When training the calves, there are five common exercises: Standing Calf Raise, Seated Calf Raise, Donkey Calf Raise and Toe Press on a Leg Press. Of the five exercises listed, only one exercise, the Seated Calf Raise, effectively trains the Soleus muscle in your calves. Since a muscle responds better to lots of variation, the Soleus gets “short changed” with only one exercise. However, there is killer exercise that can be added to your Soleus training routine for more variety. This killer exercise is called the Squatting Calf Raise or Calf Rock Ups. Calf Rock Ups are very intense and can be included as an alternative to Seated Calf Raises.
To perform the Calf Rock Ups, drop into a deep or full squat, where your lower hamstrings are touching the top of your calf muscles.
Grab onto a rack in front or beside you for balance during this exercise. In the deep squat position, raise your heels as high as you can and squeeze/contract your calf muscles hard for 1-2 seconds before descending.
Descend slowly and accentuate the “negative” part of this exercise.
Since the Soleus responds best to higher reps, you can perform the Calf Rock Ups using 2-3 straight sets of 20-30 reps using your bodyweight for resistance at first. If you’re new to calf training, you may need to use lower reps and more sets to build your strength in this exercise. As you get stronger and can perform the exercise in the 20+ repetition range, then you can squat under the Smith Machine bar and performing your Calf Rock Ups with resistance on the bar. This setup will also help you keep your balance.
As you become more advanced in this exercise, you can place your toes on a raised block to get more stretch at the lower position of each repetition. Use caution with this approach and make sure that your ankle flexibility and Achilles tendon are up to the task.
This exercise is also an excellent substitute for the Seated Calf Raise if you’re in a gym that does not have a Seated Calf Machine. For complete calf development, you must train the Soleus intensely. This exercise will provide the added intensity and extra variety in your Soleus training to add more calf size.