Hevy – #1 Workout Tracker & Planner Gym Log App

Calf Press (Machine) – How to Instructions, Proper Exercise Form and Tips

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

Benefits of the Machine Calf Press

Machine calf presses are an isolation exercise you can perform to overload and develop your calves, the muscles covering the rear of your lower legs. 

Depending on the machine’s model, you can position yourself in numerous ways. For example, you can use a traditional leg press machine and place the balls of your feet on the footplate. You can also use a standing calf raise machine where you put a pad over your shoulders, position your feet on a platform, and perform the exercise.

The machine calf press is an effective exercise because it allows you to focus on your calves and overload them with a significant amount of weight. Most trainees also find it easier to form an excellent mind-muscle connection, leading to superior muscle growth.

We recommend including the machine calf press later in your workout, possibly even as the last exercise.

How to do Calf Press with a Machine

  1. Lie on a leg press machine and extend your legs to the platform.
  2. Position the balls of your feet on the platform and have your heels remain in the air.
  3. Take a breath, push the platform to straighten your legs, and unlatch the safety bars of the leg press machine.
  4. In a controlled fashion, allow your ankles to flex while keeping your legs straight and heels in the same position. You should feel a stretch in your calves.
  5. Now, push through the balls of your feet to extend both ankles as much as you can and hold the contraction for a second before releasing.
  6. Keep repeating.

What muscles does the machine calf press activate?

Machine calf presses primarily train the calves, consisting of the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastroc is the smaller of the two and has two heads (1). Both parts of the muscle originate from the femur (above the knee) and insert into the heel via the Achilles tendon. Having our legs straight during a calf press allows us to contract the gastroc more effectively.

The machine calf press also trains the soleus, which is larger but is situated underneath the gastroc (2). Unlike the gastrocnemius, the soleus originates below the knee, inserting in the heel. The muscle doesn’t play a role at the knee and only produces ankle flexion and extension.

Tips for the Machine Calf Press 

The most important tip to keep in mind for calf presses is to train with a full range of motion. You should flex your ankles until you feel a stretch in your calves and follow up with an extension to contract the muscles.

You should also keep each repetition slow and controlled. Extend your ankles for up to three seconds, engaging your calves as best as possible. Hold the top position for a moment and flex your ankles slowly, feeling your calves stretch. Avoid pressing the weight quickly and bouncing at the bottom of each repetition.

Positioning your feet correctly is also important. Have the balls of your feet on the footplate and your heels in the air. As you press, do so from the balls of your feet instead of through your toes. 

Doing machine calf presses with a lighter weight is also beneficial because it allows you to perform more reps and feel your calves working. You can also do heavier sets but limit those and be careful because you might have to shorten the range of motion, making the exercise less effective.

Variations and Modifications of the Machine Calf Press

1. Pause Machine Calf Press

Pause machine calf press is a variation where you extend your ankles and hold the position for two to three seconds. Doing so is beneficial for activating your calves more, stimulating them to grow and get stronger.

2. Tempo Machine Calf Press

The tempo machine calf press is a valuable variation you can perform to improve your mind-muscle connection and make each repetition more difficult. For example, you can extend your ankles for three to four seconds, hold the top for a moment, and flex them for another three to four seconds.

3. Standing Machine Calf Press

Standing machine calf presses are a variation you perform on a special gym machine. The goal is to place the weight over your shoulders, keep your body straight, and perform calf presses. Doing the movement while standing isn’t more beneficial or unique, but it can be nice to change things up.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake with any calf press variation is using too much weight. Trainees often load up a lot of weight, reasoning that calf presses are easy to do. But using a considerable load shortens your range of motion, preventing you from training your calves effectively. Avoid the mistake by picking loads that allow you to do at least ten repetitions with a full range of motion.

Another common mistake with calf presses is not training through a full range of motion. Trainees often extend their ankles enough but flex them insufficiently, robbing their calves of a good stretch at the bottom of each repetition. Avoid the error by flexing as much as possible and following up with an extension, feeling your calves stretching and contracting.

The third mistake with calf presses is doing repetitions too quickly and using momentum, both of which can result from lifting too much weight. Doing so places more stress on your connective tissues and prevents you from keeping the tension on your muscles. Instead, you should do each repetition slowly, forcing your calves to work hard throughout each set. 

Similar Exercises to the Machine Calf Press

Single Leg Standing Calf Raise (Dumbbell)

Single leg standing calf raises are a simple and effective exercise that strengthens your calves even if you don’t have access to a gym machine. All you have to do is elevate one foot on a platform, hold something for balance, and perform calf raises.

Glute Ham Raises

While not your traditional calf exercise, the glute ham raise strengthens your posterior chain: back, glutes, and hamstrings (3). Glute ham raises also develop your gastrocnemius, which contributes to knee flexion.

Seated Calf Raise

Seated calf raises are a simple and effective isolation exercise you can perform to emphasize the soleus muscle (4). The objective is to sit on a calf raise machine, place the pad over your lower thighs, position the balls of your feet on the platform, and begin doing calf raises.

hevy app exercise library screenshot

Track with Hevy

Log your workouts and track your exercise progress for free. Available on iOS and Android.

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *