How to Get Bigger and Stronger Calves

Having strong calf muscles as a solid foundation will provide you with more strength and explosiveness in actions such as sprinting, jumping and throwing punches. In this article, you will learn how to get bigger and stronger calves as explained by fitness and bodybuilding expert Lee Hayward.

Expert Boxing Premium Membership

Does Calf Size Really Matter?

Before we get into the specific exercises you must do in order to increase the size and strength of your calf muscles, you must firstly take these considerations into account.

  • Having bigger calf muscles does not necessarily mean that you will perform a certain type of action better. Other factors such as technique, balance and other muscles are also involved.

    how to get bigger calf muscles

    Professional Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s big calves.

  • It’s very difficult for certain people to get bigger calves no matter how much they work on them due to genetics. However, thin calves does not mean weaker performance. In fact, a lot of top athletes and boxers have thin calves. What’s more important is the strength and endurance that ensures a better performance.
  • If you’re aiming for better performance in a particular sport, then I wouldn’t recommend you to try and get huge calves because too much muscle mass can make your legs feel heavy and tired. Instead, aim for strength and endurance by reducing weight and increasing reps. If you’re aiming for appearance, then aim for higher weight and lower reps.

Let’s take an example of two boxers – Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya. Both are or were considered big punchers. Pacquiao has huge calf muscles but this is mainly because of genetics, and partly because in his youth, he had to carry buckets of water up and down a hill for his family.

De La Hoya on the other hand, has very thin calves despite having good punching power. Though he didn’t adopt the same active bouncing style inside the ring as Pacquiao, he was still an Olympic Gold Medallist as an amateur and had good foot movement.

The point is the size of your calf muscles is really a non-factor when it comes to sports performance. There are literally thousands of examples from elite sprinters, basketball players and boxers.

Complete Calf Workout

You’re going to get a complete calf workout and we’re going to take a unique spin on calf training to help spur on some new muscle growth. Now in most commercial gyms that you train at, you have very limited calf equipment. You usually have a seated calf raise and a standing calf raise. That’s pretty standard in most gyms…but there’s an little twist that works really well and makes these exercises totally different for stimulating growth in your calves.

Seated Calf Raises

how to get bigger calvesSo I’m going to start with the seated calf raise and all I’m going to do is simply do one leg at a time. If I do each leg independently, it’s going to work the muscles totally different. You’re going to feel a unique burn because of the way it’s angled and this will allow you to balance out both calves to get equal development in the left and the right side.

I’m using a very light weight here. You don’t need a lot of weight when you’re doing a single leg. Even less than if you were doing two legs at the same time just because of the angle and position, it’s going to cut the weight by more than half. Use a really straight form, slow and controlled. Hold that peak contraction.

Standing Calf Raises

how to get bigger calvesMoving onto the standing calf and we’re going to work on each side independently so you don’t need to rest between sets because while you’re doing one leg, the other leg is getting a rest. So you can keep the pace very fast.

Now you’ll notice with the single leg calf raise I’m not using a lot of weight. In fact, I just have a couple plates here on the weight stack and that is more than enough. With this exercise, it more than cuts the weight in half. So to give you some examples…

If you’re used to doing standing calf raises with 200lbs , it doesn’t mean that as soon as you go to single leg you’re just going to cut the weight in half and use 100lbs. Chances are you’re going to have to go a lot lighter than that. The fact that you’re using one leg at a time is going to throw the bodyweight and the angle that you’re working your calves just totally different than when you’re doing them balanced on two feet. Even start off by using the weight of the machine until you get used to this exercise and progress gradually.

Bodyweight Calf Raises

how to get bigger calvesUsing the exact same technique as you would for the standing single calf raises on the machine, apply it to the bodyweight calf raises but on the exercise step box instead.

Check out some top-rated exercise step boxes here.

Calf Raise Tips

  • Go through the above circuit at least 3 times (3 sets of each exercise and 10-15 reps for each leg per set).
  • For the correct technique, keep the front half of your foot on the platform and when doing a rep, slowly lower the back of your foot just lower than the platform itself, and slowly raise until you’re completely on the ball of your foot.
  • It’s important to do single leg calf raises as opposed to both because it’s a totally different exercise that is more effective.
  • If your calves have gotten to the point where you no longer want to increase its size even more but want to maintain its strength, then do not increase the weight any more.

Another way to get bigger and stronger calves is to walk or run up and down steep hills or a long flight of stairs/steps. This is great for entire leg strength and endurance as well as fat loss.


To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:

How to Increase Punching Power
10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
Boxing Basics
Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves