How To

Seated Calf Raise


What are Seated Calf Raises?

From a more technical view, the seated calf raise is known to be a single-joint isolation exercise that makes use of free weights or a free-weight-loaded machine to target the muscles of the calves in their entirety.

Who Should do Seated Calf Raises?

Seated calf raises are relatively simple and low impact, and as such are accessible to even total beginners at the gym. So long as your ankles and feet  are healthy, you can perform a seated calf raise.

In particular, however, runners or powerlifters may see the most benefit from performing the seated calf raise, as it is excellent for building both endurance and strength in a dynamic fashion.

What Muscles do Seated Calf Raises Work?

Seated calf raises are an isolation exercise, and as such will only train one muscle group to any significant capacity; the calf muscles.

How to do Seated Calf Raises

  1. In order to perform a repetition of the seated calf raise, load a moderate amount of weight on the horns and sit on the seated calf raise machine.
  2. Then, ensuring the toes are pointing slightly outwards and forwards, roll your foot onto the balls of your feet, stopping once the ankles are nearly in a state of full extension.

  3. Once reaching this point, slowly return your heels to the starting position, thereby completing the repetition.

What are the Benefits of Doing Seated Calf Raises?

Apart from strengthening and developing mass in the calf muscles, the seated calf raise is also capable of imparting several benefits that may not be as easily achieved with other exercises – many of such benefits involve strengthening and reinforcing the lower body as a whole.

Excellent Athletic Carryover – Especially for Runners

The muscles of the calves are used in nearly any movement involving the lower body. Knowing this, we can easily reach the conclusion that regularly performing seated calf raises will directly improve your capacity to perform said movements.

Where this benefit is taken even further, however, is in the case of athletes – particularly runners – of whom require the improved work capacity and strength output.

Not only will performing calf raises allow runners to run faster or athletes to jump higher, but it will also reduce their risk of sports-related injuries as the muscles and related tissues become stronger as a result of the stresses of resistance training.

Reinforced Achilles Tendon, Ankles, and Feet

Just as how the muscles of the calves are strengthened by performing seated calf raises, so too are the various soft tissues that protect and move the ankles and feet, with none more so than the Achilles tendon.

achilles in relation to calf muscles

The Achilles tendon is directly attached to by both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, and is among one of the most vital bands of connective tissue found anywhere in human physiology, as it allows for actions like walking and standing upright to occur.

As such, one of the most important (and overlooked) benefits of seated calf raises is its capacity to reinforce the achilles tendon and the entire foot-and-ankle structure as a whole, reducing the risk of future injuries and countering the degenerative effects of aging.

Reinforcement and Stabilisation of Plantarflexion Mechanics

Because the seated calf raise strengthens the calf muscles and reinforces much of the ankles, it is especially effective at improving plantarflexion of the foot. 

Plantarflexion is the movement of the foot downward, and is the direct opposite of dorsiflexion, where the foot will point upwards instead.

It is a biomechanic that is used in nearly any movement involving the legs, and as such can be unstable or suffer from poor range of motion in individuals that do not reinforce it correctly.

Fortunately, seated calf raises will not only ensure that plantarflexion is stable within its range of motion, but also aid in achieving a wider range of plantarflexion of the feet, of which is extremely important for all individuals, regardless of age, injuries or training experience.

Great for Lifters With Sensitive Backs

Though more niche in scope, the seated calf raise is arguably better than the standing calf raise in the way that it does not place any sort of pressure or load on the spine. 

Lifters with a history of back or shoulder injuries may wish to avoid the standing calf raise due to the need to either place the weight atop their back or to hold it in their hands – two aspects that are not otherwise present in the seated calf raise.

Common Mistakes of Seated Calf Raises

Though the seated calf raise is relatively simple in its execution, there are nonetheless several common mistakes that even experienced lifters can make, the majority of which can lead to injury or otherwise reduce the effectiveness of the movement as a whole.

Raising the Shins

Throughout the entire exercise, the shins should remain relatively unmoving, with the ankle and foot being the main source of dynamic motion. Ideally, the entire exercise is performed with the ball of the foot staying completely stationary.

Movement of the shin – either by rolling it in a specific direction or “helping” the weight up by extending the knee forward – can take much of the training stimulus away from the calves, instead shifting it towards the quadriceps muscles.

If the lifter is moving their shin so as to move their foot or otherwise shorten the range of motion, it is possible that they possess poor ankle mobility, or that they could be attempting to perform the exercise with too much weight for their calf muscles alone to handle.

In the former case, the addition of ankle and foot mobility work is the best solution. In the latter, reducing the weight and focusing on slow and high-quality repetitions is the better choice.

Using Excessive Weight

Though it may seem obvious, performing seated calf raises with an excessive amount of weight can easily lead to a breakdown in form and eventual development of injuries.

In particular, it is possible to tear the many tendons of the ankles and feet if the lifter is attempting to calf raise more than they are able – a potentially life-altering danger that should be avoided at all costs.

The seated calf raise should be performed with only a moderate amount of weight at most, ideally an amount that allows for at least 15 consecutive repetitions performed with correct form. 

The calf muscles are clinically established to respond far better to high volume sets, rather than significant amounts of weight, and as such lifters will find that avoiding lifting too much weight will not only help them avoid injuries but also speed the development of their calves.

Performing Repetitions Too Quickly

Just as how using too much weight can put the lifter at risk of injury, so too can rushing through repetitions affect the quality of their training.

Time under tension is a well-established concept in resistance training where – when muscles are contracted against resistance over a lengthy period of time, they will later undergo hypertrophy in a manner that a shorter length of time will not achieve.

Keeping this in mind, we can see how performing seated calf raises too quickly can sabotage a lifter’s development. For the best possible results from the exercise, each repetition should be performed in a slow and controlled manner.

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