Tri-Set Calf Workout

Man using calf raise machine in gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's easy to overlook your calves when putting together leg workouts, but having strong calves gives you stability and power. As well as being generally useful in life, having a strong and stable lower leg is crucial for other moves such as barbell squats and deadlifts.

This tri-set workout of calf exercises strengthens the larger, mass-moving muscles in your lower limbs so that when the crunch comes, they won't let you down. As well as working your calves, you'll be tuning up the smaller stabilising muscles around your ankles. 

Not only will this help you protect your body from injury, but by maximising the muscle workload you can unlock a new level of growth and see changes in the bigger muscles all the way up the chain, resulting in a stronger, fitter body.

How to do this workout

This calf workout is a tri-set, which means you should do the required number of reps for exercise 1 then move immediately on to exercise 2, then exercise 3. You should then rest for two to three minutes before repeating the tri-set. Warm up with 10 easy minutes on a rowing machine.

1 Dumbbell calf raise

Sets 3 Reps 10

Target: upper calves

Why it works: By adding resistance to the tri-set in the first move you take advantage of high energy levels so that you can pre-exhaust the larger muscles in your calves, allowing you to target the smaller muscles in the next two exercises.

  • Point your toes outwards slightly.
  • Press up with your calves and go onto your toes.
  • Hold at the top for one to two seconds before lowering slowly.

2 Resistance band press

Calf exercise using resistance band

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sets 3  Reps 10

Target: lower calves, shins

Why it works: Flexing your foot against a resistance band means the point of highest resistance is reached at the end of the exercise. This switches the load to the soleus and shin muscles because the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement is as important as the lift. 

  • Adjust the band length so it is tensed at the start of the move.
  • Press the band away by flexing your ankle, holding the ends steady.
  • Pause at the furthest point and bring your toes back slowly.   

3 Supine bridge heel raise

Supine bridge heel raise

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 10

Target: core, calves, ankles

Why it works: By leaving your hips unsupported you introduce instability into the exercise and call on your core and calf muscles to stabilise the movement. This targets the deeper, smaller muscles.

  • Support your shoulders on the bench.
  • Hold your hips up so that your thighs and trunk are level.
  • Press your heels off the floor using your calves.
  • Hold for one to two seconds and lower slowly.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.