Seated Calf Raise Machine – Guide, Tips, and Variations


The Seated Calf Raise is a safe, easy to perform isolation exercise that targets the soleus muscle of the calf.

The Seated Calf Raise Machine should be a mainstay of every calf workout because it targets the soleus muscle better than many of the other calf exercises. 

Calf Muscle Physiology Overview

The calf muscles consist of the gastrocnemius which is the big muscle at the back of the lower leg and soleus muscle which is a smaller muscle lower down in the leg and under the gastrocnemius. 

Seated Calf Raise Overview

  • Primary Muscle(s) Worked: Calves, Soleus
  • Other Muscles Worked: None
  • Equipment: Seated Calf Raise Machine
  • Mechanics Type: Isolation (An exercise that involves one joint movement).
  • Force: Push (Movement away from the center of your body during the concentric contraction of the target muscle.
  • Utility: Auxiliary (An optional exercise that may supplement a basic exercise. Auxiliary exercises may place higher relative intensity on a specific muscle or a head of a muscle).

Target Muscles Used for Seated Calf Raise

  • Soleus (the smaller calf muscle lower down in the leg and under the Gastrocnemius).

Synergist Muscles Worked When Performing Seated Calf Raise

  • Gastrocnemius (the more massive calf muscle at the back of the lower leg)

Stabilizers Worked When Performing Machine Seated Calf Raise

  • None

Antagonist Stabilizers Worked When Performing Machine Seated Calf Raise

  • None

How to Properly Perform Machine Seated Calf Raise

  • Position yourself on calf raise machine, with the balls of your feet on the platform.
  • Adjust the pad height and slide your thighs underpads, with pads resting just above your knees.
  • Grasp handles, push legs up slightly by raising your heels.
  • Inhale, as you lower heels by bending ankles until your calves are stretched.
  • Exhale, as you lift the weight while coming up on your toes until your calves are fully flexed and pause briefly.
  • Repeat until failure (or desired number of times).
  • Install support lever back in place.
How to Do Seated Calf Raises

Caution Needed Performing Machine Seated Calf Raise

If you have Achilles tendon or ankle problem or had surgery for either, check with your doctor first before performing this exercise. Stretch before starting this exercise. One example, complete the movement a few times before adding weight.

Common Errors While Performing Machine Seated Calf Raise

  • Using too much weight – can result in the ability to hold and flex calves at the top of the movement. If you can not make a full extension and contraction of the calf muscles, you will limit the effectiveness of the action and limit growth. Full range of motion is an essential factor for calf growth.
  • You are not keeping the balls of your feet on the edge of the step. Don’t let your feet come forward as this makes the exercise less challenging.
  • Don’t swing the weight up. Using body momentum to lift weight takes the force off the muscle and limits growth.
  • “Bouncing” the Weight.  Keep the rep timing slow and controlled, don’t “bounce.” “Bouncing” takes the intensity off the muscles because you start using momentum to get the weight up. “Bouncing” can also lead to injuries.
  • You are performing the movement too fast. Keep the rep timing slow and controlled. When you complete the action too quickly, you don’t fully utilize as many muscle fibers. It also lowers the overall muscle load which again will derail your results.

Tips for Performing Machine Seated Calf Raise 

  • Begin with a lightweight. Practice good form and control which will allow you to have full extension and contraction of the movement. Full range of motion is an essential factor for calf growth.
  • Keep your back straight. Head aligned with your spine which helps to prevent lower back injury and allows you to perform this exercise correctly.
  • Use calves only. Avoid rocking your body and using momentum to lift the weight. By rocking your body, you will use your body as momentum to lift the weight instead of isolating and only using the calf muscles. Cheating by rocking will limit the calf muscle’s growth.
  • Quick and explosive on the upward movement. Calves are among some muscle groups that respond better with this type of action, by allowing the calves to use more muscle fibers.
  • Hold and flex your calves. Hold at the top of this movement for at least a one-count. Holding and flexing will allow more blood and muscle fibers to be incorporated into the calf muscle before lowering and readying for the next lift.

Machine Seated Calf Raise Variations

Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. There are plenty of variations to this strength exercise. Some other types of Seated Calf Raise include:

  • Seated Barbell Calf Raise. Because you’re using free weights with this exercise, it will incorporate more stabilizing muscles and force the lifting of weight equally between calves.
  • Seated Dumbbell One-Leg Calf Raise. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise allows you to alternate and isolate each calf individually. You should use this exercise if one of your calves is more developed compared to the other.
  • Seated Calf Extension. The Seated Calf Extension targets the Gastrocnemius muscle which is needed for the total development of the calf.
  • Smith Machine Calf Raises. Smith Machine Calf Raises is another excellent exercise that targets the Gastrocnemius muscle that’s needed in the total development of the calf.

Additional Exercises to Compliment Seated Calf Raise  

  • Standing Calf Raises. This exercise works the calf muscles in the lower legs. It can be done in a Standing Calf Raise Machine or freestanding without any machine at all. If you don’t have access to or don’t wish to use a calf machine for various reasons, calf raises can be done freestanding on just about anything raised up (e.g., stairs, blocks, books, etc.) or even from the floor. Standing Calf Raises can be done one leg at a time as well. One-legged Standing Calf Raises can be considered a more advanced variation for those who have built up some strength in the calves.
  • Donkey Calf Raise. The Donkey Calf Raise should be a mainstay of any effective calf-building routine. This Calf Raise is a great isolation exercise for overall calf development and calf mass. It’s one of the best exercises for developing the calves. The reason is the intense stretch you can put on the calves at the bottom of every single rep because of how your body and legs are positioned during the exercise. It is okay to perform this exercise with either bent knees or straight knees to fully recruit the gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Dumbbell Reverse Calf Raise – is an isolated pull movement that targets the Tibias Anterior. The Tibias Anterior is a highly underrated muscle, but the tibialis can make just as much impact on shaping the calf area bigger. It adds both width to the leg from the front, and thickness from the side. The primary way to work the tibialis is by doing reverse calf raises; these are the opposite of regular calf raises. Instead of having toes on the platform and lifting your heels, your heels are on a platform with lifting toes off the ground.
  • Weighted Single Leg Calf Raise – is considered more of an advance movement that targets Gastrocnemius and uses Gluteus Medius and Minimus as stabilizers. The weighted single leg calf raise is one of the most intense and focused calf exercises out there. By targeting a single leg, it requires that each leg’s calf do the work without assistance, so that a weaker muscle cannot depend on a stronger twin.
  • 45° Calf Press. The 45° Calf Press is another of the various calf press exercises that targets and stimulates growth in the Gastrocnemius muscle. This calf exercise uses a 45-degree leg press machine with only the balls and toes of the feet on the platform and your heels hanging off. Perform as you would with any calf raise or press exercise.

Bottom Line on the Seated Calf Raise Machine

Calves are a challenging muscle for many people to develop. If you want to get great looking full diamond shaped calves and beautiful overall development, it is essential to work each part of the calf muscle and to use a variety of exercises that work each part of the calf from various angles. The Seated Calf Raise is safe and effective calf exercise that targets the hard to build soleus calf muscle. The Seated Calf Raise should be included in every workout, especially for those who are looking to add mass to their soleus calf muscle.

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