7 Dumbbell Calf Exercises & Workouts For Bigger Calves

Try these simple yet effective Dumbbell calf exercises for strengthening your calf muscles. But before starting to implement the calf training routine, let understand a bit about calves muscles, and best dumbbell calf exercises and how to do it properly and correctly to maximize the gain.

Anatomy of Calf Muscle

The calves are a powerful set of three muscles that are situated on the posterior of the lower leg.

The  calf muscle consists of two main superficial muscles: the upper gastrocnemius, and the lower soleus. These are located at the back of your lower leg and join together to become your achilles tendon and attach onto your heel.

  1. The gastrocnemius is the visible muscle of the calf. The two heads (medial and lateral) of the gastrocnemius arise from the rear of the femur bone, Immediately above the knee joint.
  2. Soleus arises from the rear aspect of the tibia and lies underneath the gastrocnemius.
Anatomy of Calf Muscle

In addition to these two large muscles, a small muscle called the plantaris runs between the gastrocnemius and soleus down the length of the lower leg.

How To Build Calf Muscle With Dumbbell

To build three-dimensional calves, you need a multitude of approaches by constantly working the concentric and eccentric contractions of those muscles from variable angles.

Varying rep strategies are also critical. Think of doing reps between 10 and 25, alternating between volume and strength days. That also means that you shouldn’t be afraid to load up the weight on those strength days, either.

Pick two or three of these dumbbell calf exercises to do two or three times a week. Do three sets of each.

Your calves are used to high-volume work (think of how much they support you when walking all day), so they can be trained at greater frequency.

7 Best Dumbbell Calf Exercises

Have a look at these 7 Best Dumbbell calf workouts and training exercises for the best calves around.

The main thing that is vital when training calves is to perform at least a standing and seated calf exercise.

When performing a standing calf exercise, you will focus more on the gastrocnemius and seated will focus more on the soleus muscle.

1. Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

If you want to train the calf muscles with dumbbell only, then Standing dumbbell calf raise is one of the most suitable exercises for this. This exercise can be performed anywhere with a dumbbell only

There are many other variations of weighted calf raises, you just need to grab a barbell, a pair of kettlebell.

Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

How To Do Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise

  1. Hold a weight in each hand. Stand up straight on stepper with your feet facing forward and placed hip-width apart.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your knee and hold your hands by your side. Raise your heels by pressing the balls of your feet into the ground.
  3. You should move your body upwards until you’re stood on your toes.
  4. Hold this position and then slowly lower your heels back to the ground.

Tips

  • Pause and squeeze for a count of 1-2 at the top of the movement for added intensity.
  • Keep the balls of your feet on the edge of the block/step. If you allow the balls of your feet to come in more, the exercise becomes easier.

2. Standing Dumbbell One Leg Calf Raise

The standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise is a very effective isolation calf exercise which targets the Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles.

You can do the standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise on the floor if you don’t have a platform to perform the exercise from.

Standing dumbbell one-leg calf raise

How To Do Standing Dumbbell One Leg Calf Raise

  1. Hold a dumbbell by your side, in your left hand. With your left foot, stand on a platform, with the arch and heel of your foot suspending off.
  2. Grasp something with your right hand for stability. Exhale as you raise your heel by extending your ankle.
  3. Hold for a count. Inhale as you slowly reverse the motion and lower your heel until you feel a mild stretch in your calf.
  4. Hold for a count of one. Repeat for more repetitions. Repeat with your right leg.

Tips

  • Keep the movement slow and under control.
  • Do not lock out your knee.

3. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

Dumbbell Seated calf raises Exercises are perfect to train the Soleus muscle.

When performing the seated version of the calf raises, it’s important to get a good stretch on the bottom and squeeze at the top, that way you will hit every muscle fiber available.

Sometimes it’s hard to get a good pump in the calf muscle, so make sure to add enough weight and reps.

Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

How To Do Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise

  1. Use a seated calf raise machine or sit on a bench and rest the balls of your feet on a block or plates and hold dumbbells on your thighs for resistance.
  2. Your knees should be bent 90 degrees and your toes pointing straight ahead.
  3. Allow your heels to drift toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calves.
  4. Now drive the balls of your feet into the platform and raise your heels as high as possible. 
  5. Repeat the desired number of reps.

Tips

  • Move slowly as you stretch your calf muscle.
  • Make sure you hold the stretch for a second at the top, returning to the starting position.
  • Engage your core to keep your torso upright throughout the exercise.

4. Seated Dumbbell One Leg Calf Raise

The seated dumbbell one-leg calf raise exercise places more stress on the soleus than it does on the gastrocnemius.

It may also be performed with both legs simultaneously, but doing it one leg at a time is recommended to execute it as properly and safely as possible.

The seated dumbbell one-leg calf raise can be used as an alternative to the machine seated one-leg calf raise if you do not have access to the seated calf raise machine.

Seated dumbbell one-leg calf raise

How To Do Seated Dumbbell One Leg Calf Raise

  1. Sit with the front of your right foot placed on top of a block or step in front of you. Hips and knees should be bent at a ninety-degree angle.
  2. Dip the heel of your right foot as low as it can go.
  3. Hold a dumbbell vertically on top of your right knee. Exhale as you lift your right heel as high as possible, pushing against the dumbbell’s weight.
  4. Keep your right heel lifted for 2 counts. Slowly lower it as you inhale. Repeat the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Repeat the exercise on your left foot.

Tips

  • Move slowly as you stretch your calf muscle.
  • Make sure you hold the stretch for a second at the top, returning to the starting position.
  • Engage your core to keep your torso upright throughout the exercise.

5. Dumbbell Step-Up

The dumbbell step-up is a great exercise for building lower-body strength and power. 

This exercise targets hamstrings and quadriceps and also involves calves and glutes & hip flexors.

Dumbbell step-up

How To Do Dumbbell Step-Up

  1. Place a knee-high box or bench in front of you and grasp a dumbbell in each hand, or use just your body weight.
  2. Stand with your feet in a comfortable hip-width stance. Step forward with one leg onto the step and drive through that thigh to bring your body upward.
  3. Bring the trailing leg to the top of the step and stand on the box, then step back with the opposite leg to the floor and lower yourself. Alternate legs with each rep.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Control the movement, using your muscles to slowly lift and lower yourself.
  • Be sure to keep your low back in its natural arch and your upper body upright throughout the whole movement.
  • Keep your body upright and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.

6. Dumbbell Jump Squat

Dumbbell Jump squats are the power packed HIIT version of squats.

Squat jumps are a great dumbbell exercise to include in-home Leg workouts, since they can be done in a small space without any equipment.

Dumbbell Jump Squat
Dumbbell Jump Squat

How To Do Dumbbell Jump Squat

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Quickly drop down by bending at the knees and hips, letting your glutes track backward to lower yourself into a squat.
  3. At the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor, quickly and explosively reverse direction, driving up through your heels and the balls of your feet to lift your body off the floor as high as possible.
  4. Land with soft knees and immediately lower into the next rep.

Tips

  • Keep your head up and your torso upright.
  • Don’t perform this exercise with cold muscles. Do a cardio warm up before it.

7. Dumbbell Farmer’s walk on toes

The farmer walk exercise is a simple but extremely effective workout since you need to use your legs, calves, forearms, and core.

However, you can perform the farmer walks on the toes. That way, you will amplify the calf muscle.

Try the exercise with no weights first, and then add or increase the weights as you feel comfortable and more stable.

Then you can just grab some dumbbells or kettlebell and start walking on your toes.

Farmer’s walk on toes

How To Do Dumbbell Farmer’s walk on toes

  1. Grab a set of dumbbells, and hold them at your sides with your arms extended.
  2. Stand with a long, tall spine, feet together, and brace your core strongly.
  3. Rise onto the balls of your feet. Take a small step forward, staying as high on your toes as possible.
  4. Continue moving forward, taking 20-30 small steps.

Tips

  • Squeeze both calf muscles as you walk, remaining high on your toes throughout the movement
  • Don’t perform this exercise with cold muscles. Do a cardio warm up before it.

Sets And Reps For Calve Exercises

If you’re a beginner, you can start by doing this dumbbell calf exercises with a low weight for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, you can increase your reps and use heavier dumbbells or even weight plates, depending on what you have available.

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