How to Do Calf Raises: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do calf raises to boost lower-body strength and mobility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 31, 2023
woman-doing-calf-raises-balancing-with-a-desk

How to Do Calf Raises: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do calf raises to boost lower-body strength and mobility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 31, 2023
woman-doing-calf-raises-balancing-with-a-desk

How to Do Calf Raises: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do calf raises to boost lower-body strength and mobility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 31, 2023
woman-doing-calf-raises-balancing-with-a-desk

How to Do Calf Raises: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do calf raises to boost lower-body strength and mobility, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Oct 31, 2023
woman-doing-calf-raises-balancing-with-a-desk
Table of Contents

A lot of us fall into the trap of mainly exercising our “mirror muscles” — the ones we see in the mirror all the time. (Think: abs, arms, and thighs.) But the muscles on the back of your body need to be just as strong, or it may contribute to imbalances that lead to joint and muscle pain. 

One of those “forgotten” muscle groups: Your calves. They power pretty much all lower-body movement, from biking and swimming to running errands and climbing stairs. And strengthening your calves can help stabilize the joints in your knees and ankles, reducing your risk of injuries. We’re a big fan of calf raises, because they’re incredibly effective and can be done almost anywhere, anytime. (No joke, we did them waiting in line at the coffee shop this morning. But you can even do them at your desk.)

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Are Calf Raises?

Simple: Calf raises are an exercise that works the muscles on the back of your lower legs. You do them by slowly rising up onto your toes and then lowering your feet down to the floor with control.

What Muscles Do Calf Raises Work? 

Calves. There are two muscle groups here: the gastrocnemius, which is the rounded muscle at the top of your calf; and the soleus, a long, flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius and stretches down your lower leg. Both are key for bending and flexing your ankle, good balance, and for “power” activities like running, jumping, or leaping. Your calf muscles also work together with your hamstrings to bend and flex your knee

Ankles. Calf raises strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your feet and ankles. This supports joint health in your ankles, boosts stability, and helps prevent injuries like sprains

Benefits of Calf Raises

Calf raises support activities like walking and running, and those that require a quick burst of movement, like chasing a ball on the tennis court or taking a dance class. And they can help you feel better doing them, too.

Ease of mobility. Want to get around every day with fewer aches and pains? (Who wouldn't?) Then do those calf raises. One study of elderly men found that doing exercises like calf raises for eight weeks boosted ankle mobility, and also improved balance and calf muscle strength.

Reduced risk of injury. According to a recent review of studies published in Frontiers in Public Health, one-third of Americans 65 and older fall each year, and half of them have repeated falls. But the researchers note that lower body-strengthening exercises, such as calf raises, can improve balance and ankle stability and lower the odds of taking a spill. 

Calf Raises: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Calf Raises

Calf Raises

Calf Raises

Calf Raises

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To do calf raises:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.

  • Place one or both hands on a table, wall, or the back of a sturdy chair for balance.

  • Push through the balls of your feet and lift your heels off the floor as high as you comfortably can.

  • Keep ankles straight — don’t let them roll in or out. 

  • Hold at the top of the exercise, squeezing your calf muscles.

  • Lower your heels to the starting position. (Don’t rush this part! Your calves get a workout during both the “down” and “up” motion in this exercise.)

  • As you do each rep, you may feel your calf muscles working.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs.

Calf Raises modifications

Calf Raises modifications

Calf Raises modifications

Calf Raises modifications

To make calf raises easier:  

  • Limit how high you lift your heels off the floor when you do this exercise.

To make calf raises harder: 

  • Start with the front half of your feet on a step, so your heels hang off the back edge. Place your hands on a table or wall for balance. Slowly lower your heels toward the floor, then lift up onto your toes as high as you comfortably can. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Green B., McClelland J. A., Semciw A. I., Schache A. G., McCall A., Pizzari T. (2022). The Assessment, Management and Prevention of Calf Muscle Strain Injuries: A Qualitative Study of The Practices and Perspectives of 20 Expert Sports Clinicians. Sports Medicine Open, 15;8(1):10. doi:10.1186/s40798-021-00364-0

  2. Maritz C. A., Silbernagel K. G. (2016). A Prospective Cohort Study On The Effect Of A Balance Training Program, Including Calf Muscle Strengthening, In Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 39(3):125-131. doi:10.1519/JPT.0000000000000059

  3. Ema, R., et al. (2017). Effect of Calf-Raise Training on Rapid Force Production and Balance Ability in Elderly Men. Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 123, no. 2, pp. 424–433. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00539.2016

  4. Sadaqa, M., et al. (2023). Effectiveness of Exercise Interventions on Fall Prevention in Ambulatory Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review with Narrative Synthesis. Frontiers in Public Health, vol. 11, 2023, p. 1209319. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2023.1209319