Standing Vs. Seated Calf Raises: Which Builds Bigger Calves?

  • 19 days ago
4 minute read.
Standing Vs. Seated Calf Raises: Which Builds Bigger Calves?

Despite their relatively small size, calf muscles have become a big deal in the world of fitness. When you hit the gym, you'll notice that people are serious about working on their calf muscles. It's like a mini-muscle craze!

The calf muscles are sometimes metaphorically described as the "second heart" due to their important role in helping the circulatory system, particularly in facilitating the return of blood from the lower limbs back to the heart. This concept highlights how the calf muscles play a vital role in promoting blood circulation in the legs.

Your calf muscles might not be as big as your biceps or chest, but they have a crucial job. They help you walk, run, and even jump. So, whether you want killer calf muscles that look great or you're trying to boost your athletic performance, you've got to pay attention to them.

Understanding the calf muscles

Before we delve into the comparison, it's essential to understand the calf muscles' anatomy. The calf muscles consist of two main muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

  • Gastrocnemius: The gastrocnemius is the larger and more visible of the two calf muscles. It runs down the back of the lower leg and is responsible for creating the classic "diamond" shape of well-developed calves. It's most active during exercises that involve straightening the knee, such as standing.
  • Soleus: The soleus is a deeper muscle that lies beneath the gastrocnemius. It's primarily responsible for plantar flexion, which is pointing your toes downward. The soleus is more active during exercises that involve a bent knee, such as seated calf raises.

What are the standing and seated calf raise exercises?

The Standing and Seated Calf Raise exercises are specialized movements designed to target the calf muscles in your legs. These exercises are used as supplementary exercises in a comprehensive leg workout routine and sometimes serve as the primary means of training the calves.

This preference for calf raises arises from the recognition that many bodybuilding and strength-training programs tend to overlook the need for dedicated calf muscle isolation exercises. Often, less-experienced individuals may neglect these exercises altogether or mistakenly assume that compound leg exercises alone are sufficient for calf development.

However, calf raises to allow for a more targeted and intense workout of the calf muscles, helping to address this gap in training and contribute to overall leg development.

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Standing calf raise

Muscle engagement

  • The standing calf raises primarily target the gastrocnemius, the larger and more visible muscle of the calves.
  • It also recruits the soleus muscle to some extent, particularly as you reach the peak of the movement.


  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, and your heels hanging off an elevated surface, such as a calf raise machine or a step.
  • Keep your legs straight throughout the exercise.
  • Rise onto your toes as high as possible by lifting your heels off the ground.
  • Lower your heels back down below the level of the platform for a full stretch.


  • Emphasizes the development of the gastrocnemius, contributing to the classic "diamond" shape of well-developed calves.
  • Offers a range of motion, allowing for a more comprehensive stretch and contraction of the calf muscles.
  • Generally, allows you to lift heavier weights, as the larger gastrocnemius muscle is heavily involved.

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Seated Calf Raise

Muscle engagement

  • The seated calf raises primarily target the soleus muscle, which lies beneath the gastrocnemius and contributes to calf thickness.
  • It also works the gastrocnemius but to a lesser extent.


  • Sit on a calf raise machine or bench with your knees bent at approximately 90 degrees.
  • Stand on the platform with your toes pointed forward.
  • Use the machine's lever or a calf raise attachment to push the weight upward through the balls of your feet.
  • Lift your heels as high as possible while keeping your knees bent.


  • Focuses on the soleus muscle, helping to add thickness to the lower part of the calf.
  • Provides a shorter range of motion compared to the standing calf raise, which can be beneficial for isolating the soleus.
  • Generally, involves lifting less weight than the standing calf raise since the soleus is smaller and weaker.

Which is more effective for building bigger calves?

The choice between standing calf raises and seated calf raises ultimately depends on your goals and individual preferences. It is recommended that you incorporate both workouts into your calf training routine to build bigger calves. Here's why:

  • Incorporating standing and seated calf raises ensures that you target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, resulting in more balanced calf development.
  • Muscle adaptation occurs when you change your workout routine. Including both exercises provides variety and helps prevent plateaus in your calf muscle growth.
  • Some individuals may find one exercise more comfortable or effective for their body type. Experiment with it to determine which works best for you.

Also check: Lower body deskercises


In the debate of standing calf raises vs. seated calf raises, there's no clear winner when it comes to building bigger calves. Both exercises offer unique benefits and target different aspects of calf development. To maximize your calf gains, consider incorporating both into your routine. Remember that consistency, proper form, and progressive overload are key factors in achieving the calf size you desire.

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