place. From beginners to seasoned pros, there’s something for every stage of your workout journey to be found here:
1. Standing Dumbbell Curl
The standing dumbbell curl is a classic exercise and can easily be replicated with some basic home equipment. For this exercise, you can use a dumbbell of appropriate weight or improvise with any heavy object at home that you can get a safe grip on. Be sure to take caution when performing this exercise to avoid injury- keep slow control, remember to squeeze, and keep your back straight!
- Standing up straight, hold one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms straight, palms facing forward and down by your sides.
- Keep your elbows locked beside your torso, stationed above your hips.
- While keeping your upper forearms still, curl the weight upwards towards your shoulder as far as you can. Repeat on either arm.
2. Standing Barbell Curl
This is another common bicep exercise, considered an old favorite by many. This exercise is well-liked for a good reason, as it allows you to work on both bicep muscles simultaneously, leading to more even results. When performing a standing barbell curl, be sure to keep your body fixed and straight, and avoid swinging as you lift. Your elbows should also remain by your sides and not move while lifting the weight.
- Grasp the bar with an underhand grip while standing shoulder-width apart.
- Get yourself into position, standing with a straight back, arms extended, and feet together.
- Keeping your upper forearms locked by your side, curl the bar up towards your chest. The bar should not touch your chest.
- After pausing, lower the bar back to your starting position. Repeat.
3. Hammer Curl
The hammer curl can be considered a more nuanced version of the classic dumbbell curl, working to target your biceps from your brachii to your baracialis. This exercises ability to better target the whole of your bicep muscle can help you gain some much-needed bulk. When done properly, a hammer curl can also put less stress on your wrists, if that’s an area of concern.
- Standing straight, hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides, palms facing inwards towards each other.
- Keeping your upper arms locked in place, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders as far as you can, keeping your palms facing inward.
- Hold your position for a second, then lower the weights back down, entering your starting position.
4. Spider Curl
The spider curl is another variation of the classic curl. This approach can allow for a greater range of motion than other bicep exercises, ensuring that an optimum amount of tension is being held on the muscle. When performing a spider curl, you will need an adjustable workout bench set at an angle where you can stand leaning forward, allowing your arms to hang straight down to the floor while holding your dumbbells or barbell bar.
- Lie down on an angled workout bench, so you are standing, leaning forward, with your arms angled straight down.
- Hold your dumbbells in both hands, palms facing upwards towards you.
- Keeping your upper arms still by your side, curl your dumbbells upwards towards your chest as high as you can.
- Pause briefly before lowering your arms back down to their starting position. Repeat.
5. Zottman Curl
The Zottman is definitely a more complex exercise, but it is worth learning this technique. By leveraging different hand positions to maximize its target multiple muscles, this exercise can allow you to build a more even and balanced look to your bicep. Be sure to take particular care of your positioning when performing this exercise, as improper movement could lead to sprained or tense wrists.
- Stand in a shoulder-width stance, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your side with your palms facing inward towards each other.
- With your palms still facing inward and your upper arms locked, lift your dumbbells until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
- Once your arms are at a 90-degree angle, rotate your hands, so your palms are facing up toward the ceiling.
- Once in this position, continue to lift up your forearms, twisting your palms, so they are facing outward away from you.
- Lower your arms back to their starting position. Repeat.
6. Regular EZ Bar Curl
An EZ Bar can be a great piece of equipment for working out your biceps, with its undulating handle allowing you to handle more weight than you could with other equipment. It also works to alleviate the pressure on your elbows and forearms, which can be great for healing muscles. Many claim that an EZ bar can stimulate better muscle growth than barbells or dumbbells, but it’s best to pick what works best for you! Adding this variation into your technique could lead to a new go-to set.
- Standing shoulder-width apart, hold the EZ bar in an underhand grip, resting it in front of your thighs.
- Keeping your upper arms locked by your side, curl the EZ bar up towards your shoulders.
- Squeeze your muscles, then slowly lower the bar. Repeat.
7. Incline Dumbbell Curl
An incline dumbbell curl is a variation of the dumbbell curl that works to provide a deeper muscle stretch. You should be on an inclined bench in this curl, sitting upright with your back flat against the pad. If doing this workout at home without access to a bench, any straight back chair or bench will do – just ensure you’re sitting at a roughly 90-degree angle.
- Begin by sitting upright with your back straight, keeping your arms down straight towards the floor, palms facing forward, with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your upper arms locked and palms upward, curl both dumbbells upwards towards your shoulders as close as you can.
- After a pause, lower the dumbbells, putting your arms back into their start position. Repeat.
8. Chin Up
This classic move is more difficult than meets the eye but can be highly effective when building your biceps. Plus, a good set of chin-ups can also work your shoulder and back to increase that overall upper body bulk when done properly. For those embarking on home workouts, there is a multitude of at-home chin-up bars online- just be sure it is properly installed to avoid any accidents. Any multifunction workout station should have the proper bars to get the job done for those in a gym setting.
- Standing shoulder-width apart, grip your chin-up bar, keeping your palms facing towards your face.
- Pull yourself upwards until your head is fully above the bar, with your feet off the floor.
- After a pause, slowly lower yourself back to your start position. Repeat.
9. Underhand Seated Row
This exercise utilizes any kind of cable machine, working to target both your biceps and your back. This makes it a great exercise for an overall body routine. When performing this exercise, be sure to keep your back extra straight and secure. It’s best not to lean forward when performing this maneuver, adding unnecessary strain and improper form.
- Sitting at a low pulley cable station or rowing machine, grab your straight bar with and underhand grip, shoulder-width apart, palms facing up.
- Pull the cable towards your chest, both keeping your shoulders down and pinching your Shoulder blades together in the back.
- After pausing, return your arms to their starting position. Repeat.
10. Standing Cable Curl
The use of the cable machine can allow you to perform rapid-fire sets with increased tension throughout the bicep, making it perfect for a quick routine. There are also many variations to this exercise, depending on the pulley attachments you attach to your machine. We’ll outline how to perform a standing cable curl with a straight bar attachment in the low position for these instructions.
- Standing shoulder-width apart with a straight back, grab the straight bar with your arms extended, palms facing upward.
- Keeping your upper arms stationary, slowly pull the bar up towards your shoulders as closely as possible.
- After pausing and squeezing your muscles, return to your start position.