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The 5 Best Exercises To Build Calf Muscles Without Weights, Trainer Says

These productive movements will help build up your calves—no weights required.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

One of the most stubborn parts of your body to build is your calves. This can be due to a lack of focus on them, improper technique, and choosing the wrong exercises. To help you out, we've rounded up just the right exercises that will help you build calf muscles, no weights required. But first, let's chat a little bit about training your calf muscles.

When it comes to training your calves, you want to perform calf raise exercises where you get in a solid stretch, but also need to pause at the bottom. This will stop the momentum of the stretch reflex cycle so you're not bouncing off your Achilles tendon when you come back up. And because you're likely on your feet all day (or a good majority of it), your calves are used to handling a lot of volume. This means you want to perform calf raises with higher amounts of sets and reps. In addition, you want to train the other muscles in your lower leg, such as the tibialis anterior (aka the muscles in front of your shin). This will maximize the development of your whole calf region.

Looking to build calf muscles? You can do so with these five exercises. The best part is, they don't require any weights. Give the following movements a try, and next, check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.

Donkey Calf Raises

donkey calf raise
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Start this movement by positioning yourself on an aerobic step or elevated surface. Hinge your hips back as if you're going to perform a deadlift, and place your hands on a sturdy beam or wall. Keep your chest tall, and drop your heels down towards the ground. Get a good calf stretch at the bottom, pause for a second or two, then drive through with your big toes, flexing your calves to finish. Complete 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Related: Speed Up Belly Fat Loss In Your 60s With These Floor Exercises, Trainer Says

Single-Leg Calf Raises

single leg calf raise
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Begin this exercise by standing on a step with one foot firmly placed and the other on the edge on the ball of your foot. Drop the heel of the foot behind you, getting a good stretch at the bottom. Pause at the bottom for a second or two, then drive through the big toe of the foot to come back up, flexing your calf to finish. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg.

Related: Shrink Belly Fat Faster With These 5 Exercises, Trainer Says

Tibialis Anterior Raises

Tibialis Anterior Raises
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Position yourself on top of a step or elevated surface with your toes on the ground. Keep your chest tall and core tight, and bring your toes up towards you, flexing your tibialis hard at the top. Bring them back down to the ground before performing another rep. Complete 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.


man running across bridge on sunny summer day

Another way to build your calves is to go for a run. When running, practice good form by leaning forward onto the balls of your feet. If you haven't run in a while, build up your cardio and leg endurance with shorter distances before progressing up.


2 box jumps
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

One final way to build your calf muscles is by incorporating jumps into your routine. Performing movements such as box jumps and squat jumps will activate your calf muscles.

When performing a jump, load up your hips back while throwing your arms behind you. Dip into a quarter squat with your knees out, then spring up as high as you can while throwing your arms forward. Land softly, and stick the landing before performing another rep.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., CSCS
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim
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