Build strong calf muscles using the leg press machine with our guide to doing calf press on the gym leg press.

What is a Calf Press?

A calf press or calf raise is a strength training exercise that targets the muscles of your lower legs. You can do calf press exercises on various pieces of gym equipment (or even with just your body weight). One of the best ways to do a calf press is using the leg press machine at your gym.

How to Do a Calf Press

The calf press is a pretty simple isolation movement, but it’s still worth learning how to do a calf press properly. When you do the movement the right way, you reduce your risk of soreness and injury and get faster results.

To do a calf press, put the ball of your feet (the widest part) against whatever surface you are using. In this case, it will be the foot plate of the leg press. Keeping your legs straight, press the weight away with your feet by flexing at the ankle. Press until you are pointing your toes away from your body. Then bring your toes back towards your face to feel a stretch in your calf muscles.

Throughout the calf press exercise, make sure you don’t bend your knees or press with your legs. Just flex at the ankle to move your foot.

Should you Do Single Or Double Calf Press?

You can do a calf press with either one foot at a time, or with both feet together. There are benefits to both approaches. If you do one foot at a time, the calf really has to work (because your strongest leg can’t take over). But you do risk overloading the calf. If you choose to do single calf raise, keep the weight relatively light

Benefits of Calf Press On Leg Press

There are lots of ways to do a calf press, so why should you do this popular calf exercise on the leg press machine at your gym?

Promote Ankle Stability and Mobility

Doing calf presses on the leg press encourages good ankle mobility in a controlled movement. By pressing your foot onto the plate of the leg press, you’ll hold the foot in position to reduce the chance of injury.

Increase Explosive Power

Calf press workouts on a leg press build strength and power in the important muscles and tendons around your ankle, which will translate into explosive power for jumping and sprinting.

Build Larger Muscles

Everybody thinks about the quads and hamstrings on leg day, but the calf muscles are really important for physique development, strength, and stability in key exercises like the squat.

Variations for Calf Press

 If your gym doesn’t have a leg press machine, or you want to add some different calf press exercises to your routine, try these.

Calf Raise

A calf raise is a classic bodyweight calf exercise. To do a calf raise, stand on a step (or use the bottom step of a staircase). Put the widest part of your foot on the step, so your heels are off the back of the step. With straight legs, lower your heels down and then press through your feet to stand on tip toes. You can hold a dumbbell for a weighted calf raise. 

Seated Calf Raise

Seated calf raises are a great way to build strength and size without needing to stabilise your upper body. If your gym has a seated calf raise machine, put the pad across your quads and place the widest part of your feet on the foot plate. Then flex your feet at the ankles as your push with your toes.

If your gym doesn’t have a seated calf machine, you can do seated calf raise with dumbbells. Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor and rest heavy dumbbells on your quads. Press into your toes to flex at the ankle.

Single Leg Calf Raise

Doing single leg calf raise is a great way to work each calf muscle in turn, especially if you know you have one leg stronger than the other. Choose your favourite calf raise variation (seated or standing) and work one leg at a time.

Mistakes to Avoid for Calf Press

Avoid these common mistakes when you’re doing calf press exercises and you’ll build more muscle and strength.

Don’t bend your knees

Calf raise and calf press are isolation exercises, which means you only move one joint – your ankle. Keep your legs straight and don’t bend your knees to push with your legs.

Push with the widest part of your foot

Put the widest part of your foot on whatever platform you are pushing against during your calf press exercise. This takes the pressure off the small toe joints. 

Use full range of motion

The calf muscle is responsible for plantarflexion of the foot and ankle, so make sure you work the muscle through its full range of motion. This means pointing the toes at the top of the movement, and pulling the toes back towards the face (so your ankle moves beyond a right angle).

Start with moderate weight

Although the calf muscles are strong, it’s easy to strain or hurt them. Start with a light to moderate weight – especially if you are doing single legged calf press work – and build up once you are sure you won’t feel sore.

Calf press on gym leg press machine

Training your calf muscles is an important part of leg day whether you’re a sports athlete or want to build bigger legs. Doing calf press on the gym leg press machine is one of the easiest and safest ways to load up your calf muscles with enough weight to build strong, powerful legs.