You've heard the saying "don't skip leg day," so you wouldn't dream of it. But when it is leg day, are you remembering to train all of those muscles? Usually we make sure to strengthen our quads, hamstrings and glutes, but forget about our calf muscles.
Your calf muscles run along the backs of your legs, from below your knees down to your ankles. There are three muscles that make up your calf: the gastrocnemius, popliteuss and plantaris.
Your calves are needed for most daily activities, as they're responsible for aiding in movements like walking, running, dancing and jumping. Your calves also allow you to point and flex your feet.
Strong calves are necessary because they absorb the impact of your movement and support the weight of your body. Think about any high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class you take or sport you play. With every step (or jump), your calf muscles are activated. So, it's important to train them for maximum power and keep them strong to prevent injury. That's where this 20-minute dumbbell calf workout comes in!
How to Do This Workout
Grab a set of medium to heavy dumbbells, and try this 20-minute workout that will strengthen your calf muscles, as well as target the rest of the muscles in your lower body for a leg day you'll never want to skip.
Perform each exercise below for the amount of sets and reps listed.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.
1. Walking Lunge
- Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand, arms down by your sides and palms facing in.
- Step your left leg forward, and bend both knees to 90 degrees, with your back knee hovering just above the ground and your front knee either over your ankle.
- Push off your left leg to step forward with your right leg, and bend both knees to 90 degrees, with your back knee hovering just above the ground and your front knee either over your ankle.
- Repeat for 5 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs each time.
2. Iso Sumo Squat to Calf Raise
- Stand with your feet wider than hip width apart and your toes turned out about 45 degrees, holding one heavy dumbbell vertically in both hands below your hips.
- Keeping your back straight, push your hips back and bend your knees out over your toes to squat down. Thinking about sliding down a wall, keeping your back as straight as possible and avoiding leaning forward or sticking your butt out.
- Lower until your your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can go).
- Raise up onto your toes, then return your heels to the floor to perform a calf raise.
- Repeat the calf raises for 5 reps then return to standing. That's 1 rep.
- Complete 5 sets of 5 reps.
If you don't have one heavy dumbbell, you can use two medium dumbbells.
- Stand holding dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Place your left foot up on a step, bench or box so that your left knee is bent round 90 degrees.
- Pull your shoulders back and down as if you were trying to tuck your shoulder blades into the back pocket of a pair of jeans. Fill your chest with air to set your core, and maintain a tight, rigid core throughout the movement.
- Bring the weights forward slightly by leaning your torso forward just a bit. This will keep the weight in your front, working leg.
- Press through the heel of your raised foot and push your body up until your left leg is straight.
- Lift your right leg up onto the step, box or bench to meet your left leg.
- Control your body as you lower your right foot back to the floor and return to the starting position.
- Repeat for 5 sets of 10 reps on each side.
4. Seated Calf Raise
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place a heavy dumbbell on your thighs.
- Lift your heels off of the floor and push into your toes.
- Return your heels to the floor.
- Repeat for 5 sets of 10 reps each.
To target different muscles in your calves, you can internally or externally rotate your feet as an option.
5. Weighted Jump Squat
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing forward or slightly outward.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing in.
- Keeping your feet flat on the floor and back straight, brace your core and push your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go).
- From the bottom of your squat, push through your feet to jump explosively off the ground.
- Land safely with your knees slightly bent.
- Repeat for 5 sets of 10 reps each.
For a lower impact option, instead of jumping, lift onto your toes quickly then return to flat feet.